Throwback Thursday: When Massachusetts Women Were Denied the Right to Vote

Despite the fact the state played a key role in the women's rights movement.

suffragettes en route to boston

These suffragettes are on their way to Boston. We feel you, ladies. / Photo via Wikimedia Commons

On November 2, 1915, Massachusetts residents could have given women the right to vote. And they didn’t.

According to the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, a referendum to allow Massachusetts women to vote failed at the polls. While the state played a key role in the women’s suffrage movement in the 19th century, the people of Massachusetts weren’t ready for it to become reality. One of the many barriers in the way was a group known as the “Antis.”

The Antis were women who thought they could be better citizens without the right to vote. To them, the ballot would get in the way of a few important things, like their duties to their homes and families. However, the Antis weren’t just homemakers. As access to education increased, college-educated women committed themselves to social issues like sanitation and health care. Some of these women during the beginning of the Progressive Era were also Antis, as they thought the ballot (and assumed political affiliations) would take away focus from their causes. Others simply didn’t wanted to be associated with suffragists or their controversial reputations.

The failed Massachusetts referendum from 101 years ago seems puzzling today, especially since the first women’s right convention was held in Worcester in 1850, and leaders like Lucy Stone and Abby Kelley Foster championed women’s suffrage here. The movement just needed five more years to mature—women across the country gained the ballot when the 19th amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920.