My Town: Groton
December 13, 2019

Every four years, United States citizens vote for a new president. Voting for our country’s leader is important. The United States is a democracy. In a democracy a country’s citizens elect its leaders.

For a very long time, though, women were not allowed to vote. They couldn’t vote for who they wanted as president.

Women fought for a long time to get their right to vote. They wanted suffrage. Suffrage means the right to vote in political elections.

They tried persuasion. They gave speeches about why women should be able to vote. They marched in parades to bring attention to their cause. They got angry and protested. Some women were arrested for protesting. They went to jail.

Suffragist Catherine Flanagan of Hartford (left) was arrested for protesting for the right to vote. August 1917. Library of Congress

It might surprise you, but some women didn’t think women needed to vote! In a democracy, not everyone agrees. People are elected and laws are passed when more people vote for than against a candidate or a law.

One hundred years ago, attitudes were finally changing. More people agreed women should be allowed to vote. In 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The new amendment said a person couldn’t be denied the right to vote because of their sex.

But it wasn’t the law yet. There was a second step. Thirty-six states had to also approve the amendment. Finally, in August 1920, 36 states had approved the amendment. The November 1920 presidential was the first in which women in Connecticut could vote for president.

Going to Jail for the Right to Vote

Elsie Hill and Helena Hill Weed were sisters. They were from Norwalk. Helena was a geologist. Elsie was a French teacher. The sisters believed women should have the right to vote. Their father was Ebenezer Hill. He was a U. S. Congressman. He represented Connecticut’s 4th District. He was against women voting. But his daughters changed his mind. Sadly he died in 1917 before he could help change the constitution.

Boston Globe, June 21, 1915

Elsie and Helena continued their fight for the vote. Elsie was arrested and sent to jail in 1919. She was arrested when she protested in front of President Woodrow Wilson. Helena was arrested and sent to jail, too. She was arrested while protesting in front of the White House. Helena carried a poster that said, “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That means government get its power from the people. Helena felt that meant ALL of the people. Eight other women from Connecticut were arrested while protesting the right to vote, too.

Helena Hill Weed was jailed for protesting in front of the White House. Library of Congress

African American Women, too

African American women worked for their right to vote, too. Minnie Glover, Lena Knighton, and Anna B. Reese were sisters from Hartford. When Lena Knighton died, The Hartford Courant said that the sisters “fought for women’s right to vote and for active participation of [African Americans] in politics.”

More Women Leaders

Read about Maria Colon Sanchez, the first Latina elected to public office in Connecticut, on pages 40 and 41 of Where I Live: Connecticut.

Ella B. Grasso was the first woman elected as governor in Connecticut in 1975.

In the November 1920 elections, five women were elected to serve in Connecticut’s General Assembly.

Voting Map

Find Connecticut on this map. What does it tell you about women’s right to vote in Connecticut?

(c) Connecticut Explored Inc.

 

Who Can Vote in Connecticut?

  • Will you be 18 before Election Day?

  • Are you a United States citizen living in Connecticut?

  • If you have been convicted of a crime that is a felony, have you completed your sentence and parole?

If you can answer yes to all three of these questions, you are eligible to register to vote in Connecticut.

Source: Secretary of the State’s website