New Jersey Women's History



Notable Facts



 Material Objects


New Jersey Women's Heritage Trail 

 Topical Index








Period One
- 1775
Period Two
1776 - 1843
Period Three
1844 - 1879
Period Four
1880 - 1920
Period Five
1921 - 1960
Period Six
1961 -

1844   Men from Burlington County petitioned the New Jersey Constitutional Convention to enfranchise women. Their petition went unheeded and the Constitutional Convention validated the Act of 1807 and wrote white male suffrage into the new Constitution.
1845 dix_tn.jpg (2636 bytes) Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802-1887) sent her "memorial" to the New Jersey senate regarding the inhumane care of the state's mentally ill.
  Susan Waters, of Bordentown, was well known for her primitive style paintings.
1846   The New Jersey legislature revised its abolition law: enslaved blacks became apprentices for life; their children were free.
  tn_daughterstemp.gif (2740 bytes) Women in Salem, New Jersey organized the Martha Washington Salem Union, No. 4, a chapter of the Daughters of Temperance, pledging not to "make, sell, or use" alcoholic beverages.
1848   New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum opened in Ewing Township, near Trenton, resulting from reform efforts of Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802-1887).
1849   The New Jersey Legislature passed the state's first law criminalizing the practice of abortion.  Causing and procuring "the miscarriage of a woman then pregnant with child" was deemed a misdemeanor, or high misdemeanor if the pregnant woman died.
1850   The population of New Jersey was 490,000 people, 49.8% of whom were female, 4.9% of whom were black, and 17.6% lived in urban areas.
1852 tn_womensprperty.gif (3290 bytes) New Jersey’s first "Married Women's Property Act" was passed by the New Jersey legislature. This Act, granted married women the right to hold and control property they brought into marriage.  It was the first of many  laws that subsequently, over time, dismantled the Common Law principle of coverture, under which married women were subsumed into the civil identity of their husbands.
  bartonschool_tn.jpg (6912 bytes) Clara Barton (1821-1912) an advocate of publicly funded schools opened Bordentown's first public school. 
1853 A Utopian community, the Raritan Bay Union, near Perth Amboy, established a coeducational and racially integrated school called Eagleswood Academy (1854-1861). Abolitionists Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) and Angelina Grimke Weld (1805-1879) taught at the Academy.
1854   The Commuter railroad from Jersey City to New Brunswick advertised a "Ladies Car" on all through lines for the use of women. The growing New Jersey railroad network made travel safer and more accessible for women.
1855   A normal school for teacher training was begun in Trenton (which later became Trenton State College, now The College of New Jersey), thus giving women opportunities for further education and encouraging the teaching profession for women.
1857 doc03.gif (276 bytes) In February, Harriet Lafetra, a Hicksite Quaker from Shrewsbury, led Monmouth county residents in petitioning the state legislature on behalf of women’s rights and woman suffrage.
1858 doc03.gif Lucy Stone (1818-1893), abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, refused to pay  the real estate taxes on her home in East Orange to protest New Jersey women' s disenfranchisement and charged taxation without representation.
1860   The population of New Jersey was 672,000 people, 50.1% of whom were female, 3.7% of whom were black, and 32.7.6% lived in urban areas. This was the first census in which more than 50% of the population was female.


  Plainfield Opheleton Seminary was one of several private secondary schools around the state that catered to the daughters of well-to-do families.
  xavier_tn.jpg (2685 bytes)  Through the work of Mother Mary Xavier Mehagen, the Sisters of Charity of New Jersey opened their motherhouse, named for Saint Elizabeth, in Madison at Convent Station.
1861   In April, shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter, women of Newark founded a soldiers' relief society, and Camden women began the Ladies' Aid Society and Ladies' Relief Association to aid the Union Army in the Civil War.
1863 Graves of Civil War Nurses, Annie L.  Reeder and Arabella W. Barlow burried in Bordentown and Sommerville.
1864   Women of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware held the Central Fair of the U.S. Sanitary Commission on June 7 to raise money for Civil War relief efforts.


  Ellen Clementine Howarth (1827-1899), Trenton poet, published The Wind Harp, and Other Poems, her first volume of poetry.
  howarth_tn.jpg (5568 bytes)  
1865 Mary Mapes Dodge (1830-1905) published her classic children's story, Hans Brinker: or the Silver Skates.
 1866 Lily Martin Spencer (1822-1902) was one of the most prominent artists of the mid-to-late 19th century and supported her family through her career.
1867 doc03.gif (276 bytes) The New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association held its first convention in Vineland. Lucy Stone (1818-1893) was elected its first president.
  doc03.gif (276 bytes) Lucy Stone addressed the New Jersey legislature on the need for woman suffrage.
1868 doc03.gif (276 bytes) Women of Vineland were reportedly the first to protest vote in municipal and Presidential elections. (List of Women Who Voted)
  doc03.gif (276 bytes) Antoinette Brown Blackwell and Lucy Stone, together with citizens from Newark, petitioned the state legislature for the right to vote and married women’s property rights. The legislature denied the petition.
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Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) and her family settled in Tenafly, where she spent several months a year until 1886 and worked on strategy for the national suffrage campaign.  It was here that she and her close friend, Susan B. Anthony, with Matilda Joslyn Gage, wrote the first three volumes of the monumental History of Women's Suffrage.


Lucy Stone (1818-1893), living in the Roseville section of Newark, published her pamphlet, Reasons Why the Women of New Jersey Should Vote, drawn from her 1867 speech to the New Jersey legislature.



Increased emphasis on efficiency in housework and new ways to manufacture household implements encouraged entrepreneurial women and men, to devise innovative goods.


1869 tn_apblackwell.gif (2199 bytes)  Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825-1921) of Somerville, the first ordained woman minister in the United States, helped to found the American Women's Suffrage Association and also served as vice-president of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association.
  doc03.gif (276 bytes) The newly organized New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association petitioned the New Jersey legislature for woman suffrage.  The Senate Judiciary Committee publicly ridiculed the petition.
1870   The population of New Jersey was 906,000 people, 50.3% of whom were female, 3.4% of whom were black, and 43.7% lived in urban areas.

The New Jersey legislature belatedly ratified the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guaranteed the vote to black and white men, but not to black and white women.

1872   Woman's Club of Orange, the first woman's club in New Jersey, was founded. Suffragist Henrietta W. Johnson was elected president.

The New Jersey legislature passed a law giving women and men equal custody of children in a divorce. Ann Hora Connelly (1824-1880) initiated the reform. In other legislation, married women were given the right to their personal property and inheritance.

  harland_tn.jpg (2544 bytes) Mary Virginia Hawes Terhune (1830-1922) of Pompton Lakes, known as Marion Harland, published Common Sense in the Household, the first of her housekeeping advice books.

The New Jersey legislature passed legislation that made women eligible to serve as school trustees.

1874   Phoebe Coffin Hanaford (1829-1921), one of the first female ordained ministers in the U.S., began a pastorate at the Universalist Church of the Good Shepherd in Jersey City.
    Women in Newark joined in the woman’s crusade for temperance. Shortly thereafter the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of New Jersey was founded in Newark with two member unions, one from Newark and one from Rahway.
1875   The New Jersey Legislature passed an act requiring that every girl and boy between 8 and 14 should go to school at least 12 weeks a year, 6 weeks of which should be consecutive.
    Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825-1921) of Somerville, published The Sexes throughout Nature in which she argued that the sexes of every species were equal and contributed equally to evolution.
1878 tn_cranberrypickers.gif (2957 bytes) The newly formed Bureau of Statistics of Labor and Industries of New Jersey stated in its first annual report that the vast majority of women and girls in factories and industries worked a 60 hour week. It found women working in tobacco manufacture, in clothing, underwear, knitwear and hosiery manufacture, in boot and shoe making, in silk, cotton and wool manufacture, in the making of bricks, candles, soap, trunks and bags, rubber shoes, and in flour milling. Many women worked as agriculture laborers and domestic servants.
  strawberry_tn.gif (7346 bytes)  
  thread_tn.gif (4438 bytes)  
  canalworkers_tn.gif (2781 bytes)  
1879 Carrie Cook Sanborn, nineteenth-century Quaker artist, was head of the Cedar Arts Colony, Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, c.1879.

Selected Sources

Joan N. Burstyn, ed., Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997).

Delight W. Dodyk, "Education and Agitation: the Woman Suffrage Movement in New Jersey," (Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 1997)

Howard L. Green, ed., Words that Make New Jersey History (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995).

Carmela A. Karnoutsos, New Jersey Women (Trenton: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1997).

Maxine N. Lurie, ed., A New Jersey Anthology (Newark: New Jersey Historical Society, 1994).

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