Portia Gage Tries to Vote in Vineland

Portia Gage Tries to Vote in Vineland, 1868
Source, Portia Gage to C. B. Campbell, March 12, 1868. Women’s Rights and Suffrage File,
Collections of the Vineland Historical Society.
Courtesy, Vineland Historical Society

Portia Kellogg Gage (1813-1903), one of the organizers of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association in 1867, was probably one of the first of the early New Jersey suffragists to go to the polls in protest of her disenfranchisement. Her experience was reported in Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony’s newspaper, The Revolution, and inspired women elsewhere to try her tactic. In this communiqué with a male suffragist in Vineland, Gage described her experience trying to vote in a municipal election.

I was induced to offer a vote first, because I felt it a duty, and second, out of curiosity. I wanted to know how men did behave at the polls. We have always been told that it was a dangerous place, one where it would not be safe for a woman to make her appearance, that the very atmosphere at the polls was freighted with pollution for women…. I feel stronger, wiser and better for having come in contact with the political influence of last Tuesday at the polls. My fears were groundless, as the men whom I there met were quiet and well behaved, and treated me as respectfully as though I were in a Church or lecture room.

Of course I felt somewhat embarrassed, being the only woman in the room but I walked through, being kindly greeted by some, not “jostled” or molested by any. On reaching the farther end of the Hall, not knowing how to proceed, I asked my husband; he gave me a ballot and told me who was to receive it; the receiver took it and asked my name; then turning to the man on his right asked if that name was registered; being answered in the negative he returned the vote saying the law would not allow him to receive it as my name was not on the register–next year if nothing happens to prevent, I shall offer my name for registration.