Monday, September 19, 2011

Louisa May Alcott: The First Woman Registered to Vote in Concord


Louisa May Alcott was not just a writer and author of the classic novel Little Women, she was also the first woman registered to vote in Concord, Mass.

When the state of Massachusetts finally passed a law in 1879 allowing women the right to vote in town elections on issues involving children and education, Louisa May seized the chance. Her mother, Abigail, had always declared “I mean to vote before I die, even if my daughters have to carry me!” Unfortunately, Abigail passed away shortly before the law was passed and never got to fulfill her dream. Realizing the importance of this new opportunity for women, Louisa May got to work trying to encourage women to register and vote in the next town election. She organized reading groups about the importance of voting and passed around petitions encouraging women to vote.

Louisa May was frustrated by what she encountered. The local Concord women were not the least bit interested in voting. Many of the women complained they were too busy running their households to bother. Louisa May wrote about her frustration with the women in her journal, “Trying to stir up the women about Suffrage. So timid & slow...Drove about & drummed up women to my Suffrage meeting. So hard to move people out of the old ruts.” To help motivate them Louisa May stated she “gave them a good scolding & offered to drive the timid sheep to the fatal spot where they seem to expect some awful doom.” She then declared proudly that she was “the first woman to register my name as a voter.”

In another town election the following year, Louisa May encountered the same resistance: “Saw my townswomen about voting &c. Hard work to stir them up. Cake & servants are more interesting.” Even in the 1883 town election, she stated not much had changed: “seven women vote. I am one of them & Anna [her sister] another. A poor show for a town that prides itself on its culture & independence.”

Louisa May continued to vote and encourage other women to vote until her death in 1888.


Sources:

"The Journals of Louisa May Alcott"; Louisa May Alcott; Daniel Shealy; Madeleine B. Stern

"Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women"; Harriet Reisen


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