An 1858 petition, signed mostly by women, asks the Maine Legislature to grant women the right to vote.
Women petitioned for suffrage at both the state and national level until the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave all American women voting rights in 1920.
"Sisters Arise" is but one of the many signs visible in this group of Suffragettes protesting for the vote in Houlton.
The fight for the women's vote in Maine stated around 1854 and continued for nearly 66 years before the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. During those years interest for the women's vote ebbed and flowed often taking a backseat to other movements and experiencing crushing defeat.
Groups developed opposing suffrage for women in the early twentieth century and many had women members. The Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Grange, both very active in Houlton, were leaders of the Maine Suffrage movement. Finally, on August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. Maine was the nineteenth state to ratify the Nineteenth amendment.
To spark interest in the cause, local suffrage organizations often brought in out-of-state speakers who could share fresh knowledge and perspectives. The National [American] Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) sent Augusta Hughston to Maine in August 1916 to help organize the state in preparation for a possible statewide referendum the following year. It is likely that she was also tasked with assessing Maine's readiness for such a campaign, as she visited every county. She must not have liked what she saw; ultimately, NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt advised Maine not to proceed with a referendum. "You're not ready," she said.
This poster advertises the first suffrage meeting to be held in Belfast. Potential audience members were lured by a promise of free admission and no requests for donations.
Mildred Stevens of Portland registered to vote on September 3, 1920, shortly after women received the right to vote with passage of the 19th Amendment.
Lucy Nicolar (1882-1969) was the daughter of Penobscot leader and author, Joseph Nicolar, and the great granddaughter of Lt. Governor John Neptune. She became a professional singer, performing on stage in traditional regalia, blending opera arias with Wabanaki songs.
Lucy Nicolar Poolaw was a life-long advocate for Native people. She, her sister Florence, and others in the community worked to raise educational standards for Penobscot children, persuaded the state to build a bridge to Indian Island, and demanded suffrage for Wabanaki people, who were denied the right to vote by the State of Maine until 1967.
Mary Ranco (born 1885) from the Penobscot Nation, first married Joseph Sapiel and later, Byron Spencer. She was an accomplished basketmaker and raised eight children.
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