First woman voter cast her ballot in St. Paul after 19th Amendment passed 100+ years ago
MINNEAPOLIS — The results from the 2022 election will be rolling in next Tuesday night, but as we look forward to casting our ballots, WCCO is looking back more than 100 years to when Minnesota made history after the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.
Voting has a long, proud tradition in the state, which is something the Dakota County Historical Society values.
It’s preserved a ballot box that was used in local elections in the early 1900s.
“It originally started as a Civil War medical box,” said Matt Carter, DCHS’s executive director. “It was owned by Dr. Percival Barton, a physician from Inver Grove.”
The box is a fitting artifact for the county where a major milestone in American politics took place.
“South St. Paul has the connection of having the first women in the country to vote after the passage of the 19th Amendment,” Carter said.
The historic constitutional amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920.
Remarkably, a video clip exists of that very first woman, Marguerite Newburgh, casting her ballot in South St. Paul the day after the Secretary of State signed the amendment.
“About 90 women woke up early, got in line to register to vote in South St. Paul and they were the ones to cast their ballot,” Carter said.
The women were voting on a local bond referendum. Each gender’s votes were tracked separately in case the 19th Amendment was later invalidated. It turns out that without the women, the referendum wouldn’t have passed.
It was a while though before Minnesota’s women became a substantial voting bloc.
“It really took up until the 60s and 70s before women actively started to get involved,” said Michelle Witte, the executive director of the Minnesota League of Women Voters. “Turnout was very poor, but since then…Minnesota [women] and all [female] voters across the country have voted in higher rates than men.”
Witte says she believes some of the reasons Minnesota consistently has such high voter turnout is because of two female Secretaries of State making elections more accessible and secure.