A right worth fighting for

Museum of the American Revolution

2020 marked an important year for women with the centennial anniversary of the 19th amendment. But, what many people don’t know is that women in New Jersey were actually allowed to vote before 1920, and that right was taken away from them by the same people who gave them the ability to in the first place. 

Museum of the American Revolution

The Museum of the American Revolution has always been a venue that showcased some of the untold stories at the turning point of our country. With their latest special exhibit opening this weekend, ‘When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story 1776-1807,’ visitors will be able to explore the compelling story of how of women and free people of color were legally allowed to vote in Revolutionary-era New Jersey before political conflicts led to those rights being stripped away in 1807. 

The Museum smartly has decided to weave the new special exhibit into their pre-existing core exhibit with an audio tour to match that can be downloaded on visitor’s phones to help adjust to social distancing needs. ‘When Women Lost the Vote’ opens this Friday, Oct. 2 and will remain on display until April of next year, but Philadelphians have an incentive to come and check out the new installation for opening weekend. According to the release, during opening weekend, visitors will be able to see pop-up 5-minute original first-person theatrical performances in the galleries that dramatize the different experiences and perspectives of two women of the period: Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, an enslaved woman in Massachusetts who sued for her own freedom and won, and Rebecca VanDike, who may have cast her vote in New Jersey in 1801.

Both actresses are able to truly transport visitors into the different mindsets of women living in that time and what they thought about suffrage back at just our country’s start. As another incentive to visit this weekend, this Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm, visitors are also welcome to register to vote on the Museum’s outdoor plaza as long as they have a valid license or the last four digits of their social security number. 

Elizabeth (Mumbet) Freeman

Sticking to the voting theme, the Museum is also offering visitors the chance to take a selfie in its voting selfie station where you get to cast your ballot and also pose for a picture while getting an “I Vote” sticker to take home. Families also have an interesting way to explore the new exhibit with a specially printed Family Guide full of games and activities or pick up a take-and-make craft to make at home.

The exhibit itself offers a unique look into history, one that isn’t that far off in time but seems way off in ideals. However, just as the museum showcases untold stories, this one is sure to resonate especially with this year’s electoral agendas. According to the release, ‘When Women Lost the Vote’ features more than 65 original objects including textiles, manuscripts, and works of art, this exhibition will bring to life the forgotten stories of the women who first pioneered the vote. Also featured in the exhibition will be several of the recently discovered poll lists that feature the names of 163 female voters and four Black male voters, tracked down by the Museum’s curatorial team during an extensive examination of voter records. Prior to this discovery, little proof of women or people of color voting during this period was known to exist. 

There will also be some new additions added to the installation as time goes on, including a new historical tableau scene featuring women at the polls in New Jersey in 1801. Those who curated the installation were fervent in searching for different polling stations for names. 

The Montgomery Township Poll ListMuseum of the American Revolution

However, if going out and about still isn’t exactly on your agenda, the MOAR does have a solution. The new exhibit will be made available to virtual visitors from around the world through a free online experience, which will launch in late October and remain permanently available. To add to the already intriguing information, the Museum’s curatorial team has also been visiting the grave sites and historical landmarks of women and people of color who voted in Revolutionary-era New Jersey. Philadelphians can check out videos of the visits that will be featured in the online exhibition and are also being released through the Museum’s Facebook page. The first video visit, featuring the story of Mary Curry Garrison, who voted in Salem County in 1800, was released on August 18, the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. 

The release states that tickets to the exhibition are on sale now and are included with regular Museum admission. Due to the Museum’s reduced capacity to adhere to social distancing guidelines, advance ticket reservations are strongly encouraged. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.amrevmuseum.org/ or by phone (215.253.6731). Museum tickets are $21 for adults; $18 for seniors, students, and active or retired military; and $13 for children ages 6 and up. Children ages 5 and under are free. All tickets are valid for two consecutive days, based on availability.