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The Mary Eliza Project: Ward 1 Voter Records Now Available

We've finished transcribing our Ward 1 Women's Voter Registers from 1920 and have added them into an easily accessible, searchable, and sortable dataset. 

In August of 1920, the month that Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment, the women of Boston began registering to vote. Women registered by the thousands, and on October 13, 1920, the last day to register before the 1920 presidential election, over 50,000 women had registered.  

The 1920 Women's Voter Registers now live at the Boston City Archives and document women's names, addresses, places of birth and occupations. Sometimes women provided additional information about their naturalization process to become a US citizen, including where their husbands were born because in 1920, a woman's citizenship status was tied to her husband's nationality. 

The Mary Eliza Project, named after African American nurse, civil rights activist, and Boston voter Mary Eliza Mahoney, is transcribing these valuable handwritten records into an easily searchable and sortable dataset.

Ward 1 map, 1921 Ward and Precinct Map
Ward 1 map, 1921 Ward and Precinct Maps, Boston City Archives

In East Boston’s Ward 1, over 1700 women registered to vote between August 12 and October 13, 1920. The Ward 1 voting district included only half of East Boston, with Ward 2 accounting for the rest of the neighborhood. Ward 1 was bounded on one side by Princeton Street and Prescott Street and Revere and Winthrop on the other side.

Women's Voter Register, Ward Book 1, Volume 1A
Women's Voter Register showing birthplaces in Massachusetts, Norway, Canada, and Italy, Ward 1, Volume 1A, Boston City Archives

While the vast majority of women registering to vote in Ward 1 were born in the United States, we also found  205 women from Canada. In that group, we found 78 women hailing from the province of Nova Scotia, 42 women from New Brunswick, and 43 from Newfoundland. Large numbers of East Boston women from Ireland, Scandinavia, and England also registered in Ward 1.

	 Incandescent Lamp Manufacturing, Operating Hand Flaring Machine, circa 1915
Woman operating a hand flaring machine to manufacture an incandescent lamp at a General Electric factory, circa 1915, Museum of Innovation and Science

Many of the wage-earning women in East Boston found employment across the harbor in downtown department stores and telephone exchanges. Others found employment in East Boston, many of them at General Electric Company’s East Boston Lamp Works factory at 156-200 East Porter Street or at Maverick Mills on Addison Street. 

Women's Voter Register, Ward Book 1, Volume 97
Women's Voter Register showing Maverick Mills workers, Ward 1, Volume 97, Boston City Archives

There is much more to explore in this new release into the dataset. Stay tuned for more research and writing about the newly transcribed entries. 

The dataset is freely available to the public. Use the dataset yourself and let us know what you find!

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