The Mary Eliza Project: Ward 19 Voter Records Now Available
In 1920, after the passage of the 19th Amendment, over 50,000 Boston women registered to vote. 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 U.S. 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. We've recently finished transcribing the Ward 19 registers and have added them into our dataset!
In 1920, Boston's Ward 19 covered a large portion of Dorchester, stretching from Blue Hill Avenue almost to Wellesely Park, and bounded by Talbot Avenue, Bowdoin Street, and Geneva Streets. Though the ward was not as densely populated as some Boston neighborhoods, its women came out to register to vote in en masse. With over 2400 women registering, Ward 19 is the ward with the largest number of new women voters that the Mary Eliza Project has found thus far.
Almost a quarter of Ward 19's new voters were born outside of the United States, with over half hailing from Eastern Europe. We also found women with birthplaces recorded in Ireland, Canada, Armenia, Turkey, the Sandwich Islands, and even one new voter, Mary Dowling of Elmo Street, born "on the High Seas!"
Ward 19's new women voters worked in a variety of occupations. We found teachers, bookkeepers, factory workers, dancers, stenographers, opticians, typists, clerks, and even a genealogist! One of the most interesting occupations we noted in Ward 19 was the job of "narrator" for the Boston Public Library. Mary Cronin and Margaret Powers both living at 11 Abbott Street listed their occupations as "narrator" at the Boston Public Library. Interestingly, the two new voters not only lived together, but were also born in the same New Jersey town of Belvidere. While Mary was married, Margaret gave her marital status as divorced, and appears to have been living with Mary and her husband. John. We're sure there's more to the story of Mary and Margaret, co-workers, housemates, and perhaps childhood friends?
Mary and Margaret's stories are only two of many of many in this new addition to our dataset. Dive into the dataset and let us know what you find!