The Mary Eliza Project: Ward 8 Voter Records Now Available
In August 1920, the month that Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment, the women of Boston began registering to vote. Women voted by the thousands to register, 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 8 covered parts of Back Bay, Fenway, and Beacon Hill. Over 2500 women living in Ward 8 registered to vote between August 12 and October 13, 1920.
Ward 8's newly registered voters were physicians, artists, lawyers, professors, students, housewives, bookkeepers, clerks, dressmakers, nurses, housekeepers and maids, teachers, secretaries, and stenographers and more. In the excerpt below, you can see that one voter, Anna E. Tukey, even gave "Dog Fancier" as her occupation!
While the majority of Ward 8's newly registered voters were born in the United States, we found voters who hailed from Poland, Russia, Ireland, France, England, Turkey, Sweden, Scotland, and Switzerland.
When we researched some of the names we transcribed, we uncovered some intriguing stories. Landscape architect Louisa Bancroft Stevens living at 91 Pinckney Street is likely the same Louisa Bancroft Stevens responsible for landscaping the perennial gardens at the Coolidge Stevens estate in North Andover. Margaret Foster Richardson at 247 Newbury Street was an artist who primarily painted portraits, including a portrait of Mary Baker Eddy and the below self portrait.
Marion E. Park living at 40 Commonwealth Avenue listed herself as a Dean at Simmons College. Park went on to become the third president of Bryn Mawr College.
Alice Hamilton gave her occupation as a Harvard Medical School professor. A year earlier, in 1919, Hamilton became the first woman appointed to Harvard’s faculty. She was a physician, research scientist, author, and leader in the emerging fields of occupational health and industrial toxicology. She also worked as a social reformer, peace activist, and a resident-volunteer at Chicago’s Hull House.
While the registers are a valuable source of information, we can't always take the entries at face value. For example, in the excerpt from the register below, an election worker recorded Florence Duckering's occupation as simply "single."
However, further research uncovered that Duckering was a surgeon at the Massachusetts Women’s Hospital and New England Hospital for Women and Children, ran her own practice, and in 1913 has been accepted as a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.
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!
- Last updated:
- Published by: Archives and Records Management