Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Suffrage for Pelham Women

In the early twentieth century, as the women of New York intensified their efforts in support of women's suffrage, there were communities that granted women property owners the right to vote in local elections. Pelham was one such community. Women property owners in Pelham were granted the right to vote on matters that affected their taxes as early as 1890. An interesting article that raised the topic appeared in the February 17, 1909 issue of The Evening World published in New York City. The text of that article appears below.



Cross Marks So Poorly Made That Nobody Could Tell What They Meant.




'Such a Crowd' at the Polls That Mrs. Hurttig Would Not Get Out of Carriage.


By Ethel Lloyd Patterson.

Fifty women have voted in Pelham. Ten of the votes were thrown out because the ballots were incorrectly marked, but aside from that every one had a perfectly lovely time.

While all Manhattan, from the Battery to the Bronx, has been a seething suffrage argument, the fair citizens of Pelham have been 'saying nothing but sawing wood.' Can they vote? Well, I should say so, and not any of your fake straw ballots, either.

The momentous questions that were placed before the skirted politicians were, first: Whether a new Town Hall to cost $25,000, was to be built, and second, whether the additional purchase of a $5,000 piece of property was necessary.

'I voted in this township when no other woman would take the trouble to do it,' proclaimed Mrs. G. S. Karback, who seemed to be the leading spirit of the polls. 'Not that shirking responsibility is necessarily a feminine trait,' she added. 'The men are the same way. They want to see a measure or a resolution passed, but they won't take the trouble to go down to the polls and vote for it. Then, when things go differently from the way they wished, they commence to complain about it.

Not New Experience.

'It is nothing new, though, for the women of Pelham to vote,' Mrs. Karback continued. 'We are nineteen years ahead of New York, for we have been voting for that length of time. You see, all property owners here, whether men or women, are permitted votes upon subjects that concern their taxation. Even the joint property ownership of husband and wife allows the woman a vote. Of course, a lot of the Pelham women are not interested enough in these things to bother to come down to the polls, but I have been preaching to them lately. I ask them what they would do if their husbands died and they had to look after their own property alone. A lot more of them turned out this time than ever before. There were about one hundred and fifty voters, fifty of whom were women, I should say.

'We had regular printed ballots. The questions they were asked to vote upon were printed above, and space opposite the words 'Yes' and 'No' were left, so that a cross might be printed after either one of them.

'No, you would not think that a mistake was possible,' Mrs. Karback agreed, 'but nevertheless ten women did disqualify their votes. They printed the crosses so poorly that nobody could tell what they had attempted to signify. Then some of the them got the crosses in the wrong place, or else wrote comments on their ballots.'

Why She Didn't Vote.

'I did not vote,' Mrs. F. Hurttig, another Pelham matron, admitted, 'but I went all the way down to the fire-house on Fifth avenue, where the polls were.

'I had not intended to go, but when it was almost luncheon time somebody drove up for me and told me that my vote was needed for something or other. I did not understand it at all, but they said that all I need do was just drive down to the fire-house and draw a cross opposite the word 'Yes' on the ballot.

'When I got out of the carriage there were so many men around the firehouse that I thought I would wait a little while before I went in. The crowd did not seem to thin any, and then I remembered that the children would be coming home from school for their luncheon, so I did not say a word to any one, but I just quietly slipped home again. I would have liked to oblige them, but I did not know what it was all about, and, anyway, no one knew whether I voted or not.'

Other prominent Pelham women who cast their ballots are: Mrs. Jacob Heiser, Mrs. John Godfrey, Mrs. Thomas Monroe and Mrs. Samuel Totten."

Source: Patterson, Ethel Lloyd, Pelham Women Cast Fifty Votes, Ten Thrown Out, The Evening World, Feb. 17, 1909, p. 8, col. 1.

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