The Mary Eliza Project: Ward 8 Voter Records Are Now Available
In August 1920, the month Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment, women in Boston began registering to vote. Women voted by the thousands to register, and by October 13, 1920, the last day to register before the 1920 presidential election, over 50,000 women had registered.
Women’s Voter Records from 1920 now live in the Boston City Archives and document women’s names, addresses, birthplaces and occupations. Sometimes women provided additional information about their naturalization process to become a U.S. citizen, including their husband’s birthplace, because in 1920 a woman’s citizenship status was tied to her husband’s nationality.
The Mary Eliza Project, named after Mary Eliza Mahoney, an African-American nurse, civil rights activist, and Boston voter, transcribes these valuable handwritten records into an easily searchable and sortable dataset.
Ward 8 covered parts of Back Bay, Fenway, and Beacon Hill. More than 2,500 women living in Ward 8 registered to vote between August 12 and October 13, 1920.
Newly registered voters in Ward 8 were doctors, artists, lawyers, teachers, students, housewives, accountants, clerks, seamstresses, nurses, cleaners and maids, teachers, secretaries and stenographers, etc. In the excerpt below, you can see that one voter, Anna E. Tukey, even gave “Dog Fancier” as her profession!
While the majority of newly registered voters in Ward 8 were born in the United States, we found voters from Poland, Russia, Ireland, France, England, Turkey, Sweden, Scotland and from Switzerland.
When we researched some of the names we transcribed, we discovered some intriguing stories. Landscape architect Louisa Bancroft Stevens living at 91 Pinckney Street is probably the same Louisa Bancroft Stevens responsible for the landscaping of the perennial gardens at the Coolidge Stevens Estate in North Andover. Margaret Foster Richardson at 247 Newbury Street was an artist who painted mainly portraits, including a portrait of Mary Baker Eddy and the self-portrait below.
Marion E. Park living at 40 Commonwealth Avenue has registered as Dean of Simmons College. Park became the third president of Bryn Mawr College.
Alice Hamilton gave her profession as a professor at Harvard Medical School. A year earlier, in 1919, Hamilton became the first woman appointed to Harvard faculty. She was a physician, research scientist, author, and a leader in the emerging fields of occupational health and industrial toxicology. She has also worked as a social reformer, peace activist and volunteer resident at Hull House in Chicago.
Although records are a valuable source of information, we cannot always take 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 revealed that Duckering was a surgeon at Massachusetts Women’s Hospital and the New England Hospital for Women and Children, ran her own practice, and in 1913 was accepted as a member of the American College of Surgeons.
There is much more to explore in this new version of the dataset. Stay tuned for more research and writing on newly transcribed entries.
The dataset is freely available to the public. Use the dataset yourself and let us know what you find!