On November 2, 1920, eligible men and women around the country were able to vote equally in the election for the first time. According to the census bureau, approximately 26 million women were now able to vote. However, there were still an estimated 1.5 million women considered ineligible.
Ineligibility highlighted inequalities in the country. Native American and Asian woman were not allowed to vote. Other women of color were also limited, depending on where they lived and what rules were in place. Of course, women who were not citizens were not able to vote, unless they were married to an American. However, American women were also unable to vote if they were married to men who were not US citizens. In the mix as well were those women “deprived of the ballot under state statutes in harmony with constitutional provisions.”
Despite these imbalances, the first presidential election after the suffrage amendment passed was of great interest. Now that they had it, would women take advantage of the vote?
On Election Day, North Dakota was enjoying “excellent weather,” and many communities reported good turnout of female voters. In Bismarck, women gathered outside polls before they opened. It was reported that “twenty-five St. Alexius sisters and 12 from St. Mary’s marched in a body to the polls,” and three nuns were the first to vote in one location.
By late morning in Minot, slightly more women than men had voted. Jamestown showed fairly even numbers, with many women campaigning and voting for the anti-league candidate for governor, “disprove[ing] the assertion made by many … that the women would vote as did their sons, brothers, and husbands.”
According to The Bowbells Tribune, Burke County women frequently showed up before the male voters, adding that “The women have proven themselves to be intelligent voters… no mistake has been made in giving them the privilege of voting …”
In Mandan, however, it was reported that women turned out in surprisingly small numbers, especially in the German-Russian precincts.
By this date, as election statistics and results were being unraveled, it was reported that while more male than female voters turned out in North Dakota, the overwhelming majority of both voted in support of an amendment adding women’s suffrage to the state constitution.
Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker
The Bismarck Tribune, November 2, 1920, p1, 2
The Bismarck Tribune, September 29, 1920, p4
Grand Forks Herald, November 2, 1920, p1, 6, 8
The Bowbells Tribune, November 5, 1920, p5
Jamestown Weekly Alert, November 11, 1920, p7
Bismarck Tribune, November 17, 1920, p1