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More than 50,000 women registered to vote in Boston 100 years ago: City archives look back at the suffrage movement

A group of suffragists in Boston carry a "Suffrage Melting Pot" in which gold and silver and old and new articles of any sort that were put in the melting pot were converted into cash by the US mint in 1914.Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

To mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted American women the right to vote, officials from the Boston City Archives posted a series of tweets about the women’s suffrage movement in Boston.

“When women won the right to vote, celebrations broke out across the United States,” Boston City Archives officials tweeted. “In Boston, 56,354 women registered to vote for the first time.”

The city of Boston “extended the voting registration deadlines and hours, employed over 50 additional registrars (2 in each city ward and 10 at City Hall), and used extra rooms in City Hall for voter registration.”


But getting to that point wasn’t easy.

Boston City Archives posted a black-and-white photograph that shows a group of suffragists holding a protest banner during President Woodrow Wilson’s visit to Boston in February 1919.

According to the Historic New England website, the women had marched from 9 Park St. to the State House and held signs demanding that women be given the right to vote. They were eventually arrested by police. “Fines of $5 each were imposed on all but two of the women,” the website states. “Most of the women refused to pay the fine or appeal the judgment, and were imprisoned in the Charles Street Jail.”

The 19th Amendment would eventually be passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920. “Ratification represented decades of protest and advocacy by suffragists,” Boston City Archives officials tweeted. “Prior to the 19th Amendment, Boston women could only vote in school elections.”

Boston City Archives officials also shared a photo of the building on Boylston Street where the headquarters of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association and the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government were once located. The organizations occupied space on the third floor.


That building on Boylston Street still stands today, but those suffrage organizations are long gone, and a CVS pharmacy now occupies the ground floor.

Other local organizations also turned to social media to mark the centennial of the 19th amendment this week. The Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities posted an article about Melnea Cass, a suffragist from Boston who organized Black women to vote.

The Women’s Fund tweeted about a free virtual conference that is being hosted by Boston University on Sept. 25.

Suffrage100MA, a coalition commemorating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, tweeted that it will host a premiere of a film titled “The Fight for Women’s Suffrage: Looking Back, Marching Forward!” on Aug. 26.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.