Exploring Nantucket's
notable women
TONIGHT! NHA University Virtual Lecture 
Suffrage through the Eyes of Anna Gardner
with NHA Research Fellow Barbara Ann White
October 13, at 5pm
Held via Zoom
FREE for members / $5 for non-members
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This lecture will focus on Nantucketer Anna Gardner’s contribution to the suffrage movement. Anna was an educator and lifelong activist, whose life embodies the choices women had to make during the 19th century if they wanted a career outside the home. White will conclude by surmising what Anna would think of the continuing struggle for voting rights in the years since her death.
Extraordinary Nantucket Woman Performance
This 2018 performance at the Nantucket Whaling Museum highlights the lives of fifteen extraordinary women from the 17th through the 20th centuries on Nantucket. From its earliest days, dating back to the mid-1600s, Nantucketers have made their own way in the world.
When did women first vote on Nantucket?
By Barbara Ann White

Women on Nantucket voted for the first time in February 1880. The Massachusetts legislature passed a law allowing women to vote in April 1879, but it was limited to voting for school committee members.

Several months after the law was passed, instructions for prospective women voters were published on the front page of The Inquirer and Mirror in a letter from the Massachusetts Suffrage Association. Women had to be 21 or older, citizens of the Commonwealth for over a year, and residents of the municipality where they intended to vote for six months. They had to be able to read the state constitution and to write their names. They had to prove they had paid taxes, had to register with their town assessors by a specified date with written lists of their estate, and had to be willing to pay the poll tax. Women were advised to check that their names had been properly placed on the rolls, which the law said had to be provided at least ten days before each election.
Photo: Anna Gardner GPN4320 PH170 – Collection of Glass Plate Negatives
What was going on in Nantucket
around the time when American women finally got the vote?
By Frances Karttunen

In 1920, on the eve of ratification of the 19th Amendment, Nantucket’s year-round population had fallen to 2797, its lowest point since the mid-1700s. Of the total population, 36% were registered voters, and they were not all men.

In November 1918, there were 997 registered voters on Nantucket, and 198 of them were women. Women’s right to vote was restricted, however. Repeated efforts to pass full suffrage for women had failed in Massachusetts in the 1870s. Finally, in the spring of 1879 a compromise bill passed and was signed into law that permitted Massachusetts women to vote, but only in local school board elections. Nantucket women cast their votes for the first time in February 1880.

Photo: P6620, Equal Suffrage booth in the shape of the Old Mill at a fair, c. 1910s.
From the Collection
Seating chart for reception after a suffrage lecture, 1874
Gift of Kay and William H. Barney, MS526.

Handwritten on back: After lecture on suffrage by Miss Mary F. Eastan, given in Atheneum Hall, a reception was held at the Hadwen House (now an NHA property at 96 Main Street). This reception was given by the Nantucket Sorosis Club, several members contributing toasts, poems, music and addresses. January 26, 1874.

Sorosis, founded in 1869 in New York City by journalist Jane Croly, was a nonpolitical group that met for literary and intellectual discussions and was the first women’s club in the United States.

Maria Mitchell spearheaded organizing the island’s chapter in 1872, while she was summering on the island. The island’s chapter initially included fifty women, although the core year-round group was smaller. They were older than their off-island counterparts, and were, therefore, less career minded. Focusing on intellectual stimulation and growth, they organized monthly discussions, though they eventually expanded their mission to advocate for women’s education and equal pay in the workplace.

Anna Gardner joined Sorosis the following January, when she returned to the island after eleven years teaching in the South. She was elected president, and went on to hold a variety of offices over the years, last as club historian in 1898, when she was eighty-two.
NHA Publication Highlight
“Suffrage is the key-stone of all other rights.” “The ballot is the best preparation for the ballot.”
— Anna Gardner 

Excerpt from the book, page 201:

"Civil rights continued to dominate Anna’s life. She campaigned tirelessly for the ballot for twenty-five years and fought for women’s full economic, social, and political participation in society. To that end, she was active in a variety of women's political and intellectual groups that proliferated in the post-Civil War period. She continued to advocate for education and was disheartened by the end of Reconstruc-tion, the rise of violence against black Americans, and the evisceration of the Recon-struction Amendments at the hands of state governments and the Supreme Court."
All 11th and 12th grade Nantucket High School students are encouraged to pick-up a complimentary copy of Disturber of Tradition: A Portrait of Anna Gardner by Barbara Ann White at the Whaling Museum during visiting hours.
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the Annual Fund and Guardian Fund

Gifts to the Annual Fund support every aspect of the NHA, so we can open the doors to members, visitors, and the community.

The Guardian Fund was created in direct response to COVID-19. Donations to the fund will directly support the operations of the NHA during this time to offset losses incurred from closures and the greater economic concerns. With this critical support, the NHA will be better positioned to steer a clear course.
Photo: Katie Kaizer Photography. April 9, 2020.
Whaling Museum
Open 9am–5pm, Monday–Saturday
(Closed Sundays) 

Time your visit by purchasing
or reserving your ticket online
The NHA admin offices and Whaling Museum will close at the end of the day on Friday, October 30, through Sunday, November 8, to both prepare and provide our staff with some well-earned downtime.
Nantucket Historical Association | 508.228.1894 | nha.org