Although women were not allowed to vote for President in most states until the passage of the Federal Suffrage Amendment in 1920, the situation at the local level was at times more flexible. One of the justifications that some activists argued for the need for Votes for Women was that because women were entrusted with the care of children they needed the franchise to perform their duties well. In response, some municipalities allowed women to vote, but only in local elections, generally that for school board.
In order to ensure that women did not use this opportunity to surreptitiously cast a vote for an office other than what they were legally entitled to, special ballot boxes were created for them, allowing their “illegal” ballots to be discovered easily and consequently discarded. In some states, women could compete for these same local offices, and their names can be found on surviving ballots today. In one district in Massachusetts in 1876, women formed an uneasy alliance with some local Prohibitionists to create the Woman Suffrage Party, whose ballot is depicted here. Activists agreed to work for temperance candidates if they, in turn, supported suffrage,