1871 : First Michigan Woman Votes in General Election

April 4, 2023 all-day

Nannette Gardner became the first Michigan woman to vote in a general election when she cast her ballot on April 4, 1871, in Detroit.

The wealthy widow convinced city election officials that she should be allowed to participate, because she didn’t have a husband to represent her.

In a letter to the Detroit Post afterward, Gardner wrote, “It is difficult for me to appreciate that so simple an event as a woman expressing a choice among a few candidates for office should have caused such a commotion and made me ‘suddenly famous.’ Tens of thousands of vicious, ignorant and worthless men do the same thing yearly without a word of comment. To an outsider, the inference would be quite plausible that women are something beside human beings – perhaps one of Darwin’s apes suddenly emerging into and claiming the rights of humanity.”

Source : Zlati Meyer, This Week in Michigan History, March 29, 2009, B.4.

Or was it on April 3, 1871?

Long before women gained the right to vote in 1920, Nannette B. Gardner, a Detroit resident, managed to vote. She went to her ward to register and argued that she was a “person” in the context of the 14th Amendment and thereby had the legal right to vote. She was widow and taxpayer, but claimed that she had no representation. The inspector on duty, Peter Hill, agreed that Gardner had a reasonable argument and registered her name on the voting list. Records show that Garder continued to vote in elections as long as she remained in Detroit.

Source : Michigan Every Day.


Source : Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Brownell Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage. History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 3, 1876-1885. p. 823. Says vote was cast on April 3. Perhaps the results were announced on April 4.

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