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How women ran for office before they were even guaranteed the right to vote

Olivia B. Waxman writes, "Americans will mark Women’s Equality Day on Saturday in commemoration of the day in 1920 when the 19th Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote. But the history of women in American politics predates that anniversary by decades. Long before suffrage was extended to women nationwide with that Constitutional amendment, women were running for office — and winning — in some states with more inclusive qualifications for voting and holding office.

In fact, at least 3,586 women campaigned for elected positions in the half-century before 1920, according to Her Hat Was in the Ring, a database created by scholars Wendy E. Chmielewski, Jill Norgren and Kristen Gwinn-Becker. (The archive is a work in progress, and that number represents the women they've counted for sure so far; the trio estimate that they'll ultimately find that more than 5,500 women ran in about 7,000 campaigns.)

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[T]he vast majority of these electoral successes were achieved further West than Maine. In Kansas alone, more than 750 women were elected to all kinds of offices before 1912, according to Chmielewski. Most of the states and territories that pioneered women’s suffrage were newer to the Union, eager to attract families to move West and relatively open to new ideas. There, women could often get a foot in the door on school or sanitation boards, which were seen as extensions of women’s domestic work."

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