With the end of the 2020 elections, an interesting letter in the archival collections of the Sherburne History Center warrants some discussion.As background information, the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote in national elections passed in August 1920. Prior to the approval of the 19th Amendment, in Minnesota, women voted in some local elections. Of particular interest, women voted in elections concerning local school boards. This makes sense when we realize a responsibility of all women concerned the education of children. This belief extends back into the 1800s.
In a letter sent to concerned citizens of Clear Lake, Sherburne County, Assistant Attorney General Montreville J. Brown reaffirmed the right of women to vote in local school board issues. His only caveat to this voting right being that women must be residents of the district in question and “they are of the age twenty-one years and upward and possess the qualifications requisite of a male voter.”
The voting history of Minnesota and Sherburne County emphasizes that the question of voting rights lacked simplicity. Suffrage maintained several nuances, rather than simply suggesting women won the right to vote. Women maintained some voting rights; the 19th amendment expanded those rights.
Understanding these rights leads down an interesting historic path.