A new “Votes For Women” historical marker commemorates Maine’s State House in Augusta as the site where state legislators ratified the constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote in 1919. The sign is located on the south side of the fountain between the Cultural Building and the Maine State House. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — As the latest marker on the Maine Suffrage Centennial Trail was unveiled this week memorializing the legislative and political work that resulted in women having the right to vote, officials say work to ensure women have an equal role in society is not done.

The marker, one of seven in the state, is the work of the Maine Suffrage Centennial, a group of organizations across the state that has been working to commemorate the historic adoption of the 19th Amendment.

Rep. Lois Galgay Reckitt, D-South Portland, left, snaps a photo of Rep. Raegan French LaRochelle, D-Augusta, beside the new historical marker Friday near the Maine State House in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said Friday’s celebration recognizes women’s victory in securing the right to vote.

“That work is not done,” Bellows, who is the first woman to serve in that capacity in Maine, said earlier this week. “The push for full equality for women continues even today with the Equal Rights Amendment and also legislation to fully support women’s health care and economic security and participation in society.”

Rep. Lois Galgay Reckitt, a Democrat who represents South Portland, has been working to secure votes for an Equal Rights Amendment in Maine. And while her efforts have been unsuccessful to date, she’s still pursuing passage of the constitutional amendment.

Unless equal rights are protected as an amendment to the constitution, she said, they are at risk because legislation can be overturned by a majority vote.


“One of the things that surprised me was the vast number of young women in the Legislature who were so adamant that we have to do the ERA,” Reckitt said earlier this week.

The marker is part of the Maine Suffrage Centennial Trail, made up of seven historic markers placed or set to be placed in locations around the state. Each location relates to a person or activity that led to women having the right to vote. It’s also part of the National Votes for Women Trail, which recognizes about 250 sites across the country.

For more than 80 years, women and some men across the United States fought for women’s right to vote, with some of the early actions taking shape at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in Seneca Falls, New York.

Some Western states and territories granted women the right to vote in the late 1800s starting with Wyoming in 1869, but it would take five more decades until the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting the right to women across the country.

Augusta, as the state capital, was the center of Maine’s legislative and political efforts to open up voting to women, including petitions, resolutions and repeated attempts to pass state legislation, including referendum campaigns in 1917 and 1920.

“Interestingly,” Bellows said, “women won the right to vote in August 1920, and women in Maine’s first participation was on Sept. 13 of 1920, when women’s suffrage was on the ballot.”


But, Bellows noted, not all women benefited from that. It was not until more than 30 years later that the right to vote was granted to Native Americans — men and women — in Maine. That came as the result of a referendum vote on a constitutional amendment that passed in September 1954.

As secretary of state, Bellows oversees elections in Maine. While the current voter registration database the state uses doesn’t collect statistics registration by sex, and that is expected to be added, state residents vote, regardless of sex.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, in front, second from left, claps after Gov. Janet Mills cut the ribbon Friday in front of a new historical marker commemorating Maine’s ratification of the constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote. The event, held near the Maine State House in Augusta, took place on Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of adoption of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 26, 1920, after decades of hard-fought advocacy. The historical marker is one of seven in the state on the National Votes For Women Trail. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Maine is one of the top states in the nation for voter participation,” she said, noting that it routinely ranks among the top three states in the nation, sometimes reaching the top of the ranking.

In addition to the Augusta marker, that has been placed between the State House and the Maine Cultural Building, other markers have been installed in Portland, Lewiston, Farmington and Indian Island and a marker is set to be unveiled in Bangor.

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