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Plainville a “banner town” of early women’s voting

Plainville a “banner town” of early women’s voting

reporter photo

PLAINVILLE — Plainville was known as a “banner town” in Connecticut’s early days of women’s suffrage, with women accounting for a larger portion of turnout than in many other towns in the years after voting rights expanded. 

In 1893, for example, women accounted for just over 40 percent of the total vote for the local Board of Visitors, the precursor to the modern Board of Education, just months after state law allowed them to vote in the local election, according to a recent Plainville Historic Center presentation. 

According to media reports from the time, read during the March 23 presentation, women voters accounted for 10 percent of Plainville’s entire population, which one report declared the highest in the state, while 40 towns saw no women vote. 

Another article stated women “ransacked the town” with rented horse teams, bringing their peers to the polls, and declared Plainville a “banner town” for women’s suffrage. 

"We were really kind of the champions of women getting out to vote in 1893," Morante said. "It was a little known and long forgotten chapter of both Connecticut and local history.”

The efforts succeeded in getting Mary G. Clark elected to the Board of Visitors, followed two years later by Alice Ryder. Women continued to come to the polls in droves when the state offered full suffrage in 1920. 

Plainville elected its first woman to the state House in 1950, followed by Gertrude Koskoff two years later and then Helen Loy as the first woman elected to the Town Council in 1959. 

The council was all male from 1971 through 1977 until Helen Bullard was elected to the body, and the town has had at least one woman on the council every year since. 

The election of Hannah Petit Chapman in 2001 was another milestone, giving women their first majority on the council. 

After joining a dozen of the other women present who have been elected to public office by local voters, Board of Education Chairwoman Deborah Hardy said she was glad to see her fellow residents recognizing the women who have helped lead the town.

"I think they have an interest in what women do in their town and respect them for what they do," she said.
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