New exhibit examines how women, people of color lost initial right to vote

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new exhibit at the Museum of the American Revolution in Old City is showing parallels from elections and voting rights of the past to the modern day.

The exhibition focuses on the origins of the suffrage movement and a little known period of time that started in 1776 and ended in 1807, in which women and also free people of color legally exercised the right to vote in New Jersey.

It wasn’t until decades later in 1920 when women could vote again with the 19th Amendment.

"One of our, I would say, featured objects that we have is the original 1776 manuscript of a letter that Abigail Adams wrote to John Adams in which she urges him to remember the ladies," described Dr. Marcela Micucci, the museum's curatorial fellow in women's history.

She said she hopes visitors will take away an important lesson.

"Progress is not always on an upward progression," Micucci shared. "That its not linear and unending. That rights and liberties do require constant vigilance to preserve them to protect."

She added, "I think that this exhibition can be kind of seen as a call to action in that regard, as far as what we are seeing today, as far as conversations that are being had about the potential of voter fraud and voter suppression in this upcoming election."

Micucci discussed the comparisons between this period of history and our own contemporary period.

"We do begin to see, in the years leading up to 1807, when the vote is stripped from women and people of color, that we do see increased accusations of voter suppression and voter fraud across the state of New Jersey," she explained.

"Those minority groups really come to be scapegoated for a lot of the problems and these accusations of alleged voter fraud that are occurring in the state of New Jersey."

"I do think there are a lot of parallels to today, of course, because we do see that the things that happened in the past tend to happen again," Micucci continued. "History repeats itself, if you will."

"When Women Lost the Vote," at the Museum of the American Revolution, runs through April 25.