This statement by Portia Gage is the epigraph for Chapter 2 Confront Great Odds: 1866-1877: First, because I felt it was a duty, and second out of curiosity.
Portia and John Gage, in 1864, had moved from Illinois to Vineland, New Jersey. In 1861, Vineland was founded as a utopian temperance, (i.e., alcohol-free), and progressive community. Located in the southern part of the state, it was a trek for many of the kindred reformers. Yet they came to speak and be hosted by Portia and John Gage—Frederick Douglass, Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull, and Frances Dana Barker Gage, Portia’s sister-in-law—all of whom I wrote about in The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight.
On March 10, Portia Gage accompanied John when he went to vote in a municipal election. “First, because I felt it was a duty, and second out of curiosity,” she explained in a letter. Like most women, she had been told that polling places were “dangerous . . . where it would not be safe for a woman.” Instead, she discovered that she felt “stronger, wiser and better for having come in contact with the political influence.” Her attempt to vote was blocked because she was not registered.
Eight months later, on November 3, for the 1868 federal election, I wrote in The Vote, “Portia and John took their places on the platform where the election officials sat . . . Next to them was a 12-by-6-inch box used for picking grapes where, by the end of the day, 172 black and white women had cast their ballots. Susan B. Anthony, who had lectured in Vineland in September, wrote to C. B. Campbell, a Vineland Quaker: “Vineland women did splendidly on election day.” (Click on images to enlarge them.)