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Women in Politics

For fifty years after the great suffrage victory of 1920, women made only limited gains in New Jersey electoral politics. Initially, both parties tried to cultivate the new voters, until it became apparent that women were not going to vote together as a bloc. The first two women members of the New Jersey Sate Legislature, Jennie Van Ness and Margaret B. Laird, were elected as early as 1920. However, after the Second World War, women's modest gains were eroded. Between 1947 and 1965, only 22 women served in the state Assembly, as compared to 44 between 1921 and 1947. The reasons for this decline were related to demographic shifts and the indifference of the major parties to women candidates, many of whom ran as “sacrificial lambs” in hopeless races. A few women, however, did have distinguished careers in state and national politics during this period.

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Photograph, Mary Norton and Thelma Sharp, ca. 1950 Photograph, Millicent Fenwick and Clifford Case Photograph, Carrie Chapman Catt, ca. 1920 Photograph, Women at the Democratic National Convention, 195?

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