In an era when women across the nation crusaded to gain voting rights, Rising Sun led the way locally in 1916, allowing ladies to cast ballots in a county election for the first time in Cecil’s history, the Midland Journal reported.
The question that faced taxpayers heading to the polls was whether the town board could refinance a $16,000 debt with the issuance of 20-year bonds. These instruments would replace short-term loans, which paid for the waterworks installed two years earlier, sidewalks already laid, and apparatus for fire protection already purchased.
Short term notes carried this public debt, so the issuance would not increase the tax rate, the town commissioners assured residents. In fact, lower interest rates would give the municipality a way to minimize cash outlays, giving the budget a bonus savings of $140 a year, if the voters approved.
This was a “good practical business proposition, and one which those who have the interest of our town at heart” should endorse the town newspaper, the Midland Journal, editorialized. This savings was “an item of no small consideration.”
The Legislature’s authorized all municipal taxpayers of legal age to vote on the question, which was decided favorably. Seventy-four voters approved, while two opposed the matter. The town’s newspaper editor said he didn’t know if the increased franchise affected the results, but the near unanimous count suggests that practically all the citizens favored the action.
This happened as Maryland and national women’s suffrage associations waged campaigns for the franchise. It was unsuccessful in Maryland, the lawmakers failing to amend the state constitution or to approve the 19th amendment. But on August 26, 1920, the position of Maryland politicians was irrelevant, after a sufficient number of states ratified the amendment, giving all women the right to vote.
As ladies across the country struggled with the national campaign, Rising Sun had held a historic vote, allowing women to go to the polls four years before the ratification of the 19th amendment created a more universal franchise. The presidential election of 1920, where Warren G. Harding, Republican, and James M. Cox, Democrat, were the nominees, was the first time most female voters in Cecil County and the nation exercised the power of the ballot box. It was old news by that time in the northern Cecil County town.