Fall 2016
Elections: Winning the Vote


Elections: Winning the Vote celebrates our right to vote, from colonial election festivities to the achievement of suffrage by Blacks, women, and Native Americans. The exhibit includes campaign posters, buttons, and books from the Athenaeum’s collection.

In Colonial America, Election Day was the largest holiday celebration.  It had its own rituals akin to today’s Memorial Day parade or pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. Schools and businesses closed and families gathered. In New England, the first order of business was always the Election Day sermon. A great honor, each year a different minister was selected to deliver the sermon and it was often published as a pamphlet following the election. The Salem Athenaeum has a collection of approximately twenty local Election Day sermon pamphlets. The 1765 sermon preached by Rev. Andrew Eliot of Boston was the source for the Athenaeum’s Election Day celebration on Columbus Day 2016.


The nineteenth- and twentieth-century struggles for Black, Women and Native American suffrage are well documented in the Salem Athenaeum’s Historical Collections. Among the volumes displayed were Ecce Femina: The Woman Question, 1870; Woman’s Worth and Worthlessness, 1872 (an argument against women’s suffrage); Woman in the Nineteenth Century by Margaret Fuller, 1874; Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, 1893; and Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery, 1901.

Salem election ephemera from the 1940s, including nomination papers and posters from the Salem Get Your Vote Out Committee, campaign buttons and presidential biographies through the present day, round out this comprehensive view of voting in the United States.

Curated by Elaine von Bruns.