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Elections and Debates

Supporters of the Prohibition Party Marching, 1904

Long before women gained the right to vote, Mount Holyoke students organized and participated in political activities on campus. In conjunction with the presidential elections that occurred nationally in the United States, students on campus held their own campaigns and elections every four years. These activities began in 1860 and continued until the passing of the 19th amendment in 1920.

Mock campaigns and elections consisted of elaborate activities including singing political songs, giving campaign speeches, dressing up as contemporary political figures, and casting votes on mock ballots. By being exposed to arguments about suffrage, Mount Holyoke students might have started to form their own opinions on suffrage, as it was becoming a popular topic on campus.

Mock presidential elections and debates on suffrage demonstrate the strong devotion to politics held by Mount Holyoke students decades before they had the right to vote. These activities would eventually give rise to more formal political engagement, including the creation of a Mount Holyoke chapter of the National College Equal Suffrage League in 1911.