Lydia Taft

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Lydia Taft
Born(1712-02-02)February 2, 1712
DiedNovember 9, 1778(1778-11-09) (aged 66)
Known forWomen's suffrage, America's First Legal Colonial Woman Voter
Spouse(s)Josiah Taft
ChildrenBazaleel Taft, Sr. and six other children
Parent(s)Seth and Bethia Chapin

Lydia Chapin (Taft) (February 2, 1712 – November 9, 1778) was reportedly the first woman known to legally vote in colonial America. This occurred at a Town Meeting in the New England town of Uxbridge in Massachusetts Colony, named after the English town of Uxbridge, now part of west London.

Early life[edit]

Lydia Chapin was born in Mendon, Worcester County, Massachusetts on 2 February 1712.[1] She was the daughter of Seth Chapin, and Bethia Thurston. Seth Chapin was a respected member of the community and a captain in the militia.[2] Young Lydia Chapin grew up in Mendon, in a large family with nine siblings.[3] Lydia's mother had 14 children.[4] Her father Seth owned much property in what is today Milford, south Hopedale and Posts Lane in Mendon.[4]

The family lived on 45 acres (180,000 m2) near the Post's Lane bridge and Mill River.[4]

In 1727, the western part of Mendon became the newly incorporated town of Uxbridge. Mendon and Uxbridge were, at that time, rural communities in central Massachusetts. The reference cited also mentions that she married a Taft.[3] In 1731, these communities became part of the new county of Worcester County.

By their mutual ancestor, Captain Seth Chapin, she was a great-great-great grand-aunt of the 27th United States President William Howard Taft, also his first cousin, four times removed, by marriage to Josiah Taft.

By their mutual ancestor, Samuel Chapin, she was a second cousin, seven times removed, to celebrated songwriters and musicians Harry Chapin and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Marriage to Josiah Taft[edit]

Lydia Chapin was married to Josiah Taft,[5] on December 28, 1731 at the Congregational Church in Mendon. Josiah Taft was born on April 2, 1709. Josiah's father Daniel, had been a local "squire" and Justice of the Peace. Lydia and Josiah then settled in Uxbridge. Josiah and Lydia had eight children between 1732 and 1753.[5][6][7] Their children were: Josiah, born 10 May 1733, Ebenezer, born 20 August 1735, (died 16 October 1735), Caleb, born 15 January 1739, Asahel born 23 April 1740, Joel, born 15 August 1742, (died before 19 February 1747), Joel born 19 February 1748; (died 30 August 1749) at age 1, Bazaleel, born 3 November 1750, and Chloe, born 7 June 1753.

Josiah became a prominent citizen in early Uxbridge as wealthy farmer, local official, and Massachusetts legislator. He served several terms as a member of the Board of Selectmen, as town clerk, as town moderator,[6] and in the Massachusetts General Court. HR, 1753.[6]

Place in early American history[edit]

Josiah Taft was originally known as Ensign Josiah Taft in the Uxbridge Militia, and later as Lieutenant, and then Captain Josiah Taft in the French and Indian War. He presided over the proceedings of the New England style open town meeting. It is later reported, that Josiah Taft became the largest taxpayer in the town of Uxbridge in 1756.[8] In the fall of 1756, Josiah and Lydia's 18-year-old son, Caleb, became ill, while studying at Harvard, and died on September 19. Josiah went to Boston and Cambridge to bury Caleb. Josiah himself became ill after returning home, and died on September 30, at age 47. It was reported that he left a good estate with bonds and a will.[6] This was immediately prior to an important vote on the town's support for the war effort in the French and Indian Wars. Josiah's untimely death opened the door for Lydia's step into America's history of women's suffrage.

Women's suffrage[edit]

Given the important nature of the vote, the landowner and taxpayer status of Josiah's estate, and the fact that young Bazaleel, Caleb's younger brother, was just a minor, the townspeople voted to allow Lydia, "the widow Josiah Taft", to vote in this important meeting.[8][9] Lydia then received Josiah's proxy to vote in this important town meeting. Lydia Chapin Taft then became the first recorded legal woman voter in America. Lydia Chapin Taft, now simply known as Lydia Taft, voted in an official New England Open Town Meeting, at Uxbridge, Massachusetts, on October 30, 1756. This is recorded in the records of the Uxbridge Town Meeting. Lydia Taft of Uxbridge became the first woman to ever vote in the nation.[8][10] Judge Henry Chapin records in his 1864 address to the Unitarian church, that, "Uxbridge may yet become famous as the pioneer in the cause of Women's suffrage".[8] This was written 56 years before women's suffrage became legal in all of America. Lydia Taft's historic vote would precede the constitutional amendment for women's suffrage, which was in 1920, by 164 years. In 2007, Uxbridge may still become famous in the history of women's suffrage. According to Judge Chapin, the vote to allow Lydia to vote in 1756, was following the tradition of "no taxation without representation".[8]

The early town records demonstrate at least two other occasions when Lydia voted in official Uxbridge Town meetings, both in 1758 and again in 1765. This occurred while Massachusetts, was a colony of Great Britain. Lydia Chapin Taft's historic vote and her role in the history of women's suffrage is recognized by the Massachusetts legislature since 2004, which named Massachusetts Route 146A from Uxbridge to the Rhode Island border in her honor.[11][12] Margaret Brent of Maryland Colony tried to assert property rights and to vote in 1647 on behalf of herself and Lord Calvert's estate. It is reported that this was denied by the Governor. She is the only other known claimant to the title. The record shows that Lydia Chapin Taft was America's first legal woman voter.Taft died at Uxbridge in 1778, shortly after U.S. independence. Later scrutiny showed some dispute of local historic records.[13] The key reference to Lydia’s claim of voting is from the 1864 historic address later published by Burr.

Footnote of historic vote[edit]

The complete footnote[14] of local history is as follows: "The October 25 town meeting records simply say that on account of Josiah's death a new moderator will be chosen. With the death of Josiah, Lydia is left to care for 16-year-old Asahael, 6-year-old Bezaleel and 3-year-old Cloa. As seems to be her fate, her life and the life of her town are again intertwined. The French and Indian war is being waged and towns must vote as to whether to increase the amount they will contribute to the cost of the war. The only individuals allowed to vote were freeholders, (free male property holders), and Josiah's estate was valued as one of the largest in the town. Out of respect for his large contribution to the town, the town fathers allowed Lydia to vote as Josiah's proxy. She cast a vote to increase the town's contribution, thereby giving herself the distinction of being the first woman to vote in this country. She is mentioned in town records a few times more, once in 1758 to reduce her highway rates and another in 1765 was to change her school district."

Her vote was in favor of appropriating funds for the regiments engaged in the French and Indian War.

Lydia died at Uxbridge on November 9, 1778, at the age of 66.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Crane, Ellery Bicknell (1907). Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memories of Worcester County, Massachusetts with a history of Worcester Society of Antiquity. Chicago and New York: Lewis. pp. 181–182.
  2. ^ Crane p.221
  3. ^ a b Crane p.182
  4. ^ a b c Crane p.181
  5. ^ a b Crane p.222
  6. ^ a b c d Schultz, John A. (1997). Legislators of the Massachusetts General Court 1691-1780: A Biographical Dictionary. UPNE. p. 353. ISBN 978-1-55553-304-5.
  7. ^ "Taft descendents". rootsweb. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
  8. ^ a b c d e Chapin, Judge Henry (1881). Address Delivered at the Unitarian Church in Uxbridge, 1864. Worcester, Massachusetts. p. 172.
  9. ^ Chapin, Henry (1881). "Address Delivered at the Unitarian Church, in Uxbridge, Mass., in 1864: With Further Statements, Not Made a Part of the Address, but Included in the Notes".
  10. ^ "Oldest/Firsts Within the Blackstone Valley". The Blackstone Daily. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
  11. ^ ""AN ACT DESIGNATING STATE HIGHWAY ROUTE 146A IN THE TOWN OF UXBRIDGE AS THE LYDIA TAFT HIGHWAY"; "Chapter 56 of the Acts of 2004"". Massachusetts State Government; the state legislature. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "5 Very Early Stories About American Women and Voting". 2018-11-06.
  14. ^ "Uxbridge Breaks Tradition and Makes History: Lydia Chapin Taft by Carol Masiello". The Blackstone Daily. Archived from the original on 2011-08-14. Retrieved 2007-09-29.

External links[edit]

[1] portrait of Lydia Taft link