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Oldest woman to cast her first ballot in 1920 was 99 and born when James Monroe was president

Mary Jane Fitz Randolph on voting for the first time: ‘I’ve just been waiting for the opportunity’

By David Wildstein, December 04 2022 8:29 pm

Perhaps the oldest woman to cast her vote in New Jersey in November 1920 – the first general election after the ratification of the 19th Amendment – was Mary Jane Fitz Randolph.  She was 99 when she voted that year.

“One is never too old to begin,” she told a reporter on Election Day.  “I won’t say learn because I always have known how.  I have just been waiting for the opportunity.”

Her lifetime spanned 25 U.S. Presidents, 30 New Jersey Governors and 36 United States Senators, but she was only eligible to vote in one presidential election, one gubernatorial race and one U.S. Senate contest.

Mary Jane Hadden Fitz Randolph (1821-1923). (Photo: Fitz Randolph Family).

Fitz Randolph was born in Woodbridge in 1821, the fifth year of James Monroe’s presidency.  Her first election in 1920, when Republican Warren Harding defeated Democrat James Cox.

It’s not clear how Mrs. Fitz Randolph voted, although Woodbridge went for Harding by a 3-1 margin, and gave Republican congressional candidate Frank Appleby, a former mayor of Asbury Park, 67% that year.   She would also have had a chance to vote in the 1922 U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Joseph Frelinghuysen and Democrat Edward Edwards; Frelinghuysen won Woodbridge but lost re-election to Edwards by nearly eleven percentage points.

She voted in just three general elections before her death in 1923, three months before her 102nd birthday.  Her obituary noted that Fitz Randolph “never failed to use her right of franchise and always cast her ballot.”

Her parents, Ephraim and Isabelle Hadden, were among the first settlers in Woodbridge.   The Hadden and Fitz Randolph families served in the First Regiment of the Middlesex County Militia during the Revolutionary War.

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