Suffrage Organizing in Hennepin County

Suffrage during the early 1900s became more organized with fundraising, lobbying, publications, and mass meetings.

Dozens of organizations formed to encourage women and men of different religious, ethnic, racial, and class backgrounds to join the movement.

Clara Ueland, a tireless advocate for women's right to vote, once remarked that there couldn't be "too many clubs." The more grass-roots organization, the better.

Suffragists organized themselves into a vast network of suffrage associations. Hennepin County alone was home to dozens of them: the Political Equality Club (1868-20), the 1915 Club (1912-20), the Socialist Suffrage Club, plus a handful of local branches of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA). But the effort was a bit too dispersed. A lack of coordination and effective leadership hampered their efforts.

In 1913, Clara Ueland formed yet another group. The Equal Suffrage Association (ESA) had the mission of organizing Hennepin County by precincts, wards, and legislative districts. Committees devoted to communication, education, membership, literature, and "junior" recruitment provided leadership. Dues were set at $5 per annum, which was 5-10 times as much as other suffrage organizations. By the end of 1913, 100 members had joined. Inspired by the British suffragettes, the ESA aimed for a more vigorous approach, although they stopped short of militancy.

Ethnic communities also came together to form their own suffrage associations. The Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Association, organized in 1907, extended membership to first and second-generation Scandinavian immigrants. African American women organized a suffrage club in St. Paul, but no counterpart appears to have existed in Hennepin County. By 1919, some 30,000 Minnesota women had taken a stand for suffrage by joining various local societies.

The Essex Building served as suffrage headquarters for many of Minnesota's local suffrage clubs and organizations, including the Political Equality Club of Minneapolis, MWSA, and the Scandinavian Suffrage Association. A handful of MWSA members lived in the Essex Building's residential spaces. These included Vice Mrs. Victor Troendle (a Vice President and Treasurer) and Mrs. Walker Thorp (Chair of the Press Standing Committee). After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, the League of Women Voters rented office space here.

By the 1950s, the building became the home of the Minneapolis Business College.

Images

The Essex Building, 84 Tenth Street South

The Essex Building, 84 Tenth Street South

Headquarters of Political Equality Club of Minneapolis, the Scandinavian Suffrage Association, and the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA) View File Details Page

Clara Ueland (1860–1927) <br /><br />

Clara Ueland (1860–1927)

Clara Ueland was referred to in the press as "Mrs. Andreas Ueland." But everyone knew her as a relentless advocate of women's rights. In 1913 Clara Ueland hlelped to establish the Equal Suffrage Association of Minneapolis to energize the local movement. The following year, she organized a suffrage parade in Minneapolis with a turnout of nearly 2,000 marchers. Its success led to her presidency of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA). She was determined to improve the operations of the MWSA and to transform the state suffrage organizations into sophisticated mechanisms of persuasion, pressure, and action. In the five years of her presidency, she achieved her original objectives and more. She was the president of the MWSA during the ratification of the 19th amendment and the first president of the Minnesota League of Women Voters. While still working to advance women's interests, she died tragically on a wintry day when a truck lost control on icy streets while she was crossing the road to her house at 3820 W. Calhoun Boulevard.Further Reading:  Elizabeth Loetscher, "Clara Ueland (1860-1927)" MNopediaBarbara Stuhler, Gentle Warriors:  Clara Ueland and the Minnesota Struggle for Woman Suffrage.  St. Paul:  Minnesota Historical Society, 1995. View File Details Page

Ione Wood Gibbs (1871-1923) and African-American activism

Ione Wood Gibbs (1871-1923) and African-American activism

African-American residents of Hennepin County took an active interest in the suffrage movement. Minnesota's Black newspapers, such as The Appeal and The National Advocate, provided regular positive coverage of both the local and national movements, featuring complimentary portraits of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Such coverage looks ironic and even painful to us today, now that we've learned more about the racism in the mainstream movement. Minnesota's Black press took an accommodationist stance and was not quick to call out discrimination. Minneapolis's African-American activists included Ione Wood. She moved to Minneapolis in the 1890s from Kentucky, where she had been a teacher and writer. She had also been on the editorial staff of Our Women and Children, a Baptist women's magazine run by her uncle. Wood had already built a reputation as an outspoken leader. The 1893 edition of Noted Negro Women: Their Triumphs and Activities observed that she "ranks today among the foremost of our women, first, from the standpoint of acknowledged intellectual ability to write; second, as an earnest educator and race advocate." Wood married restaurant owner Jasper Gibbs in 1890 and had five sons. She became active in the Ada Sweet Pioneer Club, a literary and musical club in Minneapolis. When Minnesota's (predominantly white) women's club movement denied entry to African-American organizations, she clicked into action.In 1905, the Minnesota Federation of Women's Clubs voted to deny membership to the Adelphi Club, an African-American women's organization in Minneapolis. In doing so, it was following the lead of Susan B. Anthony, who had urged the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA)to adopt a “separate but equal” membership policy. This stance formed part of their “southern strategy,” which aimed to gain support in the South. The prominent black intellectual and suffragist W. E. B. DuBois warned that this position “represents a climbing of one class on the misery of another.” White suffragists were not exempt from contemporary prejudices. They struggled to reconcile noble ideals with political pressures. In response, Minnesota's African-American women formed their own federation. Gibbs served as the first president of the Minnesota State Federation of Afro-American Women's Clubs. She went on to national roles as vice-president of the National Association of Colored Women between 1912 and 1914. Like other African American women, Gibbs chose to work for racial uplift rather than for women™s suffrage exclusively. Her essay "Woman's Part in the Uplift of the Negro Race" (1907) is still in circulation today. | Source: Donald Ross, "African American and Jewish Women's Clubs in Minnesota." "Form Own Society" The Saint Paul Globe (February 9, 1905): 2 View File Details Page

Scandinavian Suffragists

Scandinavian Suffragists

Scandinavian suffragists carry national flags in the Minneapolis parade on May 2, 1914. Founded in 1907 with help from Ethel Edgerton Hurd, the Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Association (SWSA) stood out as the only ethnically based suffrage organization in the state. As Minnesota's Norwegians and Swedes gained political and economic status, suffragists aimed to harness their lobbying power. Scandinavians were more likely to support women's enfranchisement than other new immigrant communities (Germans were notably anti-suffrage.) Norway granted tax-paying women voting rights in 1907, and Danish women won the vote in 1915. Though open to men, the SWSA was mostly made up of—and led by—women. It charged no dues, which opened the doors to supporters of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, although membership was limited to first- and second-generation Scandinavians. Founding president Jenova Martin attracted many Norwegian suffragists, while her successor, Nanny Mattson Jaeger, pulled in more Swedes. The SWSA readily collaborated with the MWSA's events. In May 1914, the SWSA joined 2,000 other marchers from across the state at a Minneapolis suffrage parade. Members wore traditional Scandinavian clothing and proudly carried the flags of their homelands. The organization also hosted Swedish folk dance festivals and music nights, such as the one at Minneapolis's Central High School that drew over 1,000 people. Some of SWSA's members traveled to Washington, D.C. in 1917 to picket the White House on "Minnesota Day." One of the SWSA™s most significant fundraising efforts supported the construction of the "Woman Citizen" building on the state fairgrounds. By soliciting donations and holding bake sales, they raised the full $2,000 price tag. The SWSA dedicated it to the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association on the first day of the 1917 State Fair. | Source: Peterson, Anna Marie. “Adding ‘A Little Suffrage Spice to the Melting Pot:™ Minnesota™s Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Organization.” Minnesota History 62:8 (Winter 2011–2012): 288–297. ——— “Making Women™s Suffrage Support an Ethnic Duty: Norwegian American Identity Constructions and the Women™s Suffrage Movement, 1880–1925.” Journal of American Ethnic History 30: 4 (Summer 2011): 5–23. Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Association, MNopedia. View File Details Page

Young People and Suffrage Activism

Young People and Suffrage Activism

Young people participated in both the suffrage and anti-suffrage movements in Hennepin County. High school students often encountered conversations about suffrage through clubs, debates, plays, and parades. Suffrage leader Maud Stockwell visited Entre Nous, a senior girls™ club at South High School, in 1914. Her speech left such an impression that, according to the yearbook, “she gained many devotees to ‘the cause.™” In the 1910s, high schools such as Central High granted female students the vote in school elections. Youth organized suffrage clubs. For example, the Junior Mobile Suffrage Squad was led by Helen Jones, a senior at Central High. She was the daughter of Minneapolis mayor David Percy Jones, and walked at the head of the student section during the suffrage march in 1914. On the opposition side, there was a junior auxiliary of the Minnesota Anti-Suffrage Association, which had at least twenty members. | Creator: Hannah Dyson View File Details Page

The Ueland Home, 3820 West Calhoun Boulevard

The Ueland Home, 3820 West Calhoun Boulevard

The Uelands raised eight children in this home. Clara regularly hosted suffrage parties on the lawn. View File Details Page

Street Address:

403 Essex Building -- 84 Tenth Street South [map]

Cite this Page:

Jacqueline deVries, with Hannah Dyson, “Suffrage Organizing in Hennepin County ,” Augsburg Digi-Tours, accessed October 31, 2020, http://digitours.augsburg.edu/items/show/65.
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