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.



403 Essex Building -- 84 Tenth Street South