During the 1910s, the movement picked up momentum.
Updated August 29, 2020
Developed by the MN Historical Society in partnership with the League of Women Voters Minnesota, the “Votes for Women” exhibit shares the stories of more than 40 Minnesota women—at least 10 of whom are women of color—whose commitment to civic responsibility should inspire us to participate more fully in the democratic process.
One of the women of color included is Nellie Francis of St. Paul who used her vote to advance the rights of African Americans and who led the effort to enact a state anti-lynching statute in 1921.
Marching in the streets sounds like a 21st century theme, but there were parades not only in Washington and New York but right here in Minneapolis.
Interestingly, Scandinavian communities were more supportive of suffrage for Minnesota women after their countries of origin allowed women to vote: Finland in 1906, Norway in 1913, Denmark in 1915, and Sweden in 1918.
Here’s a look at coverage of the Minneapolis parade on May 2, 1914 from the Star Tribune.
During this period, the MWSA had to contend with a rival organization, a Minnesota branch of the National Women’s Party (NWP). The NWP was more radical than the MWSA. It was much more likely to take direct action, such as hunger strikes, than the MWSA. Even though they disagreed on tactics, the two organizations often worked together.
By 1919, thirty thousand women across the state officially belonged to local suffrage associations. They joined the MWSA, the NWP, and other organizations. Their numbers and continued activities convinced lawmakers to act. In 1919, the Minnesota Legislature recognized women’s right to vote in presidential elections. Source: Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association.
Minnesota Suffragettes Join Forces & Build Friendships
Gustavus Adolphus Professor Misti Harper’s presentation, “Leading Minnesota to the Promised Land: The Legacy of Gender Equity and the March Toward Women’s Suffrage in the North Star State.” The talk was part of the Life: Learning is ForEver program.
Unlike the predominant national movement for voting rights, Minnesota’s suffragettes included black women and working-class members. The Minnesotans allied with the American Woman Suffrage Association.
“That association was more inclusive and that appealed to them (the Minnesotans),” Harper said.
Black women from the Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul joined forces with members of the Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Association to work together in the Minnesota association.
Harper said two of Minnesota leading suffragettes, Nellie Griswold Francis, a black woman, and Clara Ueland, a middle-class white woman, for years worked together to win the right to vote for women.
“They became BSFs (best sister friends) for life,” Harper said. Source: Minnesota Women Showcase History of Activism.