Ramsey County History – Summer 2020: “Votes for Everywoman: Nellie Griswold Francis, the Women of Rondo, and Their Suffrage Crusade”
Votes for Everywoman: Nellie Griswold Francis, the Women of Rondo, and Their Suffrage Crusade
Author: Leetta M. Douglas
A century ago, women of Minnesota, along with suffragists across the nation, won the hard-fought battle for the right to vote with the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment. Some women have been remembered for their invaluable suffrage work; others have received less or no recognition. One woman who made her mark and is honored at the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial in Saint Paul is Nellie Francis, an African American suffragist, civil rights leader, and community activist who started the Everywoman Suffrage Club (later renamed the Everywoman Progressive Council) in 1914 with a group of Rondo neighborhood women whose names were never fully acknowledged. Yet their constant work writing editorials, serving as convention delegates, and presenting speeches, plays, and forums to advocate for their cause, added to the state and nationwide efforts. Despite the win, however, African Americans and other people of color have had to continue to fight (to this very day) for the unencumbered right to vote because of discriminatory state and local policies in some places. Still, there’s been tremendous progress. As author Leetta M. Douglas points out, it’s because of these early suffragists and many who continued to fight after them that women of color are making a positive difference in Ramsey County today as city council members, county commissioners, police officers, neighborhood development leaders, community and civil rights activists, and more. Hurrah to Nellie Francis and the women of Rondo!