By Samantha Small, undergraduate student, Simmons College
and Caitlin Reeves, graduate student, Simmons College
Ella Findeisen was born in Germany in 1882, and emigrated to the United States with her parents around 1900. They lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts where Ella worked as a weaver in a woolen mill and as a bookkeeper for a milk dealer. She also became active in the labor movement, almost certainly participating in the “Bread and Roses” strike of 1912, and serving on the Central Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World. It is not known when she became a suffrage activist as well.
In 1917, Findeisen and other suffragists began demonstrating in front of the White House for the right to vote. Findeisen was charged for picketing at the White House on November 10, 1917. She had to choose between a fine or imprisonment, and ultimately chose to go to prison for the cause. Findeisen was sent to the Occoquan Workhouse for 30 days where she was held with her compatriots under deplorable conditions. Findeisen not only received a “prison pin” for her sacrifice in the name of suffrage, but her efforts and imprisonment in the Occoquan Workhouse helped spread sympathy for the suffrage cause.
Ella never married and remained active with the Massachusetts chapter of the National Woman's Party throughout the 1930s. Documentation of her life after 1930 is sparse. It appears as though Findeisen continued to work as a bookkeeper throughout her life. Ella died at her home, 11 Colby Street, Lawrence, Massachusetts, on August 29, 1944.
City of Lawrence Board of Health Death Register, January 2, 1936 - December 30, 1947. Lawrence History Center.
“Decorated for Service.” Sufffragist 8 (1920), p. 209.
Jacobs, Aletta H., and C. V. Gerritsen. The Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs. Ann Arbor, Michigan: ProQuest, 2000. http://gerritsen.chadwyck.com.
The Lawrence Directory. Boston: Sampson & Murdock Company, 1917-1944.
Lawrence History Center. Email communications, June-July 2017.
National Woman’s Party. National Woman’s Party Papers: The Suffrage Years, 1913-1920. Sanford, NC: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1981
“News from the field: Equal Rights bills in Florida" Equal rights. 15:17 (1929): 136
Workhouse Prison Museum. http://workhousemuseums.org
Stevens, Doris. Jailed for Freedom. NY: Boni and Liveright, 1920.
U.S. Census Bureau. United States Census. 1930.
Workhouse Prison Museum, Norfolk, VA and the Lawrence History Center, Lawrence, MA. Email communication, July 15 - August 15, 2015.