Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Adelaide McClure Gillian Estee, 1862-1934
By Grace Seta, student, and Melanie Gustafson, professor, University of Vermont
Legislative Committee, 1912, Vermont Equal Suffrage Association
Vermont Chairman, 1917-1919; National Advisory Council, 1919-1920, National Woman's Party
Adelaide McClure Gillian (identified in some documents as Addie Gillan) was born to James Gillian and Sarah McClure Gillian in Colfax, Illinois, on May 18, 1862. She graduated from Illinois State Normal University in 1881 and was then appointed "first assistant" at a school in Harvard, McHenry County, Illinois. She then taught at schools in Havana, Illinois, and East Champaign Illinois. In 1883, she married James Borden Estee, the son of a prosperous Wisconsin farmer, who also graduated in 1881 from Illinois Normal University. After their marriage, the couple moved to Dakota Territory, where James became involved in banking and Republican politics. Their first child, Rush Gillian Estee, was born in Dakota Territory in 1885. There next three children, daughters Lorraine (b. 1896), Wanda (b. 1887), and Marjorie (b. 1901), were born after the family returned to Milwaukee, where James B. Estee entered the insurance business. While living in Milwaukee, Adelaide Estee became involved in the kindergarten movement.
In 1901, the Estees moved to Montpelier, Vermont, where James Estee worked as the manager and then vice president of the National Life Insurance Company of Vermont. He resigned in 1911 and in March 1912 was elected mayor of Montepelier, the state capital, serving two terms (1912-1914) before entering the state legislature in 1919 and the state senate in 1921. In 1926 he continued his education, earning first a bachelor of law degree and then a JD in 1929. James B. Estee died in Montpelier, Vermont on July 11, 1933.
Adelaide Estee continued her interest in education, serving as vice-president of the Vermont branch of the National Congress of Mothers and Parent-Teacher Associations. She was also president of the Montpelier's Woman's Club, Vermont State Federation of Women's Clubs, and the Truth Students' League, which was affiliated with the New Thought Christian movement. The Estees were members of the Universalist Church. Adelaide Estee was active in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), and In 1918 she was appointed by Governor Graham to the Board of Trustees of the Washington County Tuberculosis Hospital.
In 1912, Estee served on the Legislative Committee of the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association (VESA) and worked for the passage of a suffrage bill allowing women to vote in town elections during the fall legislative session. In 1915, Estee was praised in the VESA's Year Book for arranging introductions and interviews between suffrage supporters and legislators during the legislative session. That year, the Vermont Senate passed but the House rejected the suffrage bill.
By the end of 1915 Estee had switched her national suffrage alliagance from the National American Woman Suffrage Association to the Congressional Union, which became the National Woman's Party. Estee took part in a Congressional Union delegation of 300 women that was received by President Woodrow Wilson at the White House in December 1915. In 1917, Estee became the Vermont Chairman of the National Woman's Party. She continued to work with members of the VESA, lobbying members of the Vermont state legislature and the state Republican party. Estee was one of the "Green Mountain Girls" who demanded that Governor Percival W. Clement convene a special session of the legislature to ratify the federal suffrage amendment in 1920.
Adelaide Estee died on March 9, 1934 in Montpelier, Vermont.
Vermont Equal Suffrage Association Papers, 1883-1927, MSC 144-146, Leahy Library, Vermont History Center, Barre, Vermont.
David Felmey, ed., Semi-Centennial History of the Illinois State Normal University, 1857-1907 (Normal: Illinois State Normal University, 1907), p. 275.
"Meeting of the Wisconsin Teachers Association of Milwaukee," Kindergarten Magazine, February 1900, vol. 12, no. 6, pp 346-347.
"State News: Illinois," The Educational Weekly (Chicago), June 9, 1881, p. 359.
Andrew J. Aikens and Lewis A. Proctor, Wisconsin Men of Progress: A Selected List of Biographical Sketches and Portraits of the Leaders in Business, Professional, and Official Life (Milwaukee: Evening Wisconsin, 1897).
Journal of the Senate of the State of Vemront Twenty-fifth Biennial Session, 1919 (Montpelier: Capital City Press, 1919), p. 702.
Inez Davis Spooner, "Vermont State Federation of Women's Clubs," The Vermonter, July-August 1913, pp. 151-55, picture of Estee on page 153.
Mrs. James B. Estee, "Sarah Platt Decker," The Vermonter, September 1913, p. 168.
Vermont Equal Suffrage Association Year Book 1913 (Woodstock, Vt: Elm Tree Press, 1913).
Vermont Equal Suffrage Association Year Book 1915 (Burlington, Free Press Printing Co., 1915).
U.S. Census, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, Ancestry.com
U.S. City Directories, 1882-1995, Ancestery.com
South Dakota Territorial Census, 1885, Ancestry.com
Wisconsin Birth and Christenings Index, 1801-1928, Ancestry.com
Vermont, Death Records, 1909-2008, Ancestry.com
Illinois Marriage Index, 1860-1920, Ancestry.com
"James B. Estee," 1856-1933, Ancestry.com
"Adelaide McClure Gillian," 1862-1934, Ancestry.com
"Vermont Takes the Lead," The Woman Citizen, February 22, 1919, pp. 800-801, 804, picture of Estee.
"The Governor of Vermont Still Straddles," The Suffragist, May 1920, p. 66.
"Two Men vs. 27,000,000 Women," The Suffragist, June 1920, p. 91-92, picture of Estee on p. 91.
Bennington Evening Banner, (Bennington, Vt.), August 30, 1918, p. 7, Chronicling America
Orleans County Monitor, (Barton, Vt.), September, 15, 1915, p. 6, Chronicling America
Middlebury Register, (Middlebury, Vt.), February 12, 1915, p. 7, Chronicling America