Biographical Sketch of Esther Russell

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Esther (Mrs. E.A.) Russell, 1877-1959

By Leslie Gildart, retired attorney and legal editor.

Minneapolis Activist and Philanthropist; Contributor at 1902 Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association Annual Convention

Mrs. E.A. Russell was born Esther M. Schoeling to Swedish immigrants Hannah and Unk Schoeling on November 9, 1877. She was married at about age 18 to Edward Albert Russell, and the two of them owned a popular Minneapolis cafe and hotel, the Russell Coffee House. In 1895, The St. Paul Globe reported that Mrs. E.A. Russell was letting several acres of vacant lots to needy persons for gardening purposes, with the plan to buy the produce for her coffee shop.

Mrs. Russell had two children. Her daughter, Bernice Russell, was born in 1897 when Mrs. Russell was 19 or 20, Her son, Edward Hamilton Russell, was born in 1899.

In addition to running the coffee house, Mrs. Russell successfully pushed for a curfew statute applicable to minors. She took interest in public education, providing references for a local school in January of 1901. In October, 1902, she appeared in a Physical Culture article on fasting, in which it was noted that she was doing so in order to lose weight.

In October of 1901, the state convention of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association was held in Mankato. Mrs. Russell was acknowledged for providing a donation large enough to secure the services of Miss Anna Gjertson to organize women of Scandinavian descent. By sometime in 1906, a Scandinavian women's association had been formed. The Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Association was comprised of women who, like Mrs. Russell, were first- and second-generation Scandinavian Americans and soon became a powerful force in the Minnesota area, drawing on strong ethnic associations and the recent adoption of equal suffrage in Scandinavian countries.

The annual convention of 1902 was held in St. Paul and featured several speakers from outside the state, including Vida Jane Goldstein, an Australian suffrage reformer, who advocated for equal rights, equal pay, equal suffrage, and raising the age of consent. Work by Mrs. E.A. Russell concerning the Tuskegee Institute was featured at this event. She served on the Board of Directors for the state suffrage association for between four and ten years.

Mrs. Russell remained in Minneapolis until sometime between the 1920 and 1930 federal censuses, when she is listed as residing in Warroad, Minnesota. She passed away on November 27, 1959 and is buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

Sources:

Harper, Ida Husted, The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI [LINK to MN state report]

The Saint Paul Globe, Saint Paul, Minnesota, Tuesday, March 26, 1895.

Star Tribune, (Minneapolis, Minnesota), June 9, 1899, p. 1.

The Minneapolis Journal, Saturday, May 31, 1902, p. 5.

Minneapolis. School Education, Vol. XX, No. 1, Minneapolis, MN (January 1901).

Physical Culture, McFadden, Vol. 8, No. 1 (October, 1902).

ABC.AU News, "Who Was Vida Goldstein" (updated 12 Aug. 2014) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-12/vida-goldstein-biography/5593204

Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

Year: 1920; Census Place: Minneapolis Ward 13, Hennepin, Minnesota; Roll: T625_838; Page: 25A; Enumeration District: 245

Year: 1930; Census Place: Warroad, Roseau, Minnesota; Roll: 1125; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0046; FHL microfilm: 2340860

Year: 1940; Census Place: Warroad, Roseau, Minnesota; Roll: m-t0627-01954; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 68-40

Ancestry.com Doloff family tree, https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/7139895/person/25798835131/story?ssrc= (accessed online January 25, 2018).

Peterson, Anna Marie, "Adding a Little Suffrage to the Melting Pot: Minnesota's Woman Suffrage Association," Minnesota History, Winter 2011-2012, 288-97; online at http://collections.mnhs.org/mnhistorymagazine/articles/62/v62i08p288-297.pdf

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