Biographical Sketch of Jesse Leech Davisson

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Jesse Leech Davisson (Mrs. Oscar F. Davisson), 1860-1940

By: Mason Bruner, undergraduate, and Stephanie Hinnershitz, faculty sponsor, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio

President, Woman's Suffrage Party of Montgomery County (Woman's Suffrage Association of Dayton and Montgomery County); Member, Executive Committee, Ohio State Woman Suffrage Association

Jesse Leech Davisson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Richard Treat Leech and Mary Ann Barber in February 1860. Jesse Leech moved to Ohio at a young age and spent most of her early years there. On June 18, 1889, she married Oscar F. Davisson in Dayton, Ohio. Oscar Davisson was an Ohio native, a successful corporate lawyer in Dayton, a Republican, a community activist, but politically unambitious. Jesse and Oscar had two sons, Richard and Oscar Fulton, Jr. and one daughter, Marian.

Jesse Leech Davisson decided to be politically active, and in 1896, she was a charter member of the Jonathan Dayton chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Other charter members of the organization included Francis Louise Archey and Louise Archey Kennedy, grandmother and mother, respectively, of Dayton activist Katharine Kennedy Brown.

In February 1912, Jesse Davisson met with other suffragists at the Dayton YMCA to organize an association that would campaign for an amendment to the Ohio state Constitution that would guarantee woman's suffrage. At the meeting, Davisson was voted the president of the newly formed organization, the Woman's Suffrage Party of Montgomery County. She remained in this position until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. The campaign efforts of the organization initially failed; in September 1912, only 24 of 88 Ohio counties approved the Woman's Suffrage Amendment 23. During the following month, the organization changed its name to the Woman's Suffrage Association of Dayton and Montgomery County. Their efforts would not find success, and Ohio women would not be able to vote in presidential elections until national woman suffrage was guaranteed with Nineteenth Amendment.

By 1915, Jesse Davisson's participation in suffrage activism had increased. She not only maintained her position as the president of the Woman's Suffrage Association of Dayton and Montgomery County, she also became a member of the Advisory Council of the Congressional Union for Women's Suffrage, as well as the Executive Committee of the Ohio State Woman Suffrage Association.

Davisson's activism continued beyond the passage of woman's suffrage. After the 19th amendment was ratified, the League of Women Voters (LWV) was created, and the local Dayton LWV branch, the Women Voters of Dayton and Montgomery County, was formed in 1921. The organization was created by efforts of Jesse Davisson and many other former Dayton suffragist activists. Davisson became the first vice president of the newly formed organization. The aim of the group was to assist the population of new female voters by teaching them the voting process and how to cast politically informed votes. Davisson was active in the league for many years. She passed away on June 29, 1940.

SOURCES:

"Biographical/Historical Note." In MS-244, National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) Jonathon Dayton Chapter Scrapbook Collection. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, Wright State University. Accessed June 29, 2017. https://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/collectionguides/files/ms244.pdf

Dury, Augustus Waldo. History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio:Volume 2. (Dayton, Ohio: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1909).

Edmonston, Washington, D.C. Mrs. Oscar F. Davisson of Dayton, Ohio, is one of the most recent members of the Advisory Council of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. Mrs. Davisson is President of the Dayton and Montgomery County Woman Suffrage Association and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Ohio State Woman Suffrage Association. Dayton Montgomery Ohio United States, 1915. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress. Accessed June 29, 2017. https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000359/.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. "Ohio." Chapter XXXIV in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]

"History of Woman's Suffrage Association and League of Women Voters." Woman's Suffrage Association and League of Women Voters. OhioLink Finding Aid Repository. Accessed June 29, 2017. http://ead.ohiolink.edu/xtf-ead/view?docId=ead/ODa0007.xml;chunk.id=bioghist_1;brand=default.

Seymour, Mary Jane. Lineage, Volume XII: Daughters of the American Revolution. (Harrisburg: Harrisburg Publishing Company, 1900; Dayton, Ohio: S.J. Clarke Publishing. 1901.

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