Biographical Sketch of Mabel Dickinson Russell

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mabel Dickinson Russell, 1881 - 1970

By Maggie Driscoll, Binghamton University

Member of The Woman Suffrage Party and Office Manager of the New York League of Women Voters

Mabel G. Dickinson was born on September 4th 1881 to Ausburn and Kate Dickinson in New York City. At about age 18, in the year 1900, Mabel Dickinson was still living with her parents in Manhattan, at 208 West 184th St. Two years later she married Henry H. Russell on May 11th 1902. Mabel Dickinson Russell lived to the age of 89. Her death certificate listed Port Washington, New York as her last residence before her death in June 1970.

It appears that Mabel and Henry Russell never had any children in the time they were together, but that they did not always live alone. Mabel's mother, Kate Dickinson, lived in their home until her death in 1928. The 1925 census also shows lodgers residing with the Russells at 511 W 112th St., such as Mary Garrett Hay, a famous suffragist and feminist from New York City. [LINK]

The relationships Mabel had with well-known suffragists convey how heavy her involvement in the women's suffrage movement was and how devoted she was to fighting for women's rights. In an article in the New York Sun from 1917 titled "Women Man Posts," it is clear that Mabel Russell and Mary Garrett Hay had worked together prior to living in the same household. The Woman Suffrage Party, of which they were both a part, worked the census booths that year and received recognition for how well they handled such a big responsibility ("Women Man Posts"). Although working the census booths may not seem like a big feat to accomplish, Mabel Russell and other activists were branching out into the public sphere even before the enfranchisement of women. The tone of the newspaper article, written by an unknown author, appeared to be surprised at the success of these women which implies that their abilities were doubted before.

Before women achieved the right to vote, Mabel Russell was involved in suffrage work around New York City as described in various newspaper clippings. For example, on September 3, 1915, a surprise birthday party was held for Mabel Russell, reported in a New York Times article ("Suffrage Birthday Party"). In the article Mabel Russell was called a "suffrage majordomo." In 1913, Mabel Russell worked with other suffragists to donate ‘suffrage dolls' to children ("Suffrage Dolls to Poor"). In this charitable event, Mabel worked again with Mary Garrett Hay. Another big event in 1915 was the Jubilee Dinner where the suffragists raised $1600 to use in that year's statewide referndum ("Suffs Pledge $1500 for Cause"). Again, Mary Garrett Hay was present at this dinner and even spoke. Mabel was listed as a member who purchased a ticket and attended the dinner.

In census records, Mabel Russell continuously listed her occupation as secretary. Letters written in 1925 between Mabel Russell and well-known women's rights activist Maud Wood Park, concerning Park's visit to New York, list Mabel as the office manager for the New York League of Women Voters ("League of Women Voters correspondence and Maud Wood Park itinerary"). Her responsibilities on this particular occasion were as follows: to arrange train schedules, purchase train tickets, and to let the women at Park's destinations know her arrival times. In one of the letters written from Russell to Park, Mabel sounded excited to meet her. She wrote: "Please know I am at your service at any and all times, and I want to see you, if only for a few minutes before you leave."

As a member of the National League of Women Voters, Mabel Russell attended conventions around the country. Because she was the office manager of the New York LWV she attended the 5th, 6th and 10th conventions in 1924, 1925 and 1930 ("League of Women Voters delegate lists to conventions from 1924-1932"). Continuing her work, Mabel Russell was stated to be the treasurer for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) at the national level in 1940 at the Women's Centennial Congress (U.S. National American Woman Suffrage Association 1940). This was an event to commemorate the beginning of the woman's suffrage movement in 1840 that lead to the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, where suffragist leaders discussed common grievances and began the fight towards equality of the sexes.

Mabel Russell was listed on the 1940 census as the head of household. She was the only source of income for her and her husband, Henry, on a salary of $1500. It can be gathered that Mabel Russell had a full time job as a secretary because the census included a column displaying how many hours were worked in the week prior to data collection for the census. Mabel worked 44 hours the week before. It is unknown when her husband died, due to lack of a death certificate or obituary in New York, but because he was over 10 years older than Mabel, it is safe to assume he died sometime before her death in 1970 but sometime after 1940.

Although we do not learn of Mabel Russell in History classes, it is clear that she was one of many vital members to the women's suffrage movement and the feminist movement that followed. She held constant jobs in various organizations, like NAWSA and League of Women Voters, for over thirty years. Unfortunately, information was hard to find on Mabel Russell after the 1940 convention but one can optimistically assume she lived contentedly and actively in the movement towards equality of the sexes until her death in 1970.

 

Henry H. Russell, Mabel Russell, Kate Dickinson, Mary Garrett Hay, Sarah M. Goodhart
June 1, 1925 New York State Census

Sources:

"League of Women Voters correspondence and Maud Wood Park itinerary." Letter to Maud Wood Park, Mabel Russell. February 1925. In Maud May (Wood) Park, 1871-1955: Woman's Rights Collection (WRC), Subseries C. Suffrage and Women's Rights, Schlesinger Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

"League of Women Voters delegate lists to conventions from 1924-1932." Names lists. Papers of the League of Women Voters.

Martin, J.E.. 1940 Census Records. April 2, 1940. Enumeration of the Inhabitants of E.D. 16 in the Manhattan Borough, New York City.

Patart, Blanche. 1925 Census Records. June 1, 1925. Enumeration of the Inhabitants of District 390, New York City.

"Plans for New Campaigns." The New York Times, November 9, 1915

"Suffrage Birthday Party." The New York Times, September 4, 1915.

"Suffrage Dolls to Poor." The New York Times, December 19, 1913.

"Suffs Pledge $1500 for Cause." Suffrage campaigns and referendum votes in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania," Nov. 20, 1915, news clippings. Oct, 1- Dec. 31, 1915, Brooklyn, NY

U.S. National American Woman Suffrage Association 1940. Woman's Century. Women's #x200eCentennial Congress Cong., Doc. New York City, New York, 1940.

"Women Make Votes Fast." The New York Times, August 24, 1915.

"Women Man Posts." The Sun (New York City), June 12, 1917.

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