Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890 – 1920
Biography of Jessie H. Stillman, 1862 - 1943
By Lori Osborne, Director Evanston Women's History Project, Evanston History Center and Julia Flynn, Researcher, Evanston History Center, Evanston, Illinois.
Rogers Park Woman's Club; Chicago Woman's Club; Chicago Political Equality League; Legal Aid Society
Josephine (Jessie) Heldenbrand was born 10 February 1862 in Benton, Ohio to Henry and Permelia Heldenbrand. She married Edward L. Stillman in 1885 and gave birth to five children, three of whom survived--Edwin (1885), Josephine (1888) and Mary (1889). She lived in Chicago, Illinois for most of her life-- in the Rogers Park neighborhood.
Little research could be found to trace Jesse Stillman's evolution in the area of women's suffrage. It appears her connection to the Chicago Woman's Club served as a gateway into women's suffrage where she had the opportunity to meet many prominent women who were leading the fight for suffrage.
Research could not reveal Stillman's level or place of education however the 1940 Census states the highest grade of education completed was 4th year high school.
She is listed as an executive staff member of the Chicago Legal Aid Society in the capacity of Secretary of Finance for the years 1910 to 1911, an auxiliary branch of the Chicago Woman's Club.
Stillman served as Director of the Chicago Political Equality League from 1910 to 1915, an organization founded in 1894 by the Chicago Woman's Club and dedicated solely to fight for women's suffrage.
Jessie Stillman was a champion of woman's issues and human rights issues and spent many years campaigning for woman's suffrage. She was actively involved in the Rogers Park Woman's Club for several decades and was instrumental in the final push that saw Illinois women obtain the vote in June 1920. She was part of a telephone taskforce who called Speaker McKinley at his home and office every fifteen minutes to add pressure to the near tipping point vote.
Jesse Stillman died 16 February 1943, aged 81 in Manteno, Kankakee County, Illinois and is buried in Oak Wood Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois.
Evanston History Center | 225 Greenwood Street | Evanston IL 60201 | (847) 475-3410
The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume Six, Edited by Susan Brownell Anthony, Ida Husted Harper, Matilda Joslyn Gage [LINK]
Buhle, Mari Jo and Paul Buhle, The Concise History of Woman Suffrage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005).
Trout, Grace Wilbur. "Side Lights on Illinois Suffrage History." Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 13, no. 2 (1920): 145-79.
Directory and Register of Women's Clubs, City of Chicago and Vicinity 1915, Endorsed by the Board Directors ILL Federation of Women's Clubs
Thirty Fourth Announcement of the Chicago Woman's Club, 1910 – 1911. Available online from the Hathi Trust at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uva.x004347139;view=1up;seq=5
Heritage Quest Online