Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mary Elizabeth Francis Partridge, 1832-1923
By Meredith Spence, retired attorney
Mary Elizabeth Francis was born December 13, 1832 in Connecticut to Anson and Betsy (Hatfield) Francis. She was educated in NY and Connecticut country schools, and took several advanced courses as an adult, including the complete Chautauqua course and the American University Course of home reading. She moved to Wisconsin with her parents in the late 1840s.
She married George Henry Partridge in Janesville, Wisconsin, April 26, 1856. They moved and became among the original settlers of the state of Minnesota. They had three children, George Henry, August 21, 1856, Sarah Lilian (Odlum) March 1858, and Harvey Earl, December 5, 1859. Her son George grew up to become an important businessman in Minnesota, being a founding partner in a huge mercantile firm known as Wyman and Partridge. There is much information available about him. His brother Harvey also worked in the business. Her husband died in 1860 in a hospital during the civil war, where he fought for the Union.
She was a teacher for many years, and worked for over 25 years as a "postal missionary" sending out sermons and literature. During her years in Minneapolis she lived at 1676 Hennepin Avenue. The building was in the wealthy Loring Park neighborhood, and her name can be found in the society pages of the time as Mrs. M.E. Partridge.
She was a Unitarian, a member of the Sunshine Society, the Temperance Society, and was active in movements for humanity and social justice. She was also a member of the Shakespeare club. At the age of 80 she joined a boys' club of over 800, working for their social betterment. She was also an active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
She died in Long Beach, California at age 91 while visiting there, and is buried at Lakewood Cemetery, a large and well known Minneapolis cemetery.
She was always in favor of women's suffrage and considered herself a suffragist, though I have been unable to find reference to her work in that movement in any historical records. During her lifetime she lived in three counties in Minnesota, including Steele (where her children were educated), Freeborn, and Hennepin (where it appears she lived most of her life). I spoke with all three county historical society, and had varying degrees of luck. Brent Peterson of the Washington County Historical Society, to whom I was referred by a colleague, also had no information.
The most information I could find was with the Hennepin County Historical Society, where I spoke several times with Heidi Heller, an archivist there. Through them I learned that Mary had been a contributing author in a work entitled Old Fence Rail (Lucy Leavenworth Wilder Morris, 1842), in which her contribution was a narrative of her time as one of the first settlers in Minnesota. It told the story of her first years as a new settler, when her husband died in the Civil War, and of fleeing her home with her children from native American attacks on several occasions.
The folks at the Hennepin County Historical Museum also have a photograph of the Writers League Tourist Club circa 1890 in which Mary is pictured.
I spoke with The Minnesota State Society Daughters of the American Revolution who did quite a bit of research and found three references to Mary. She was one of the charter members who founded her chapter in 1900, the Monument Chapter. She served as the vice regent of that chapter. She lead the prayer at the dedication of the flagstaff that the Monument chapter donated to the city at Gateway Park. Her patriot ancestor (all DAR members have one) was Justus Francis (likely her grandfather).