Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Elise T. Russian, 1873- ?
By Katherine Inoa
Undergraduate, State University of New York at Oneonta
Elise T. Russian, born of Armenian parentage in Turkey, lived in Detroit, Michigan. She engaged in social work and taught school before her marriage to Hovhannes Russian in Chicago in 1918. The couple lived in Detroit. She was a Michigan state officer in the National Woman's Party (NWP).
Mrs. Russian’s documented activities with the NWP are all in February 1919. She participated in a Washington, DC watchfire demonstration near the White House on February 4. She was arrested while in the act of burning one of President Wilson’s speeches. Russian said in court, “we have expressed the unmistakable impatience of American women. In place of words, women demand action. I am glad to have taken part in the expression of that demand.” Russian and her activist companions spent several days in jail after they refused to pay their fines.
On February 24, 1919, President Wilson was scheduled to return to the United States from Europe, arriving at the port in Boston, Massachusetts. NWP suffragists, including Mrs. Elise T. Russian, waited to greet the president. The women carried banners, asking “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” and, “Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?” Asked to move by the superintendent of police, the women refused and were arrested and charged with “loitering more than seven minutes.”
The suffragists were taken to the House of Detention. Russian and seven other suffragists were sentenced to eight days in Boston's Charles Street Jail for their participation. E. J. Howe, a man unknown to the suffragists, paid the fines for most of the women's release.
There is little information on Elise T. Russian outside of these 1919 events.
Sources: “Suffragettes Mar Reception to President,” Coffeyville Daily Journal, February 24, 1919; “23 Suffragists Jailed in Boston,” Washington Post, February 25, 1919, 2; “Demand Release of Lone Militant,” Boston Globe, March 1, 1919, 1, 8; “Michigan Women's,” Detroit Free Press, April 10, 1921, 55; “Suffragettes Arrested Waiting for Wilson,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 25, 1919; Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920; Inez Haynes Irwin, The Story of Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party (Dellinger’s 1977), 413. .
A photograph of Mrs. Elise T. Russian can be found online in the Boston Globe article titled, “Suffragettes Leaving Charles St. Jail Yesterday After Fines had been Paid Despite Their Protest” published on Saturday, March 1, 1919, 8. Newspapers.com.
Left to right—Miss Betty Gram, Portland, OR; Miss Camilla Whitcomb, Worcester; Miss Betty Pottier, Miss Eleanor Cain, Mrs. L.J.C. Daniels of Vermont; Mrs. Elise T. Russian and Miss Elsie Hill. Boston Globe, March 1, 1919, 8.