Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Minnie (Mrs. Edgar M.) Cahn, 1872-1943
By Heaven Smith, instructor of History: Louisiana State University, Alexandria, Alexandria, Louisiana
State Chairman of the Woman's Suffrage Party of Louisiana
Minnie Sarah Cohen was born on February 6, 1872 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her parents were Solomon Cohen of Russia and Fanny Schlarski of Poland, both of Jewish descent. Cohen attended college in New York and Mississippi. She later returned to New Orleans and married Jewish attorney Edgar M. Cahn on November 18, 1896. Mr. And Mrs. Cahn had three children together, Leon Solis Cahn in 1903, Edmond Nathaniel Cahn in 1906, and Fanny Elizabeth Cahn in 1907. Mr. Cahn died on September 30, 1942 in New Orleans. Mrs. Cahn then moved to New York to live near her eldest son, Leon, who was an attorney like his father. Mrs. Cahn died shortly after in a bus accident on April 30, 1943 at the age of 70.
Mrs. Cahn is listed in a Tulane University Register, 1898-1899 edition, under the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College for Women extension courses, thus extending her education after marriage and prior to the birth of her children. In addition, Mrs. Cahn served as the State Chairman of the Woman's Suffrage Party of Louisiana staring on June 15, 1913. Sources do not describe the exact date that Mrs. Cahn no longer served as State Chairman. However, the first state convention of the Party was not held until April of 1915 in Baton Rouge. During this convention, Mrs. John T. Meehan is named as the State chairman, presumably taking over the position at that point. In addition, in a July 1913 Times-Democrat newspaper article, Mrs. Cahn is referred to as the president of the Woman's Suffrage Party. Mrs. Cahn presided over a Woman's Suffrage Party meeting in Gibson Hall at Tulane University in July 1913. During the meeting, Mrs. Cahn “announced the platform of the party, which was to the effect that they were working for an amendment to the State Constitution granting women the right to vote, and to that end . . . were carrying on an educational campaign...they were striking to secure the ballot, not to copy men nor to supplant them, but because they believed that no woman could do her work well unless she was able to express herself through the ballot.”
Mrs. Cahn is mentioned frequently, as a result of her leadership position, throughout several letters by Sakie D. Meehan, who also had association with and involvement in the Woman's Suffrage Party of Louisiana, to Mrs. O.W. Chamberlain, a charter member of the party. In one undated letter, Mrs. Cahn is described during a meeting on behalf of the different chapters of the Woman's Suffrage Party from several states as a “great curiosity” when she spoke against another attendee for discussing women's suffrage in Louisiana only in terms of a state's rights movement, rather than an eventual national amendment for women's suffrage. She was also described as making many friends at this meeting and being very much liked “for her spontaneous, warm-hearted style.” The official party stationery contained the letterhead “Mrs. Edgar M. Cahn, State Chairman, 1930 Napoleon Avenue.”
In addition to her service in the Woman's Suffrage Party, Mrs. Cahn was heavily involved with the Jewish community in her youth and throughout her marriage and life. She contributed to a concert for the benefit of the Congregation Temine Derech in January 1895. The New Orleans Times-Picayune described her recitation of “Green Mountain Justice” and “The Organ Builder” as having given “scope to the display of high elocutionary talent” and that “Miss Cohen utilized these opportunities with the happiest effect, winning plenty of applause.”
Mrs. Cahn was also involved in the Union of the American Hebrew Congregations with her husband later in her life. She served as one of officers and executive board members of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods sub-organization for many years and as a delegate from New Orleans, along with her husband, for the overall organization. In the Forty-Second Annual Report of the Union of the American Hebrew Congregations, dated January 1916, she is also listed as part of the Committee of Propaganda. Mrs. Cahn served as a member of the American delegation to the conference of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, which was held in Berlin in August of 1928. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations announced that delegates from the Union and its constituent bodies, including the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods of which Mrs. Cahn was a member, attended the conference.
Mrs. Cahn's dedication to the women's suffrage movement and Jewish organizations in New Orleans and throughout the country are a testament to her work ethic, love of community, and belief in a better world that celebrates diversity and inclusivity.
Anthony, Susan B. and Ida Husted Harper. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1883-1900). Rochester, N.Y., 1902. [LINK]
Certificate of Marriage, Edgar Mayer Cahn to Minnie Sarah Cohen, 18 November 1896, Book No. 37 Folio 109. Orleans Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana. Vital Record, Vol. 19, Page 468. Louisiana State Archives. Microfilm.
Death Certificate for Edgar M. Cahn, 30 September 1942, File No. 5239, Louisiana State Department of Health and the City of New Orleans, Department of Health. Vital Record, Vol. 218, Page 5239. Louisiana State Archives. Microfilm.
Fanta-Levey. “Minnie Sarah Cohen.” Fanta-Levey Genealogy. Last modified February 17, 2013. Accessed May 10, 2019. http://www.fanta-levey.com/getperson.php?personID=I2021&tree=tree2.
Jewish Daily Bulletin. “Seventeen U.S. Delegates Named to Conference on Progressive Judaism. Vogelstein Reports on Proceedings of Governing Board.” May 15, 1925. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.jta.org/1928/05/15/archive/seventeen-u-s-delegates-named-to-conference-on-progressive-judaism
Meehan, Sakie D to Mrs. O.W. Chamberlain, no date. Letter 238. The Grace and O.W. Chamberlain Papers, 1850-1929. Louisiana Historical Center, New Orleans Jazz Museum, New Orleans, LA.
Meehan, Sakie D to Mrs. O.W. Chamberlain, no date. Letter 239. The Grace and O.W. Chamberlain Papers, 1850-1929. From Louisiana Historical Center, New Orleans Jazz Museum, New Orleans, LA.
Meehan, Sakie D to Mrs. O.W. Chamberlain, no date. Letter 10573.25. The Grace and O.W. Chamberlain Papers, 1850-1929. From Louisiana Historical Center, New Orleans Jazz Museum, New Orleans, LA.
Times-Democrat. “Suffrage Party Holds Meeting. Women Prominent in Movement Tell of the Good They Believe Would Result From Extending the Ballot to Women.” July 10, 1913. From Newspapers.com.
Times-Picayune. “The Right Way. A Brilliant Concert for a Congregation's Needs.” Jan. 25, 1895. From Newspapers.com.
Tulane University Register. New Orleans: Tulane University of Louisiana, 1899.
Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Thirty-Eighth Annual Report of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Cincinnati: Press of May and Kreidler, 1912. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015062293066;view=1up;seq=7
Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Thirty-Ninth Annual Report of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Cincinnati: Press of May and Kreidler, 1913. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.a0008350720;view=1up;seq=7
Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Forty-Second Annual Report of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Cincinnati: Press of May and Kreidler, 1916. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015070173995;view=1up;seq=7
Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Forty-Fourth Annual Report of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Cincinnati: Press of May and Kreidler, 1918. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=osu.32435024485104;view=1up;seq=2