Biographical Sketch of Jennie White Collins

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Jennie White Collins, 1879–c. 1960

By Jared Hoffman, Undergraduate, and Cynthia Culver Prescott, Associate Professor, University of North Dakota

Vice President, Votes for Women's League

Jennie (or Virginia) White and her twin brother Eugene were born in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, in December 1879. On December 5, 1905, Jennie White married a plasterer named James Collins, whose parents were from New York. Jennie and James Collins lived in Ransom, North Dakota. They had three children within the next five years: Vernon, Baydon, and Edmund. Unlike many North Dakota families of the time, the Collins' were able to afford a domestic servant, Mary Wonden, who was born in Minnesota to German immigrants. With the support of this domestic help, Jennie became active in the suffrage movement in Fargo, North Dakota. However, by 1920 Jennie and James were divorced, and Jennie was working as a washerwoman. She moved her children back to Perham, Minnesota, near her parents.

Mrs. Collins was a part of a few notable events regarding women's suffrage. She was elected to two consecutive terms as vice-president of the Votes for Women's League in Fargo, which was the most prominent chapter in North Dakota. She was elected by the Votes for Women's League to be a delegate for the Mississippi Valley Women's Suffrage Convention in Minnesota. She also opened for prominent speakers along the lines of Miss Mirabel Vernon, who was a spokesperson for the National Women's Party. She may also have been the Mrs. James Collins also served on the Grand Forks, North Dakota, school board in 1914. However, her political involvement appears to have declined following her divorce, when she had to work to support herself and her children. Her life ended around 1960.

SOURCES:

Jennie M White. North Dakota, Marriage Records 1872-2010.

“League Elects Officers.” Bismarck Daily Tribune. Saturday, May 6, 1916.

U.S. Census, 1910 and 1920.

Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922) [LINK]

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