Biographical Sketch of Nelle Mitchell Fick

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Nelle Mitchell Fick, 1882-1960

By Jennifer Eltringham, librarian, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Campaign Organizer; Temporary Chairman, Washington League of Women Voters

Nelle Mitchell was born in 1882 in Alston, KS to Peter Mitchell and Helen Hartnett Mitchell. According to one newspaper feature and the U.S. Census of 1900, Nelle Mitchell completed high school in Washington D.C., while living with her sister. This experience fostered in Nelle an interest in government and civic engagement. Serving as a page at the International Women's Convention during this time inspired her to work for the cause of women's suffrage.

Nelle Mitchell married Dr. Edward P. Fick on June 15, 1907, establishing their life together in Seattle. After her marriage, Nelle Fick became active in the woman suffrage movement in Washington which was revived during the lead up to the 1910 state elections. That year, an amendment to Article VI of the Washington State Constitution regarding qualifications of electors was on the ballot. Suffragists waged an intentionally quiet campaign, avoiding rallies and demonstrations. Instead, they campaigned through one-on-one conversations, encouraging the men they knew in their private and social lives to vote in favor of the amendment. Nelle Fick's work was indicative of this mode of activism. She was featured multiple times in Washington newspapers as an unassuming and model suffragist in articles such as, “This Suffragette is of the Gentle Kind,” in The Seattle Star and “Says Booze and Suffrage Can Go Together,” in The Tacoma Times. Nelle Fick was depicted as a model homemaker as well as an activist, with great pains taken to ensure the readership that Dr. Fick and their home were well taken care of. In the latter article, Fick is quoted saying that prohibition and suffrage are not explicitly linked and that those who enjoy alcohol have nothing to fear from the movement. Features like these helped to smooth the image of suffragists in the public eye and created a normalized, mainstream message that helped to secure the votes necessary to amend the state constitution.

After the 1910 election, Nelle Fick continued to be active in state politics, organizing a woman's campaign committee to support candidate for Mayor of Seattle, George W. Dilling. In January of 1911, the National Council of Women Voters was founded by the successful Washington suffragists. In 1920, this organization was incorporated by the League of Women Voters and Nelle Fick was elected the first temporary chairman of the Washington League of Women Voters. She continued to be involved in the League until at least 1922 when she spoke at an event about the people of Hawaii after traveling there the same year. She and her husband were avid travelers according to U.S. immigration and passport records, taking trips to England, Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, and Germany before Edward's death in 1932. This international focus was also apparent in her work for suffrage. In a 1910 article in the Seattle Star she highlighted the successes of women's suffrage in England, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand as an example for American voters.

Nelle Fick died on September 5, 1960, and is buried with her husband in Seattle, Washington.

Sources:

"California, San Francisco Passenger Lists, 1893-1953," (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KX4L-CG1 : 12 March 2018), Nell Fick, 1922; citing San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1410 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 2,378,932.

Nelle Mitchell Fick (20 Jul 1882–5 Sep 1960), Find A Grave Memorial no. 89138717 (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 18 June 2018).

"New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957," (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KXG7-HZF: 12 March 2018), Nellie Fick, 1927; citing Immigration, New York, New York, United States, NARA microfilm publication T715 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

“League of Women Voters.” The Seattle Star. (Seattle, Wash.), 02 June 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87093407/1922-06-02/ed-1/seq-12/>

“Says Booze and Suffrage Can Go Together.” The Tacoma Times. (Tacoma, Wash.), 21 May 1909. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085187/1909-05-21/ed-1/seq-1/>

“This Suffragette is of the Gentle Kind.” The Seattle Star. (Seattle, Wash.), 25 Jan. 1909. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87093407/1909-01-25/ed-1/seq-4/>

"United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925," (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVJP-SSW8 : 16 March 2018), Edward P Fick, 1917; citing Passport Application, Illinois, United States, source certificate #47107, Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925, Roll 349, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

"United States Census, 1900," (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMFW-216 : accessed 18 June 2018), Nellie Mitchel in household of Mary Mitchel, Washington city, Washington, District of Columbia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 116, sheet 33B, family 526, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,163.

"United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925," (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV5Y-C94V : 16 March 2018), Edward P Fick, 1925; citing Passport Application, Washington, United States, source certificate #512942, Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925, 2707, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

"Vermont, St. Albans Canadian Border Crossings, 1895-1954," (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QK31-6KJX : 16 March 2018), Nelle M Fick, 1895-1924; citing M1461, Soundex Index to Canadian Border Entries through the St. Albans, Vermont, District, 1895-1924, 141, NARA microfilm publications M1461, M1463, M1464, and M1465 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, publication year); FHL microfilm 1,472,941.

“Votes for Women.” The Seattle Star. (Seattle, Wash.), 22 July 1910, p. 8. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87093407/1910-07-22/ed-1/seq-8/>

"Washington." History of Woman Suffrage. Edited by Ida H. Harper. vol. 6, Arno Press, New York, 1881. [LINK]

“Women to Work for Dilling with Campaign Committees.” The Seattle Star. (Seattle, Wash.), 23 Jan. 1911. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87093407/1911-01-23/ed-1/seq-1/>

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