Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Elizabeth Kuenzel, 1866-1931
By Lisa Hendrickson, Independent Historian
President of the East Camden Equal Suffrage League
Elise Kolmschleg, also known as Elizabeth, was born in Germany on May 20, 1866, the daughter of John Kolmschleg. The family emigrated in 1882 settling in New Jersey. She married Johannes (John) Kuenzel (also spelled Kennzel and Kunzel) who emigrated from Germany in 1870. He was a tailor and she worked at the offices of the New Jersey Unemployment Relief of Camden. The couple had two daughters, Anna in 1888 and Clara in 1895, and the family lived at 2832 High Street in Camden, NJ. Because she suffered greatly from headaches and depression, she tried to commit suicide in June of 1902, but was found and saved by her daughter Anna. Elizabeth Kuenzel passed away on March 21, 1931 of cancer.
Kuenzel was very involved in the community and was known for her charity work. The upper class women of Camden were early advocates for woman suffrage and established the Camden Equal Suffrage League in 1896. By 1915, the working-class women of East Camden wanted their own suffrage organization, so Kuenzel founded the East Camden Equal Suffrage League (ECESL) and became its president. The ECESL was predominantly made up of immigrant women from the small business community like Elizabeth Kuenzel, wife of a German Catholic tailor; Rose Fuhrman,wife of a Russian Jewish jewelry dealer; and Ceclie Fuhrman, wife of an Austrian Jewish furniture dealer. The main purpose of the ECESL was to educate women on citizenship duties, including voting, as well as to hold public debates on important suffrage questions of the day.
Kuenzel opened her home for many ECESL events including monthly meetings and a 1916 masquerade party that was touted to be quite a sumptuous event. In 1918 she hosted a progressive card party sponsored by the ECESL which benefitted the Soldiers' Club at Camp Dix. A large delegation of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association traveled to Trenton in January 1920 to present a petition for ratification of the 19th Amendment to the New Jersey State Legislature. The petitions were from every county in New Jersey and were said to contain over 200,000 signatures including 6000 from Camden. Kuenzel joined the delegation as chairman of the East Camden Equal Suffrage League and attended the large rally held afterward at the Crescent Temple. By February 1920, ECESL members were celebrating the New Jersey Legislation's positive ratification vote. The group, led by Kuenzel, continued to have meetings with speakers from both parties who were invited to explain their party's principles.
After gaining the right to vote, the ECESL was disbanded and became the East Camden League of Women Voters in May of 1920, with Kuenzel as its president. She also became involved in local politics. In September 1920, Democrats proposed putting her on the ballot as a candidate to run for the New Jersey State Assembly, but the group missed the sign-up deadline. Then in October 1920, she presided over a meeting of Republican women voters. Continuing her involvement in local politics, she ran for County Committeewoman in the Twelfth ward in 1921.
"Sense and Nonsense Gathered Here There and Everywhere," The Morning Post (Camden), May 12, 1896, pg. 1.
"Daughter saved her mother's life," The Morning Post (Camden), June 11, 1902, pg. 8.
"Suffrage Masquerade," The Morning Post (Camden), October 25, 1917, pg. 7.
"Card Party for Soldiers," The Morning Post (Camden), March 4, 1918, pg. 3.
"Camden Suffragists to Present Petition at Trenton Today," The Morning Post (Camden), January 21, 1920, pg. 1.
"Women to Hear Party Leaders," The Morning Post (Camden), February 12, 1920, pg. 13.
"Vacant Place on Democrat Ticket," The Morning Post (Camden), September 4, 1920, pg. 1.
"Meeting in Cramer Hill," The Morning Post (Camden), October 7, 1920, pg. 10.
- Federal Census: 1910, 1920
- U.S. City Directories 1822-1995
- NJ marriage, death records/death certificate
Camden County Historical Society