Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Stella Crossley, 1888-?
By Carolyn King, student, Michigan State University
Feminist icon, Miss Stella Crossley was born to A. Dallas and Mary Crossley in 1888. Her mother's parents immigrated from Germany, while her father's parents were born and raised in Pennsylvania. A. Dallas worked as a blacksmith, while Mary Crossley tended to her home and children. The pair married in 1875, and Stella Crossley was born in May of 1888. Soon after, her mother gave birth to another child- a brother, Wilber, in September of 1891. The Crossleys resided in West Hemlock, Pennsylvania, a small, hilly and mountainous region town formed in 1853.
After being raised in Pennsylvania, Stella Crossley decided to move to New York City and join the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Stella Crossley dedicated her life to women's suffrage, advocating for the right to vote in New York until it was achieved in 1917. After this victory for women's rights, she directed her attention to fight for the passage of the suffrage referendum in Michigan, which was set to be passed on November 5, 1918. She worked closely with Lola C. Trax, Edna Wright and Marie B. Ames. Each of these women came from different locations and backgrounds, but worked closely with the farmers of St. Clair County, Michigan on the specific task of having reports ready for a convention of the Michigan Woman Suffrage Association. The convention was held in March of 1918 in Detroit at the Statler Hotel.
The goal of this convention was to win the suffrage referendum that would be voted on in November, and to ratify the federal suffrage amendment. Preceding the convention was a "suffrage supper" in which five hundred guests attended, and many donations were made, including $10,000 from NAWSA.
While campaigning for suffrage in Detroit, the NAWSA also contributed $1400 in cash, paid a $1335 bill for literature and posters, and donated other expenses that amounted to $6000. It was this money that paid the salaries of Stella and the other organizers in 1918. This led to a very detailed and successful suffrage campaign that gave Michigan women full suffrage.
While the Michigan campaign was in full swing, Stella Crossley also took time in South Dakota, working on a suffrage campaign in that state under the NAWSA umbrella. Conflict between the NAWSA organizers and the local leader of the Universal Franchise League led the three organizers, including Crossley to go "on something of a strike." Conducting the campaign in the midst of the influenza epidemic probably contributed to the tensions that erupted in South Dakota. In November. South Dakota voters approved of full women's suffrage with a 64 percent majority, becoming the 17th state to give women the vote.
While much of her life, including her death, is undocumented, Stella Crossley's passion for women's rights is demonstrated through the success of women's suffrage in New York, South Dakota, and Michigan. Stella worked tirelessly in the name of women everywhere, and it is because of this that she will continue to be remembered for her contribution not only to women's rights, but the betterment of the nation.
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004
Harper, Ida Husted. The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI: 1900-1920. Nabu Press, 2012.
Michigan Library Bulletin, vol. 9, 1918, p. 40.
"Timeline of South Dakota Suffrage, 1917-1918," in History of South Dakota, accessed online at https://historysouthdakota.wordpress.com/womens-suffrage-in-sodak/timeline-of-south-dakota-suffrage/timeline-of-south-dakota-suffrage-1917-1918/.
"Montour County Genealogical Society." Co. & Twp.History, http://sites.rootsweb.com/~pamcgs/cotwphist.htm
"Suffs Preparing for State Fight." Detroit Free Press (1858-1922), Feb 24 1918, p. 15. ProQuest. Web. 13 Dec. 2019 .
Year: 1900; Census Place: West Hemlock, Montour, Pennsylvania; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0113; FHL microfilm: 1241445