Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Nelly Taylor, 1877-1952
By Amy Petrocelli, undergraduate student at University of Maryland, College Park
Nelly Taylor was born in 1877 in Merna, Nebraska, located in Custer County outside of Omaha. She was raised by her father Miner Taylor and mother Lenora Stearns Taylor. She had nine siblings. At around 21 years old in 1898, Nelly Taylor was a kindergarten teacher. By 1899, she was listed in the Omaha Daily Bee as the director of kindergarten programs for Columbian School.
In the early 1900s, Nelly Taylor became a prominent suffrage activist in her local community. Nebraska was not a densely populated state at the turn of the 20th century. Starting in 1900, there are several articles detailing the activism of Nelly Taylor in Custer County. In November of that year, she was appointed to be the corresponding secretary of the Nebraska state chapter of NAWSA, the National American Woman Suffrage Association. When describing her work in a Woman's Journal article, Nelly noted, "ours is a country neighborhood association, and, as we are all farmers' wives and daughters, our time is much occupied with other duties. However, we are all willing to do our part. Each thought of some article she could make or have made. One thing I think will be novel and salable is jelly, made from the wild fruit that grows in our canyons." She acknowledged that many Nebraskans could not give their lives to the cause of suffrage, but still appreciated any contribution that people could make.
Nelly was passionately dedicated to the cause of suffrage, and she served in several roles in state-level activist groups. Not only was she corresponding secretary of NAWSA in Nebraska, a role where she was re-elected for several terms, she also volunteered with the Federation of Women's Clubs of Nebraska and the State Suffrage Association of Nebraska. In October of 1901, she was installed as president of the Custer County Woman Suffrage Convention. In September of 1906 she was listed in another local paper as the press superintendent of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association. In that article, she requested that the 39,000 readers of the paper be informed about the next meeting for her organization. She took activism seriously and encouraged anyone to participate in any way they could. She understood that in neighborhood associations, it is not easy to sustain many committed volunteers. Her leadership focused on accumulating small grassroots efforts together to collectively achieve suffrage.
When describing the quality of her work, the Custer County Republican upported the efforts of Nebraskan suffragists, stating, "finances in a good condition, and in fact everything is now in good running order to carry the campaign rapidly forward, until one more star is added to the constellation of states where women are enfranchised, and that star is Nebraska." Nelly worked hard to gain local support for suffrage.
In 1904, she is quoted in the Omaha Daily Bee offering a rallying cry to her fellow Nebraskan women, urging them to attend the annual convention of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association. Nelly said that "prosperity is measured only by the good of all," and was a firm believer that Nebraska and the United States would not prosper unless women were given suffrage. She said with a "firm determination" that the principles for which our ancestors fought shall be established as actual facts in the government of our nation. Nelly used her strong convictions and connected with the women she led through her words. She may not have been known on a national scale, but she was greatly respected by the women of Nebraska in the fight for suffrage.
By 1920, Nelly had increased her prominence as an activist for suffrage in the Midwest. She was listed in yet another local paper as a high-profile attendee of the Biennial Convention of General Federation of Women's Clubs. Her attendance was worthy enough to be noted amongst other midwestern suffragists. The article stated that "it is the ambition of every club woman to attend a biennial, and once she has done so, she never remains away voluntarily thereafter." This was no exception for Nelly. Throughout her later years, she remained committed to the causes of suffrage and women's rights as a supporter until her death in 1952.
Avery, Rachel Foster. "Bazar Notes." Woman's Journal, 11 Aug. 1900, p. 250.
Custer County Republican. (Broken Bow, Neb.), 27 Sept. 1906.
Harper, Ida H., ed. The History of Woman Suffrage. Fowler and Wells, 1881.
"Nebraska Death Index, 1904-1955 - Book #10, Pages 1-50 : Reclaim The Records : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming." Internet Archive, Reclaim The Records, 1 Jan. 1970, archive.org/details/NE_Death_Index_-_1904-1955_-_Book_10_Pages_150/page/n42/mode/1up.
Untitled, Omaha DailyBee. (Omaha [Neb.]), 29 Oct. 1904, p. 6
Omaha Daily Bee. (Omaha [Neb.]), 13 June 1920.