Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Josephine Edsall, 1869-1962

By Beverly Wilson Palmer, Lucretia Mott Speaks, History Dept., Pomona College

Josephine Edsall, wife of Burrows (or Burroughs) Edsall, was born in 1869 in New York City, of parents also born in New York City. Her high school education ended with her sophomore year. Her husband was also born in New York City in 1868, and became a mining engineer. By 1900 the Edsalls had moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, with two sons, Clarence Sidney, age six (died 1912) and Thomas, four, both born in Colorado. Sometime before 1910 the family, including a daughter Charlotte Bell, then eight (also born in Colorado), moved to Reno, Nevada. Burroughs Edsall is identified as superintendant of the Rochester Merger mines in 1917 and later of the General Mines Company of Nevada.

Edsall joined many women who became interested in the suffrage cause in February 1912, when she became the recording secretary of the Equal Franchise Society of which Anne Martin was president. Edsall "presided at the literature table" at a suffrage meeting in Reno on February 12, 1912. Notices in the Nevada State Journal and the Reno Evening Gazette indicate Edsall's membership in the Monday Literary Club (for example, in November 1913, she gave a paper entitled "The American Myth"). When women successfully obtained the vote in November 1914, Edsall joined those focusing on a national suffrage amendment. Edsall served as an alternate delegate to the Nevada Women's Civic League convention meeting in Reno on April 27 1916. That convention endorsed the national suffrage amendment and issued a series of resolutions on women's rights. On October 20, 1916, she "presided at the punch bowl" at a gathering to welcome national women's rights leaders Inez Mulholland Bossevain and Abby Scott Baker. In her memoir, Anne Martin thanked "Mrs. Burroughs Edsall" as one of the many women who had worked for woman suffrage.

Josephine Edsall was not living in Nevada on February 7, 1920 when the state legislature ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Sometime before June 1918 the Edsall family moved to Berkeley, California, where Burroughs relocated his mining interests. Burroughs Edsall suffered a paralytic stroke while working at a mine in Napa, California, in January 1919. By 1920, Josephine Edsall was living with her ailing husband (listed here as "Brownell") and daughter Charlotte, in Danville, Livingston Co., New York. The 1940 census listed Edsall as a widow, living in the home of her sister Ortha Belle Fielder, in Danville, New York. She died in Virginia Beach, VA in July 1962


Austin, Mary and Anne Martin, "Suffrage and Government: The Modern Idea of Government by Consent and Woman's Place in It," National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1914

Earl, Phillip, "Bustles, Broadsides, and Ballots: The Story of the Woman Suffrage Movement in Northeast Nevada, 1869-1914," Northeastern Nevada Historical Quarterly 6:3-73.

Goodwin, Joanne, "Nevada's Campaign for Woman Suffrage," Western Legal History, 30: Nos. 1-2, 115-24.

Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, 6:386 9 [LINK]

Howard, Anne Bail, The Long Campaign: A Biography of Anne Martin, 1955

Hutcheson, Austin E., Ed. , The Story of the Nevada Suffrage Campaign: Memoirs of Anne Martin, 1948

NAWSA Records, Nevada Suffrage Associations, 1851-1923, Folder 2, Nevada Vote

Nevada State Journal: June 18, 1912; November 30, 1913; November 22, 1914; April 12, 1915; October 21, 1916; October 13, 1917; January 26, 1919

Reno Evening Gazette, April 27, 1916

Woman's Journal, March 2, 1912; June 15, 1912

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