Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Sarah Ella (Mrs. Henry) Schlesinger, 1859-1948

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University

Sarah Ella Cohen was born in Georgia in 1859, the daughter of Joseph Joel Cohen and Rachel Alexander Cohen, both German Jewish immigrants. She was the fourth child in the family, all Georgia-born. In 1860 the family resided in Rome, GA and her father was a merchant and the family's property was valued at $34,000. By 1870 the family had a fifth child and all were attending school. Her father continued employed as a retail dry goods merchant with property valued at $35,000. A Black gardener also resided in the household.

Sarah Ella completed four years of college and in July 1881 she married Harry (often also Henry) Schlesinger, an Austrian immigrant. Before their marriage, Harry resided in Chattanooga, TN, where he clerked in a store. The couple resided in Atlanta after their marriage and had six children. Her husband was a candy manufacturer. By 1910 the household included a Black married couple, working as a butler and a maid. The family lived on W. Peachtree Street and in 1930 the home was valued at $40,000. Ella continued to reside in the home after the passing of her husband in 1920. In 1930 four white boarders resided with Ella at this time, none of whom seem to have been servants.

By 1940 Ella lived with her divorced daughter, Mrs. Harry S. Moore. She passed away in November 1948 and her obituary in the Atlanta Constitution described her as "active in civic and social work" in Atlanta.

Only modest information survives of her suffrage involvement. In July 1914 she served as the treasurer of the Equal Suffrage Party of Georgia; another source indicates that she was also the secretary of the Equal Suffrage Party.

During World War I, Mrs. Schlesinger organized a Sewing Circle, which contributed its products to the Red Cross's war work. She also supported the Red Cross membership drive in the fall of 1917, signing up 87 new members from the large department store, Davison-Paxon-Stokes. A May 1919 article featured a report from Mrs. Schlesinger "that hundreds of garments had been knitted and sewed" by volunteers organized by the Atlanta Council of Jewish Women.


Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 [LINK to GA state report].

Federal Manuscript Censuses: Rome, GA, 1860 and 1870; 1880, Chattanooga, TN; Atlanta, GA; 1900-1940. Accessed via Ancestry Library Edition.

Death Records, Harry Lionel Schlesinger, 1920; and Ella Cohen Schlesinger, 1948. Accessed online, Ancestry Library Edition.

Find-a-Grave death record for Ella Cohen Schlesinger, 1948.

Atlanta Constitution:

"Ten-Year-Old Girl Lead [sic] the Workers," 20 December 1917.

"Annual Meeting of Council of Jewish Women," 11 May 1919, p. 3.

"Mrs. H.L. Schlesinger, Civic Leader, Dies Here, 1 December 1948, p. 23.

All accessed via

Beth S. Wenger, "Jewish Women of the Club," American Jewish History 76:3 (March 1987), 311-33. See p. 329, note 58.

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