Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biographical Sketch of Rose Yeiser Colvin, 1857-1944
By Karen Urbec, MLIS, CA
Rose Yeiser Colvin worked to further the suffrage cause in Georgia in the early 1900s, though for much of her life, she lived on the West Coast, raising her large family and working as an artist and life insurance saleswoman.
Mary Rose Yeiser was born May 13, 1857 in Savannah, Georgia to Dr. James Garrad Yeiser and Ellen Araminta Marshall. Dr. Yeiser was a druggist from Danville, Kentucky who was a veteran of the Mexican War and Civil War. The family mostly lived in Rome, Georgia and Rose grew up with two sisters and six brothers.
In the 1880 U.S. Census, Rose was 22 years old and is listed with her parents and siblings in Rome, Georgia. Surprisingly, instead of having her occupation listed as "at home" or "none," which was quite typical for the time, she was recorded as an "artist."
In Spring, 1884, Rose married Ralph Leak Russo Colvin (sometimes listed as Ralph Leith Ruso Colvin). Colvin was born in Ohio in 1855 to Scottish immigrant parents and was a lawyer and mineralogist. They married in Floyd County, Georgia and soon began their family, which grew to two daughters and four sons by 1898.
In 1897, Rose, Ralph, and their children moved to Salem, Oregon where Ralph worked as an assayist. By this point, Rose was already earning money to help support the family, since Ralph was ill, though his diagnosis is unknown.
At about this time, Susan B. Anthony visited suffrage supporters in Salem, Oregon, and the local suffragists gave her an oval pillow with lace edging and an India ink etching as a gift. The pillow was made by Rose Colvin. It is unclear what suffrage work Rose performed in Oregon, but clearly she was involved with the local suffrage movement.
The next year, Ralph died in Seattle, Washington. Rose's oldest son was old enough to live on his own, so he stayed in Seattle while Rose and the younger children returned to Georgia. She began receiving boarders at her family home in Rome to help pay the bills. Some of her first guests were 3 women from Michigan who worked selling life insurance to women. The work was initially controversial, since some thought it suggested that men were not providing properly for their wives, but the business became successful. The Lady Maccabees were licensed to write life insurance on women in the late 1800s and were successful enough that in 1892 there were women working for the company in 30 U.S. states. The group was the ladies auxiliary of the fraternal society Knights of the Maccabees, and soon Rose was recruited to work for them in Georgia.
Over the next few years, Rose worked in Atlanta, Macon, and Brunswick, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida. She is listed at 5 different Atlanta addresses between 1903 and 1909. The 1903 Atlanta city directory lists both a work and home address for Rose, and she is listed in the "artists" section of the 1903 Atlanta city directory. During these years, Rose also worked to further the goals of woman suffrage, serving as president of the Georgia Woman Suffrage Association from 1904 to 1906.
By 1910, Rose had returned to Seattle, Washington. At least two of her sons were still on the West Coast, and she moved there with the younger children to be closer to them. In 1920, she was still in Seattle, living with her two grown daughters and, at 63 years old, was a working artist specializing in China painting. In 1930, she continued to live with her now-married daughter Ellen, in Los Angeles, California. By 1937, Rose was living in San Pedro, California, and she was not found in the 1940 U.S. Census, so her location at that time is unclear. Rose died in Seattle, Washington on August 8, 1944 and is buried in Danville, Kentucky.
The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI, edited by Ida Husted Harper [LINK to GA state report]
- US Federal Census data from 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930;
- City Directory data for Atlanta, Georgia from 1903, 1905, 1906, 1907, and 1909;
- City Directory data for Seattle, Washington from 1910;
- City Directory data for San Pedro, California for 1937;
- Clearwater Florida Society of the National Society Sons of the American Revolution, application by Jean Livingston Colvin dated March 29,1961.
Find A Grave.com entry for Mary Rose Colvin, 1857-1944
Not Ratified by Hereby Rejected: The Women's Suffrage Movement in Georgia, 1895-1925. By Elizabeth Stephens Summerlin, Master's Thesis, University of Georgia, 2009. https://getd.libs.uga.edu/pdfs/summerlin_elizabeth_s_200912_ma.pdf
Terry Mason's Family History Site http://www.tmason1.com/pafc99.htm