Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Jessie N. (Mrs. Ransom) Luther, 1845-1925

By Mitch Fontenot, Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA

Mrs. Jessie N. Luther was born in Philadelphia in 1845 and lived in Kenosha and Madison, Wisconsin for most of her life. She was a teacher in Kenosha who married Ransom B. Luther, a Civil War veteran, in 1870. Her most active time in the Wisconsin suffrage movement began in 1880 when she moved to Madison. The 1900 census finds the couple living in Madison with no children and one boarder. The 1910 census finds the married couple living there with no children, two boarders and a live-in servant. Ransom worked as a railroad engineer both years and Jessie had no occupation listed.

During that time period until her death in Wisconsin in 1925, Jessie was an activist on many progressive fronts in Madison, especially the suffrage movement. Some of her highest accolades included being elected vice president at large of the Wisconsin Equal Suffragists as a delegate at their convention in 1898, a post which she held for many years, as well as recorder in her later years. She was also grand matron of the Order of the Eastern Star of the Masonic Temple and in 1901 organized a literary club in Madison called Wimodaughsis, meaning wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, which was widely acclaimed. It was during this time period that Wisconsin suffragists were even branded as lunatics and had no faith in either candidate for the presidential election, Roosevelt or Bryan, for their seeming lack of support for their cause. In 1907, while still vice president at large, she met at the state capitol with fellow suffragists to hold sessions with the Wisconsin Women's Suffrage Association. In 1914, she was part of maintaining the headquarters in Madison and helping establish a suffrage school. In 1920, she was placed on the honor roll of the National American's Woman's Suffrage Association. As late as her death in 1925, she was a charter member of the Lucius Fairchild Woman's Relief Corp to honor the Wisconsin military. She passed away at the age of 80 on July 22, 1925.

Mrs. Luther contributed greatly to a state which fought for the women's right to vote for decades as far back as 1850, in a city that had opposing factions for and against the suffragette movement and even opposing groups within the movement, and was the first state to ratify the federal amendment in 1919.


1900, 1910 Federal manuscript censuses for Madison, WI. Ancestry Library Edition.

Wisconsin State Journal, October 14, 1898, p.7

Racine Daily Journal, November 6, 1901, p.3

Door County Democrat, November 16, 1901, p.5

Wisconsin State Journal, September 12, 1902, p.1

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, November 17, 1904, p.7

Wisconsin State Journal, September 21, 1907, p.6

Daily Northwestern, September 30, 1908, p.5

Wisconsin State Journal, January 3, 1914, p.5

Wisconsin State Journal, May 31, 1922, p.4

Wisconsin State Journal, July 24, 1925, p.28

Wisconsin State Journal, August 7, 1925, p. 17

Capital Times, December 31, 1929, p.27

Wisconsin State Journal, August 24, 1941, p.4

Wisconsin State Journal, September 8, 1946, p.36

Special Thanks

Gayle Martinson, Reference Librarian, Wisconsin Historical Society for her invaluable assistance.

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