Biographical Sketch of Mabel Madeline Judd (Kester)

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mabel Madeline Judd (Kester), 1884-1964

By Karla J. Strand, Gender and Women's Studies Librarian, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Talented organizer and confident speaker for the Political Equality League in Wisconsin, president of a local chapter of the Equal Suffrage League of Oregon

Mabel Madeline Judd was born in Grant County, Wisconsin, on November 16, 1884, to Henry Clay Judd and Helen Ella (Patterson) Judd. She grew up in Lancaster, Wisconsin.

Mabel Judd attended Milwaukee State Normal School and graduated in 1908. A bright young teacher, Judd worked at Richland Center High School for a time, where she made the acquaintance of fellow suffragist Ada James. During this time, she honed her organizing and speaking skills, for which she would be heralded during the suffrage movement.

When Ada James invited her to work on the 1911-1912 Wisconsin suffrage campaign, Judd enthusiastically accepted. By this time, James had founded the Political Equality League (PEL). As an organizer in the Wisconsin PEL, Judd traveled the state organizing the PEL's popular auto tours and making speeches for the cause. After a gathering of suffragists at city hall in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, a local newspaper referred to her as "an impressive platform talker" and remarked on the many new members who joined the local chapter of the PEL because of the discussion she led. Likewise, the Eau Claire Leader determined she was "a most pleasing and convincing speaker." To one naysayer of women's enfranchisement who opined that women didn't know enough to vote, Judd retorted, "Among what kind of women have you spent your life?" During her time in Wisconsin, Judd also helped found new PEL chapters. She attended several meetings of African American suffragists in Milwaukee and encouraged the creation of a new branch of the PEL dedicated to Black women's suffrage in Wisconsin.

On July 11, 1912, Mabel Judd married Bruce R. Kester, a lawyer whom she had met in Oregon while visiting a friend. After their marriage in Wisconsin and an extended honeymoon on the Atlantic coast, the couple returned to Oregon that fall. Mabel Judd Kester continued to work for suffrage in Oregon, where she joined The Equal Suffrage League of Oregon and served as president of the Malheur County chapter in Vale, Oregon. While the Wisconsin campaign failed in 1912, Oregon voters approved women's suffrage in November of that year. In 1913, the Kester's first daughter, Mildred Helen, was born. Their son, Randall B., was born in 1916, and another daughter, Barbara Jean, in 1922.

Inspired by her husband, Mabel Judd Kester studied law via correspondence course and passed the Oregon State Bar in 1920, although she would never practice. After her husband died in 1932, Kester moved her family back to Wisconsin and began teaching school in Bloomington. The following year, Kester ran, unsuccessfully, for Grant County Superintendent of Schools. After spending a year in Wisconsin, the Kester family moved back to Oregon, this time settling in Portland. At this time, Kester started a business as a licensed life insurance agent and would be the main source of support for her family.

Known as an ardent organizer, a confident speaker, and a dedicated advocate, Mabel Judd Kester died on April 10, 1964, in Multnomah, Oregon.


"Active Suffragette Weds Oregon Lawyer." Lancaster Teller (Lancaster, WI), July 11, 1912.

Dunn, Brandon, and Karla J. Strand. "Biographical Sketch of Carrie S. Cook Horton."

"Fola La Follette Here." The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), April 12, 1912.

Harper, Ida Husted. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK to WI state report/]

"Judd-Kester Wedding." Lancaster Teller (Lancaster, WI), July 18, 1912.

"Letter from Ada L. James: Nov. 1912." James, Ada Lois, 1876-1952, Ada James papers, correspondence, 1912, Nov. 8-Dec. 23. Wisconsin Historical Society.

"Letter from Mabel Kester to Ada: Vale, Oregon, November 26, 1912." James, Ada Lois, 1876-1952, Ada James papers, correspondence, 1912, Nov. 8-Dec. 23. Wisconsin Historical Society.

"Lancaster Girl Member of Oregon State Bar." Grant County Herald (Lancaster, WI), August 11, 1920.

"Mabel Madeline Judd Kester." Find A Grave,

"Mable [sic] Judd, Grant County Suffragist." Grant County Historical Society, Grant County, WI.

"Miss Judd on Woman Suffrage." The Eau Claire Leader (Eau Claire, WI), April 30, 1912.

"Randall Kester: An Oral History." US District Court of Oregon Historical Society, Oral History Project, 2006.

"State Normal School Directory of Graduates 1886-1916." Vol. XIII, No. 3. Milwaukee, WI: State Normal School, September 1917.

"Two Seek Election as Grant Co. School Chief." The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), January 20, 1933.

"'Votes for Women' Car is Coming." The Waukesha Freeman (Waukesha, WI), July 27, 1911.

"Woman Suffrage Meeting." The New North (Rhinelander, WI), June 13, 1912.

Youmans, Theodora. "How the Money is Spent." Votes for Women column, The Waukesha Freeman (Waukesha, WI), April 18, 1912.

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