Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Jennie Willing McMullin Turner, 1885-1967
By Layna Zahrt, student, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and Emma McClure, student, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Librarian, professor, chair of Legislative committee for Wisconsin Women's Progressive Association, and Corresponding Secretary of the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association.
Jennie Willing McMullin was born on January 4, 1885, to Samuel and Helen Shaw McMullin on a farm near Hymera, Indiana. After receiving a Bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in 1908, McMullin returned to Indiana for work. During the summers, she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she eventually earned her Master of Arts in History. After moving to Madison permanently, she worked as a reference librarian at the university from 1913 until 1920.
In 1914, Jennie McMullin married Glenn P. Turner and the following year, she published A Brief Legislative History of the Woman's Suffrage Movement in Wisconsin, a five-page transcript of a brief chronology of attempts by Wisconsin women to gain the right to vote, starting in 1848. A frequent writer, Turner wrote numerous classroom texts throughout her career and, for fifteen years, wrote for the "Following Congress" series on the Wisconsin radio station, WHA. In 1922, Turner submitted her thesis, "The Right to Organize," and received her Ph.D. in Economics and Political Science from UW-Madison while working as a research assistant for the State Board of Education. She joined the State Board of Vocational and Adult Education the following year where she served as a teacher trainer in general subjects until her retirement in 1948.
Jennie McMullin Turner not only recorded suffrage history, but took an active role in making it. In 1916, she spoke at a suffrage convention organized by Ada James. The following year, she fought fellow members of the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association (WWSA) who were in favor of conceding the fight for statewide suffrage for enfranchisement in presidential elections alone. Turner insisted they continue to fight for full, statewide suffrage, and won. In 1917, she was elected Corresponding Secretary of the WWSA. In the next two years, Turner introduced resolutions at the Woman's Suffrage Convention supporting a minimum wage for women and fair working hours and was chosen as temporary president of the National Women's Trade Union League.
In 1923, Turner said of her priorities: "I am a progressive because I believe that to make government intelligent we must organize into groups to discuss and study public problems. As long as this group is organized for the single purpose of getting more light upon public questions and fearlessly acts, I shall be proud to be a part of it." She held true to her word as a suffragist and as an active member of many organizations including the League of Women Voters, the Middleton Women's Club, the Esperanto League for North America and Universala Ligo, the Esperanto World Federalist group. She also served as chair of the Legislative Committee for the Wisconsin Women's Progressive Association.
Just before her retirement in 1948, Turner served as a visiting professor of Economics at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. After retirement, she was still an active writer, suggesting and supporting legislation and policies by writing letters to members of congress, the president, and other government officials and publishing Campaign Speeches in Search of a Candidate in 1961.
Jennie Willing McMullin Turner battled an illness for several months before passing away in her home on June 29, 1967. As one of her final requests, her body was given to the University of Wisconsin Medical School.
"Badger Suffs Hear Rev. Jenkin L. Jones." Janesville Daily Gazette, 14 August 1916, p.1, access-newspaperarchive-com.
"Form Committee of Wisconsin Union." The Wisconsin State Journal, 15 May 1919, p.13, access-newspaperarchive-com.
Hochstein, Irma. "A progressive primer." (Madison: Wis. Women's Progressive Association, 1922 (Madison: Fitch & Straus)). Online facsimile at: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=1053
"Mrs. Glenn Turner, Former Vocational Leader, Is Dead." The Capital Times, 30 June 1967, pp. 1-6, access-newspaperarchive-com.
"Neighboring Clubs List Programs." Wisconsin State Journal, 28 February 1954, p.31, access-newspaperarchive-com.
"Resolutions Adopted at Women's Suffrage Convention Recently." Sheboygan Press, 7 January 1918, p.5, access-newspaperarchive-com.
"Resolution is Passed at Meet." Madison Capital Times, 31 January 1923, p.1, access-newspaperarchive-com.
"Suffrage Society Elects Officials." The Eau Claire Leader, 20 January 1917, p.2. access-newspaperarchive-com.
Turner, Jennie McMullin. Brief Legislative History of the Woman's Suffrage Movement in Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.: 1915). Online facsimile at http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=1738
Turner, Jennie Willing. Letter to Alice B. Curtis, 1915. Wisconsin Woman's Suffrage Association Collection. Wisconsin State Historical Society, Wisconsin.
United States Federal Census. 1920, population schedule. Digital images. Ancestry.com. : 2017.
"Wisconsin Women Demand Complete Vote or Nothing." La Crosse Tribune, 19 January 1917, p.5, access-newspaperarchive-com.
"Women Tell Why They Are Progressives." Madison Capital Times, 31 January 1923, p. 1, access-newspaperarchive-com.