Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890 - 1920
Biography of Mrs. Jennie Engelen Ross, 1870-1921
By Jodi Oaks, Librarian, Mohawk Valley Community College
Jennie Engelen Ross was born on April 8, 1870 in Iowa to John and Elizabeth Engelen (name variations include Elengel, Engelehn, and Engelun). Jennie was the third youngest child in her family, with three sisters and three brothers. Her father worked as a farmer in Iowa and later as a carpenter after the family moved to Nebraska sometime between 1880 and 1885. In 1891, Jennie married William (Willie or W.L.) Ross. They had two daughters, Jennie Esther (married name Jacobson) born January 1893 and Sarah Marie (married name Baugous) born August 1895. Jennie and her husband were prominent citizens of Dakota City, Nebraska, having moved to the city from Emerson, Nebraska in 1893. Her husband was manager of a lumber yard and later ran the Dakota City Pharmacy and then the Dakota City Grocery store. Her husband also served as Dakota County clerk from 1903-1911 and was mayor of Dakota City at the time of his death in 1918.
Volume six of The History of Woman Suffrage identifies three distinct phases of the woman suffrage movement in the state of Nebraska. Contemporary sources show Jennie Ross as a participant in the first phase (1900-1912) of Nebraska suffragists' fight for the vote. In June 1900, Jennie was serving as President of the Dakota County Suffrage Club. During her presidency, she worked on educating and organizing for woman suffrage throughout the county. At this time, it was reported that the Dakota City Suffrage Club was very active with well-attended meetings. At the November 1901 convention of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association held in Lincoln, Jennie presented the speech "Women of the Present" as part of a group of speeches given by state workers on the past, present, and future of women. The History of Woman Suffrage defines the last two phases of the fight for woman suffrage in Nebraska as spanning the years 1912-1920. Contemporary sources could not be located showing Jennie working for suffrage during these years. In 1917, a partial suffrage law was passed in Nebraska, giving women municipal and presidential suffrage. This law was unsuccessfully fought by anti-suffrage organizations, and actions of the anti-suffrage groups ultimately led to further bolstering public support for woman suffrage in the state. In 1919, the 19th Amendment was ratified at a special session of the Nebraska state legislature.
In addition to her suffrage activism, Jennie was an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Order of the Eastern Star, Dakota County Sunday School Association, Homemakers' Club, and did volunteer work for the Red Cross during WWI. After the death of her husband, Jennie continued to run their grocery store until later that year when she closed the business and moved to Sioux City, Nebraska. On June 17, 1921, Jennie died from cancer after a year-long illness. She is buried with her husband at Rose Hill Cemetery in Emerson, Nebraska, with her daughter, Sarah Marie, buried nearby.
U.S. Census Bureau, 1880, "Jennie Engelun in household of John Engelun, Deep River, Poweshiek, Iowa, United States;" Nebraska State Census, 1885, "Jennie Elengel in entry for John Elengel;" U.S. Census Bureau, 1900, "Jennie E Ross in household of Willie P Ross, Dakota Precinct Dakota City village, Dakota, Nebraska, United States;" U.S. Census Bureau, 1910, "Jennie Ross in household of W L Ross, Dakota, Dakota, Nebraska, United States." On her suffrage and club work, see "What the Various Clubs of the Woman Suffrage Association are Doing," Ansley Chronicle, June 8, 1900, 1; "Women Suffragists Claim Nebraska," Lincoln Journal Star, November 13, 1901, 1; "Local Items," Dakota County Herald, April 17, 1908, 5; "Local Items," Dakota County Herald, May 7, 1909, 6; "Homemakers' Club Holds Meeting," Dakota County Herald, May 27 1910, 5; "Red Cross Notes," Dakota County Herald, February 7, 1918, 8; "Chapter XXVI: Nebraska," in The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI, ed. Ida Husted Harper (National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), 368-83. On her husband, see "W. L. Ross," Dakota County Herald, October 8, 1909, 4; "W. L. Ross Dies From Heart Failure," Dakota County Herald, January 10, 1918, 5. On her death, see "Mrs. Jennie E. Ross," Dakota County Herald, June 23, 1921, 5. Jennie and her husband are frequently seen in the local news published in the Dakota County Herald from around 1900 until their deaths.