Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Jennie Lansley Wilson, 1847-1927
By Jenna Mannerino, University of California Swan Diego
Jennie Lansley was born in Albany, New York, on September 12, 1847. She was the daughter of Thomas and Mary J. Lansley. Wilson gained an education at a seminary in New York and later moved to Marion, Iowa to become a teacher. While in Marion she met her future husband, George W. Wilson (1835-1910). The two married sometime in the 1870s and had at least one daughter together.
In 1880 the couple moved from Marion to Cedar Rapids, Iowa where Jennie created a weekly newspaper and her husband practiced law. Jennie began taking law courses and graduated in 1891 from the University of Iowa College of Law. Although she never practiced, she often assisted her husband in the legal profession. With her background in law Jennie wrote two books on women in the legal profession. Legal Status of Women in Iowa, published in 1894, discusses laws regarding women rights involving marriage, divorce, property rights, estates and wills, and other sectors. The Legal and Political Status of Women in the United States was added as a supplement and published in 1912. The book examines women's legal status in marriage, divorce, distribution of property, and suffrage within each state. These books allowed women to have access to their legal status regarding various subjects.
Jennie Wilson was significantly active in women's rights movements in the state of Iowa, most notably in the early 1900s. Prior to her club and suffrage activities she was editor and publisher of the Iowa Transcript. In 1885 she was recording secretary for the State Society (possibly the Iowa Woman Suffrage Society). In 1898 the National American Woman Suffrage Association sent Jennie Wilson as co-manager to an annual meeting held in Council Bluffs. Jennie later worked at the Women's club as chairman of the civic committee, local churches, the Linn County Humane Society, the women's suffrage movement, and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U). In an article of The Des Moines Register published in 1913, Jennie is featured as a member of the "Professional Women's League of Des Moines- A Social Sisterhood." Starting in 1914 Jennie served as the president of the Cedar Rapids Civic League, an organization for women's suffrage. In 1916, Jennie is mentioned in an article from The Gazette (Des Moines, Iowa) after being elected chairman of the Fifth District of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association (also known as the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association).
Jennie Wilson lived in Cedar Rapids for nearly 50 years. Jennie died from pneumonia on November 28, 1927, at the age of 80.
All newspaper citations below accessed online via Newspapers.com.
Billington, Addie B. "Professional Women's League of Des Moines a Social Sisterhood." The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa). September 14, 1913.
Gage, Matilda Joslyn, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, eds. "History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4: 1883-1900." New York: Fowler and Wells (Publisher), Alexander Street database. Alexander Street.
Opheim, Teresa. "Portias of the Prairie: Early Women Graduates of the University Law Department." The Palimpsest 67 (1986), 31. https://ir.uiowa.edu/palimpsest/vol67/iss1/3
Wilson, Jennie L, Carrie Chapman Catt, and National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection. Legal status of women in Iowa. Des Moines: Iowa Printing Company, 1894. Pdf. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/16012646/
"Civil League Solely for Women's Rights." The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). June 14, 1915.
"Cedar Rapids Woman Made District Chairman; Suffrage Resolutions." The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). September 22, 1916.
"Mrs. Jennie Wilson, Author and Lawyer, Dies at Home Here." The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). November 29, 1927.
"Publishes a Book." The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). August 1, 1894.