Nellie Volstead, Suffragette

Nellie Volstead
The Volstead Women, created by Dylan Curfman

A Timeline of Nellie Volstead and the Women’s Suffrage Movement

16 Jan 1868 Nellie (Helen Mary Osler) was born at Kilnhill Farm, Kerriemuir, Forfarshire, Scotland, She immigrated to the United States with her family at age 15. In 1883 she is living in Granite Falls and certified to teach school.

1890-1925: “The Progressive Era begins. Women from all classes and backgrounds enter public life. Women’s roles expand and result in an increasing politicization of women. Consequently the issue of woman suffrage becomes part of mainstream politics.”

ca 1892-1894: Nellie, [Deputy county clerk/assistant auditor] meets Andrew, prosecuting attorney for Yellow Medicine County.

“Nellie, a Scottish immigrant, taught rural school, took a correspondence course in stenography, became Yellow Medicine County assistant auditor, and married Andrew Volstead in 1894.  

In many ways, Nellie was Andrew’s opposite. She loved the social whirl, she enjoyed horseback riding and ice skating. Her husband willingly let her assume most of the social duties of his office while he concentrated on the law and its intricacies.

Those who knew Volstead well, including Charlotte Whitney of Granite Falls who with her husband Erwin took care of him during his last 15 years, say without hesitation that he would not have entered national politics without Nellie’s push. She was the one who set their sights on Washington, although he willingly participated in his quiet way and later did not regret the move.

1896: Nellie founds an Eastern Star chapter: “Founding Worthy Matron (presiding officer) of the Granite Falls Order of the Eastern Star chapter, River Park.

21 May 1910: The Women’s Political Union (originally the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women) organizes the first Suffrage Parade, in New York City. They continue annually, growing larger every year, until the 19th Amendment is ratified a decade later.,

10 Dec 1913: Seeking an amendment to the Constitution, women and men from the Anti-Saloon League and the Women’s Christian Temperance descend on Washington D.C.

Feb 1914: Nellie is considered a “prominent member of the [Congressional Club].”

9 Feb, 1915- Granite Falls Tribune – Mrs. A.J. Volstead is a candidate for Treasurer of the Congressional Union of Women’s Suffrage, Minneapolis.

10 Jan 1917: “National Woman’s Party pickets appear in front of the White House holding aloft two banners: “Mr. President, What Will You Do For Woman Suffrage?” and “How Long Must Women Wait For Liberty?” Sentinels remain stationed there permanently regardless of weather or violent public response, with hourly changes of shift.”

13 Jan 1917:  Andrew and Nellie receive an invitation to the Wilson White House on Jan 13.

Did they witness the Silent Sentinels?

18 Dec 1917: House and Senate pass a resolution to present the 18th Amendment, banning sale of most forms of alcohol. Now, 46 States must ratify the Amendment. Nellie has worked hard for this result.

13 Apr 1918: Nellie dies at home in Washington, DC. (age 50: 1868–1918) (Andrew 58):

“Mrs. Andrew J. Volstead, wife of Representative Volstead of Minnesota, died today at her apartment in the Brighton, after an illness of eight months. Her body will be taken tomorrow to Granite Falls, Minn., for burial. //Mrs. Volstead was well known in congressional circles, having been active in the affairs of the Congressional Club, and it was largely due to her efforts that the club was built. [. . .]”