Hamline News

Early Alumnae Leaders in American Woman Suffrage Movement


While Hamline is recognized as Minnesota’s first university, it was also among the first co-educational institutions in the nation. What started as a progressive philosophy in women’s education led to some alumnae using their education to fight for women’s rights. Two of Hamline’s early alumnae in particular, Emily Sorin Meredith and Julia Bullard Nelson, stand out as leaders in the American woman suffrage movement.

Emily Sorin Meredith was one of Hamline’s first two graduates, along with her sister Elizabeth Sorin. After years of teaching and traveling following her graduation in 1859, Meredith eventually settled in Denver. There she would fight for the women’s rights movement through writing occasional articles for the Rocky Mountain News.

In 1890, Meredith rose to prominence as a woman suffrage leader when she helped her daughter, Ellis Meredith, organize the Colorado Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association. Colorado granted full suffrage to women in 1893 in part because of her efforts with the movement. For her work, the National American Woman Suffrage Association awarded Meredith a life membership.

Graduating from Hamline a few years after Meredith, Julia Bullard Nelson started her career as an educator and an author. She was recognized as a rising leader in Minnesota suffrage when she spoke at the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union state convention in Red Wing in 1874.

In 1886 Nelson took a break from teaching to travel to Washington D.C. where she attended the National Woman Suffrage Association Convention and spoke to the U.S. House of Representatives judiciary committee. Years later, she became the president of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association.

On Women's Equality Day, Hamline would like to celebrate not only these two alumnae, but all of the faculty, staff, alumni, and students who have fought for women’s rights over the past 162 years.

Information for this article was collected from "150 Lives That Make a Difference," a book to celebrate Hamline's 150th anniversary which was edited by Hamline Archivist Candice Hart, with research by women's studies Professor Kristin Mapel Bloomberg.