Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.
Volume 55, Number 2: Summer 2020
Includes the short version of the RCHS Annual Report 2019-2020 (full report to come later), a tribute to Paul Verret, and a special suffrage supplement.
Votes for Everywoman: Nellie Griswold Francis, the Women of Rondo, and Their Suffrage Crusade
Author: Leetta M. Douglas
A century ago, women of Minnesota, along with suffragists across the nation, won the hard-fought battle for the right to vote with the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment. Some women have been remembered for their invaluable suffrage work; others have received less or no recognition. One woman who made her mark and is honored at the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial in Saint Paul is Nellie Francis, an African American suffragist, civil rights leader, and community activist who started the Everywoman Suffrage Club (later renamed the Everywoman Progressive Council) in 1914 with a group of mostly Rondo neighborhood women, whose names were never fully acknowledged. Yet their constant work writing editorials, serving as convention delegates, and presenting speeches, plays, and forums to advocate for their cause, added to the state and nationwide efforts. Despite the win, however, African Americans and other people of color have had to continue to fight (to this very day) for the unencumbered right to vote because of discriminatory state and local policies in some places. Still, there’s also been tremendous progress. As author Leetta M. Douglas points out, it’s because of these early suffragists and many who continued to fight after them that women of color are making a positive difference in Ramsey County today as city council members, county commissioners, police officers, neighborhood development leaders, community and civil rights activists, and more. Hurrah to Nellie Francis and the women of Rondo!
The View from Summit Avenue: Inspiration Point for Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street
Author: Ralph L. Goldstein
When a young Sinclair Lewis traveled to Saint Paul at the turn of the twentieth century to take his Yale University entrance exams, he found time to explore the city, marveling at the construction of the new capitol building and the view of the waters of the mighty Mississippi from a lookout point on lovely Summit Avenue with its extraordinary homes lining each side of the road. Little did he know then that he’d remember his evening strolls and incorporate what he saw and experienced into his novel Main Street, a fictional story of small-town America that captured the country’s attention, garnered (mostly) positive reviews, and celebrates one-hundred years in 2020. Ralph L. Goldstein, president of the Sinclair Lewis Society, shares the story of Lewis, known affectionately by his first wife as the “Minnesota Tumbleweed,” his rise to literary fame—thanks to Main Street and other works, and the ways he incorporated specific places, historical events, and actual people from Saint Paul and other parts of Minnesota into many of his twenty-three novels and a myriad of short stories.
The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library Celebrate Seventy-Five Years: Honoring Perrie Jones, the Librarian at the Center of It All
Author: Mark Taylor
As The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library celebrate seventy-five years advocating, fundraising, and producing programming for the Saint Paul Public Library system, writer Mark Taylor tells the story of the quiet but determined and forward-thinking librarian named Perrie Jones whose work in the first half of the twentieth century continues to influence and benefit Saint Paul’s libraries today. Jones’s career started in her hometown of Wabasha, where she opened the town’s first public library before pursuing training and work at the New York Public Library and volunteering with the YMCA in France during World War I. Upon returning to the US, Jones set up library services in hospitals for soldiers recovering from war wounds and then expanded services to all patients. She also spent several years supervising the state’s institutional libraries and ensuring that books and other reading materials got into the hands of prison inmates and residents at facilities for the blind, deaf, and sick. She later took the reins as city librarian in Saint Paul. Always full of ideas, Jones established several branch libraries, made improvements to attract readers of all ages and backgrounds, established The Friends organization, and before her death, created the Perrie Jones Library Fund, which supports The Friends and the library system to this day. It’s a wonder she ever had time to sit down and enjoy a good book!