Jessie Rice Donahue

1873 - 1956


Suffragist and Activist

Jessie Edith Rice was born in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, on November 7, 1873 to George L. and Lucy H. (Baldwin) Rice. After attending Keene High School in about 1893, she became a second grade grammar school teacher. While teaching and living in Keene, Rice was introduced to Eagle Hotel clerk Burtin Lewis. The couple was married in 1893, had a daughter Helen, but had divorced by the end of the decade.

In 1900, Jessie (Rice) Lewis remarried John J. Donahue, an insurance salesman from Keene. Their daughter Esther was born a year later. As Mrs. John J. Donahue, Jessie learned about insurance work, starting as a secretary and becoming a claims adjuster for health and accident insurance in the early part of the 20th century. The couple moved to Manchester, NH, where they opened an insurance business and became more involved in politics as well as social work. John served as a republican in the NH House of Representatives in 1903-4 and 1904-5.

As a socially-active woman, Donahue made strides to lead the country in Unitarian teachings, to actively support the national playground movement (she established playgrounds in Manchester), to promote the arts, to provide a path to citizenship for immigrants, to push for women’s suffrage, to limit access to alcohol in order to combat alcoholism, among other causes.

Between the 1900s and 1930s, Jessie became active as: the Director of the National Alliance of Unitarian Women and the National Unitarian Sunday School Society, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution [DAR], director of the Star Island Summer Meetings Association, President of the Manchester Federation of Women’s Clubs, President of the New Century and Shakespeare Club, Vice President of the Manchester Institute of Arts and Science, auditor for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, director of the Settlement Association of New Hampshire, superintendent of the DAR’s Americanization movement and teacher of the citizenship test, president of the Manchester Equal Suffrage League, and was an instructor of wood carving and handicrafts for various art schools.

NH Newspapers of the 1910s and 1920s, noted that Mrs. Jessie Donahue was one of a growing handful of politically active Republican women lecturing around the state on various issues. In 1924, she served as alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention.

Jessie (Rice) Donahue took strides to represent her community in New Hampshire.

[Bio by Alexis Ladenbush, April 2020]

Points of Interest

  • The Rice family home in 1890s while Jessie was teaching. 41 Elliot Street, Keene, NH. - Google Map Link
  • Home of Jessie and her husband John-- 782 Beech Street in Manchester, NH-- where she lived in during the first half of the 20th century. - Google Maps link
  • Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester, NH, where Jessie Donahue is buried. - Pine Grove Cemetery

Important Links