Rollinsford New Hampshire’s First Female Legislator, Outdoor Enthusiast, Civic Leader, and Women’s Rights Proponent: Jessie Doe (1887-1943)

A year ago, Jessie Doe was once again in the New Hampshire spotlight.  News media hailed her and Dr. Mary L. (Rolfe) Farnum’s, feat of becoming New Hampshire’s first two female members of New Hampshire’s General Court (i.e. legislators) in 1921. In 1930 she ran for representative, tying with her Democrat opponent, but then seated by the NH General Court. In 1931 she ran for a NH Senate seat but lost [see later in story].

Jessie Doe, elected to the General Court of NH in 1921. Cow Hampshire Blog

Jessie Doe, elected to the General Court of NH in 1921. Cow Hampshire Blog

As mentioned in an earlier story about Dr. Mary Farnum, Jessie Doe ran for office soon after the 19th amendment was ratified.  She won through write-in votes, and as a Republican for Rollinsford, her home town. Her committee assignments in the House were Public Health and Forestry. She spoke and worked for the moving picture censorship bill, as well as for the woman factory inspector bill, and against the bill to relieve women from jury duty.

A Boston Herald newspaper article of December 12, 1920 interviewed Jessie Doe. “Regarding women in politics she says: “In a very generous mood, before the election, one man said to me, ‘I don’t believe you will do any harm if you do go to Concord,’ so I don’t believe that women in general will do any harm in politics and I hope they will do a lot of good. Not believe in extremes, I feel that the man and woman form of government should make a very good blend. Some questions are naturally more vital to women than to men, and they will now have their fighting chance.”

An article in the Nashua Telegraph newspaper in a 1975 article describes Jessie Doe this way:  “She served one term, took time off to go mountain climbing, and was elected again to the 1931 session, historians say.” Indeed  Jessie Doe was an interesting,  complicated, yet down-to-earth woman who had multiple civic and social interests–from crafts to the prevention of animal cruelty.

Jessie Doe was born in Rollinsford, Strafford Co., New Hampshire in 1887, the ninth child of Charles & Edith (Haven) Doe.  An article in the Granite State Monthly indicates that she attended the Berwick Academy (Berwick, Maine) and the Gilman School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, finishing school in 1907.  She returned home to live with her widowed mother, and to manage the 75 acre homestead and farm.

The Granite State Monthly goes on to say that “she was secretary of the Red Cross Public Nursing Association of Rollinsford and South Berwick, is a member of the Berwick Woman’s Club, which she has served as vice president, and chairman of the Philanthropic Department, and was chairman of the local Woman’s Committee of National Defense during the late war.” [Editor: refers to World War I ] She is an ardent nature lover, and an active member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, and has tramped with its members many a mile, both summer and winter, over the ranges of New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York, and during the coming season hopes to explore the Katahdin region in Maine. Her camera goes with her to the top of every mountain peak, and she has a find collection of landscape photographs.

There are several references in the media about Jessie Doe’s ability to drive a hay-rake, and to use the heavy equipment in running the family’s farm. Perhaps she inherited her father’s practicality–Chief Justice Charles Doe (of New Hampshire’s Supreme Court) was said to bepersonally eccentric (he dressed in the clothes of a farmer instead of judicial garb and insisted that the courtroom window be removed during frigid winter weather).”  After her mother’s death, Jessie moved to Dover, and then to Concord, New Hampshire where she continued to be active in nonprofit organizations and in politics.

After her mother died in 1922, Jessie Doe took a series of trips to Europe, visiting France twice in 1927 and 1929, Bermuda in 1929, and Sweden in 1935. In 1925 she attended the inauguration of President Calvin Coolidge, as a guest of Gov and Mrs. John G. Winant.  She moved to Concord, New Hampshire, where she became involved in the local organizations.

In August of 1930 Jessie Doe, one of the four trustees of the state industrial school at Manchester NH announced her resignation, declaring that the school requires a disciplinary policy that is at once humane and effective. She resigned in response to Gov. Charles W. Tobey and his council’s demand for the resignation of the school’s trustees.

The Morning Star (Rockford IL) of Wednesday Sept 21, 1932, page 16 (and several other newspapers) announced: ” Just a family disagreement–but this one is political. Here are Miss Jessie Doe and her brother Haven Doe, nominees for the New Hampshire senate. Miss Doe, first woman to sit in the New Hampshire house of representatives, won the Republican nomination for the state senate from the Twenty-first district. Her brother is the Democratic nominee for the same office from the Twentieth district.” Haven Doe won the election in the Twentieth District against John M. Hubbard. In the Twenty-first District, Jessie Doe of Rollinsford lost to Austin L. Calef of Barrington, 4301 to 3830.

From at least 1939-1941 she was secretary of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [per NH City Directory of Concord NH, page 359].

Also in 1939 Jessie Doe was vice president of [what is now called] the NH League of Craftsmen.  In the 1960s and 1970’s a scholarship was awarded in her name.  A Nashua Telegraph article of June 1967 states, “Jessie Doe, for whom the second memorial League scholarship was named, served during her lifetime in many capacities of the League and the State. She was active in the early years of the League in establishing classes and groups throughout the State and, after its formal organization, served as vice-president and later as acting director. She was a trustee of the University of New Hampshire, and a member of the General Court from Rollinsford. The Council of the League established the memorial awards in 1964 and began an extensive scholarship fund program. When the goal has been reached the fund will supplement the two grants to guarantee an annual award.”  A 1970 newspaper announced, “Jessie Doe Craft Scholarship by the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. The fund began in 1944 in memory of Jessie Doe of Rollinsford whose life was devoted to education and welfare projects, with an endowment to further the education and training of New Hampshire craftsmen.” For whatever reason, the NH League of Craftsmen no longer lists a scholarship named for her on their web site.

In 1939 Jessie Doe was also vice president of the New Hampshire Association of the Blind, advocating on the behalf of vision-impaired citizens. She was an active member of the New Hampshire League of Women’s Voters.

Jessie Doe continued to “do things her own way.” A Nashua Telegraph newspaper article  in May of 1941 with a headline of: FAIR LADIES OF CONCORD ALL READY FOR ‘CHUTISTS, went on to say: “a band of Concord women has decided not to be caught napping if Hitler’s parachutists land in this capital city. They want to be prepared for anything and so have decided to take rifle practice. Miss Jessie Doe of this city is the instigator of the movement and has enrolled 11 women who are being given instruction by B.G. Carlson, president of the Concord Rifle club.’Although some of the women had never before handled a gun,” said Miss Doe, “several hit bulls-eyes.’ In addition to being instructed in how to fire a rifle, many of the women are studying first aid, nursing, and auto mechanics.”

By 1943 She was living at 44 Pleasant Street in Concord, New Hampshire.  She was also on the board of trustees of the University of New Hampshire this year. On 9 May 1964 to honor Jessie Doe for her “generous service to New Hampshire. Outspoken in her convictions on the rights of woman and aware of her obligations as a trustee of the University,” Jessie Doe Hall was dedicated in her memory at UNH.

——- G E N E A L O G Y of Jessie Doe ——–

Nicholas-1 Doe (c1631-1691) & Martha Thomas
Samson-2 Doe (1670-1749) & Mary (Hopley) Ayers
Nicholas-3 Doe & Elizabeth
Joseph-4 Doe & Martha Weeks

Joseph-5 Doe Jr., (Joseph-4, Nicholas-3, Sampson-2, Nicholas-1), b. 15 Nov 1776 at Newmarket NH. He married at Somersworth NH 25 Nov 1811 to Mary Bodwell Ricker. Was active in town affairs 1799 to 1811; constable 1802 to 1809; soldier in the War of 1812 in Capt. Peter Hersey’s Co., May 24th to July 6th, 1814; took up residence in Rollinsford NH. Was elected director of Strafford Bank of New Hampshire in 1810 to 1819; was a large land owner and successful farmer; although not professional lawyer he wrote legal documents and filed many offices of trust. Sold land and buildings in Rome and Belgrade, Kennebec County, Maine in 1815. Several times represented his town in the Legislature; was a man of powerful intellect and exerted a controlling influence in the surrounding community. See History Newfields, N.H. He d. 1860. His will, probated March 1860 mentions all his children. Mary B. (Ricker) Doe died in 1870, her will was dated Jan. 25, 1868. [Editor: from The Descendants of Nicholas Doe, page 182-183.]
Children of Joseph & Mary Bodwell (Ricker) Doe:
1. Mary Elizabeth Doe, b. 30 Aug 1812; m. 1832 William Pickering Weeks, lawyer. Children [WEEKS] all b. in Canaan NH: 1) Joseph Doe Weeks, lawyer; 2) William Bracket Weeks, b. 14 May 1839, m. Henrietta Bridgeman of Hanover NH, resided in Lebanon NH and d. 26 Jan 1911; 3) Marshall Hill Weeks, b. 1841, lumber merchant, m. Carrie M. Huntington of Lebanon NH, resided Fairbury, Nebraska; 4) Mary E. Weeks, b. 24 Dec 1844, d. 16 May 1911; 5) Susan H. Weeks, b. 1853, d. 30 April 1881
2. Martha W. Doe, b. 7 Dec 1813; died abt 1835
3. Ebenezer Ricker Doe, b. 29 Nov 1815 in Somersworth NH; m. Susan Hale. Settled in Janesville, Wisconsin and was president of the First National Bank in that dity up to the time of his death in 1866. His wife Susan (Hale) Doe died in Boston MA 4 Oct 1873, estate went to her relatives.
4. Joseph Bodwell Doe, b. 20 April 1818; m. Anna Marcher.
5. Thomas Bartlett Doe, b. 17 Feb 1820 at Canaan NH, m. Sally Allen Ross
6. + Charles Doe, b 11 April 1830; m. Edith Haven [see]

Charles Doe, son of Joseph and Mary B. (Ricker) Doe, b. 11 April 1830 in Derry NH, and died 9 March 1896. He resided in Rollinsford NH.  He married 11 April 1865 in Portsmouth NH to Edith Haven, dau of George W. and Helen (Bell) Doe.

Hon. Charles Doe, Chief Justice of the NH Supreme Court. Photograph from Memoir of Hon. Charles Doe, late chief justice of the Supreme court of New Hampshire (1897).

Hon. Charles Doe, Chief Justice of the NH Supreme Court. Photograph from Memoir of Hon. Charles Doe, late chief justice of the Supreme court of New Hampshire (1897).

She was b. 3 August 1840 in Portsmouth NH, and died 26 April 1922 in Rollinsford, Strafford Co. NH. She was interred in the “Family Cemetery” on the banks of the Piscataqua in Rollinsford NH, next to her husband and eldest son. According to Descendants of Nicholas Doe, “early in his childhood the family returned to their former residence in Somersworth (now Rollinsford) NH and took up their abode in the old homestead of the Ricker family. The house was built in 1796 as an old-time inn by Ebenezer Ricker, the maternal grandfather of Judge Doe. After his graduation from Dartmouth College in 1849, Charles Doe entered the office of Daniel M. Christie of Dover and began the study of law. He was Assistant Clerk of the State Senate in 1853 and 1854; and was active as a stump speaker in the excited campaigns which followed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. In 1887 Judge Doe and his son Perley went abroad, visiting Great Britain, France, The Netherlands and Belgium….He visited the historic scenes and buildings in England and attended many of the sessions of the Court [Descendants of Nicholas Doe, page 240-245].  As Chief Justice, he served on the Supreme Court of New Hampshire  for 35 years and has been described as a brilliant jurist and a modest, kindhearted family man. Dean Roscoe Pound of Harvard called Doe one of “the ten judges who must be ranked first in American judicial history.”  The Harvard Law Review wrote a tribute to him, stating “He was appointed to the Supreme Bench in 1859 at the early age of twenty-nine and continued, with the exception of two years (1874-1876) until his death at the age of sixty-five.” His memoir was published in 1897.   In 2007 his personal library was ‘rescued,’ found in a Rollinsford barn and donated to the NH Court to save it.
1900 US Census > NH > Stratford > Rollinsford
Doe, Edith Head W F Aug 1840 59 widow married at age 35 9 ch 8 living NH NH NH
Doe, Catherine daughter W F Oct 1872 27 single NH NH NH
Doe, Robert son W M July 1875 24 single NH NH NH
Doe, Mary daughter W F Sep 1877 22 single NH NH NH
Doe, Dorothy daughter W F Nov 1882 17 single NH
Doe, Jessie daughter 2 F Feb 1887 13 single NH*
Doe, Hellen daughter W F Apr 1880 20 NH
Children of Charles & Edith (Haven) Doe:
1. Ralph Doe, b. 1866 NH; died 17 Sep 1882, age 16 at North Platte Nebraska. Cause of death on record, “injuries from Prairie fire.” Occupation, cattle business.
2. Perley Doe, b. 8 April 1868 NH. A graduate of Harvard [c1887-91.A.B. Gov.] In 1910 single and living in a boarding house in Somerville MA, a letter carrier. In 1913 he was a member of the Postmen’s Glee Club of Boston. In 1920 living in Canon City, Fremont Co. Colorado, with wife, Myrtle P. –. She b. abt 1875 in Canada, immigrated in 1895.  No children. The Boston Herald newspaper of March 8, 1916 includes an editorial entitled, “Believes in Movement to Enforce Peace,” following by an invitation by Perley Doe … “The League to Enforce Peace invites every determined opponent of war to its meeting in Symphony Hall this Wednesday evening.” He developed consumption [tuberculosis] which he believed was due to bad working conditions, and moved to Denver, Colorado hoping to improve his health. Perley Doe was prosecuted under the Espionage Act in 1918 by the Federal District court for mailing literature criticizing President Wilson. Initially sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and six months in the county jail by the Federal District Court, the district attorney informed the court that “Doe had been industriously mailing the objectionable literature since his conviction. The judge immediately assessed the severe penalty, each sentence to be served concurrently.” [Pawtucket Times, March 20, 1918] The same newspaper of February 7, 1918 reported that he had violated the espionage act by “circulating distorted quotations from notes sent to Germany by President Wilson on the sinking of the steamer Sussex. It was the first conviction under the act in Colorado.”  The Plain Dealer, a Cleveland OH newspaper, in an article about what you cannot say states: “You cannot mail an ‘endless chain’ letter to point out that Germany was not responsible for war. Perley B. Doe, son of the chief justice of New Hampshire, did this during the last war and served 18 months. The court held this chain letter to “friends of peace” tended to obstruct recruiting and enlistment.” He died in 1922, and had been residing at 384 S. Pearl Street in Denver Co.  From various newspapers The Portsmouth Herald of 1 June 1922 posted the following news: “JUDGE DOE’S SON BURIED IN LONELY SPOT–AP–Canon City, Col., June 1. — Perley B. Doe, 52 years old, son of the late Chief Justice Doe of the New Hampshire Supreme Court was buried in a lonely spot in the mountains near the Royal Gorge yesterday. Doe was convicted during the World War of violation of the Espionage Act and misuse of the mails, and was sentenced to fifteen months in prison by a federal court. He was pardoned by President Wilson in 1919. He was known as a socialist. The only ceremony at his funeral was the reading of Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar,” and the only witnesses to the burial were Miss Doe, a sister of the dead man from New Hampshire, and two other persons.” According to the Ogden Standard Examiner (Odgen Utah) Perley Doe was a ‘War Objector’ who served “part of his sentence in the federal prison at Levenworth, Kan. and then was transferred to the Colorado state prison because of his health. He was pardoned by President Wilson in 1919. He was a university graduate and was known as a Socialist and agnostic. [the remainder of his obituary was similar to the Portsmouth NH article].
3. Haven Doe, b. 23 April 1870 Rollinsford NH; m. 28 Dec 1895 at Civil, Portland Co. Maine to Mora Bell Hubbard, dau of Charles H. & Mary (Hutchins or Perry) Hubbard. She was b. 18 March 1875 in Rollinsford NH; He died 4 Oct 1946 in Somersworth, Strafford Co. NH.  She died Aug 14, 1963. They had at least 2 children: 1) Joseph Roberts Doe, b. abt 1903 in Somersworth NH, died 25 August 1974 in Wilbraham MA, married 1st) Genevieve Peak who d. in 1929 and m2d) Doris Proctor who d. in 1973. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1924, and from Northeastern University in 1932 with a Law degree. He had two children, William H. Doe of Sudbury MA and Jessica (Doe) Terrill of Indianapolis Indiana; 2) Edith H. Doe of Jacksonville FL
4. Catherine Doe, b. 29 October 1872 Rollinsford NH; In 1930 living in California with niece Edith Ayers. In 1940 living in Durham, age 67, single.
5. Robert Doe, b 21 July 1875 Rollinsford NH, d. 22 Oct 1925 in Rollinsford NH; m. 29 October 1900 in Rollinsford NH to Adeline A. Emerson, dau of Albert E. & Ellen G. (Roberts) Emerson [he was listed as ‘law student’ for occupation on his marriage certificate.] Became a justice of the Superior Court of NH. Harvard Graduate [c 94-97, A.B. 98; l 97-98 Law] Resided Dover NH.
6. Helen Doe, b. 17 Sep 1877, d. 21 Nov 1928 Portsmouth NH; single
7. Mary H. Doe, b. April 1880 NH; m. 2 Sep 1906 in Rollinsford NH to Charles Hamilton Ayers Jr., son of Charles Hamilton & Serena Thayor (Martin) Ayers. Children: (AYERS): Walter Haven Ayers, b. 1908; Charles Hamilton Ayers, b 1909; Edith Ayers b 1911
8. Dorothy Doe, b. 14 Nov 1882 Rollinsford NH; married 26 October 1906 in Rollinsford NH to Ernest Rutherford Groves, son of Harry Hunt & Hannah (Seward) Groves. Professor of Sociology, NH State College.  Children (GROVES): 1) Catherine Grove, b 1909; 2) Ernestine Groves b 1912, d. 14 June 1916. Dorothy (Doe) Groves died 14 June 1916 in Portsmouth NH.
9. +Jessie Doe, ninth child, and daughter of Charles & Edith (Haven) Doe was b. 21 February 1887 in Rollinsford, Strafford Co. NH; She died 24 September 1943 at the Margaret Pillsbury Hospital in Concord, Merrimack Co. NH.

——- Sources ——
– FamilySearch, various birth, marriage, death and probate records
Nashua Telegraph newspaper, various years
– Portsmouth Herald newspaper, various years
– Ship Passenger Lists, various, from 1925-1935,
Granite State Monthly, Vol LIII, May 1921, No. 5, page 213
The descendants of Nicholas Doe , Orleans, Vt.: Elmer E. Doe, 1918, 376 pgs. [HeritageQuest]

—Additional Reading—

Boscawen New Hampshire’s First Female Legislator, Physician, Educator and Civic Leader: Mary Louise (Rolfe) Farnum (1870-1965) [Cow Hampshire]

 First Women in the NH Legislature

Daily KOS: Thank You, Have a Nice Day (women make history in NH)

Gamely, women gain grip on the Granite State

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11 Responses to Rollinsford New Hampshire’s First Female Legislator, Outdoor Enthusiast, Civic Leader, and Women’s Rights Proponent: Jessie Doe (1887-1943)

  1. Paul Sand says:

    I’ve lived in Rollinsford since 1987. Despite the fact that I take “Jessie Doe Road” every week to get to the Rollinsford Transfer Station (aka “the dump”), I was woefully unaware of her history.

    Brother Perly seems to have had a sad, short life, made more miserable by his (apparent) naïve belief in the First Amendment.

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