To the editor:

One hundred years ago, on Sept. 8, 1919, Minnesota made history with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, becoming the 15th state of the 36 needed to give women the right to vote. But the history of this critical expansion of suffrage has direct ties to Alexandria that need to be understood.

With the National Centennial of Women's Suffrage coming in August 2020, it is time to look at Alexandria's history by understanding the unique role one of its citizens played in the effort to enfranchise women. I am writing about Knute Nelson, the first Scandinavian elected to the U.S. Senate.

Nelson, a Republican, was elected to the Legislatures in Wisconsin and Minnesota. He served as a Congressman and later in the Senate representing Minnesota. He went on to become Governor of Minnesota, indeed a talented and dedicated public servant.

Nelson was known as "firmly and enduringly pro-suffrage." Nelson voted in support of the 19th Amendment in the Senate. His influence in Minnesota, including within the Scandinavian communities, and within the Republican Party, helped make woman suffrage a reality. One has only to look at the statue of Knute Nelson in front of State Capitol and read the inscription which describes his contribution to Minnesota: “Three years a soldier in the civil war. Three times a member of Congress. Twice governor of Minnesota. Five times our United States Senator. A brave son of Norway. A true patriot devoted in his allegiance to America a wise statesman uncompromising in support of the principles in which he believed, a distinguished citizen of Minnesota."

Alexandria should be proud of Knute Nelson. Now, we should realize that his support of the 19th Amendment serves as an inspiration for all Americans. Alexandria should be proud of their role in the story of how millions of women who won suffrage and of Knute Nelson's part.

Tom Mortenson

Detroit Lakes, MN