Estelle Northam

Name: Estelle Northam (Marguerite Estelle Isabella McChesney)
Birth Date: 1871
Birth Place: Union Grove, WI
Death Date: August 29, 1963
Death Location: Evanston, IL
Burial Place: Rosehill Cemetery


Estelle Northam was the fifth president of the League of Women Voters of Evanston. She served from 1928-1930.

Estelle McChesney Northam—full name Marguerite Estelle Isabella McChesney Northam—moved to Chicago as a baby. Her father, A. C. McChesney, was a physician and moved the family to Chicago shortly after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, “to answer the call for more doctors” (according to an article written in celebration of her 90th birthday).

After moving to Evanston with her husband, Martin Kent Northam, a railway supply dealer, Estelle Northam became very active in local women’s organizations. She was the fifth president of the League of Women Voters of Evanston, president of the North End Mother’s Club, president of the Women’s Association of First Presbyterian Church, and more. Also active in Chicago-area and state-level organizations, she was a member of the Women’s Committee for the 1933 Century of Progress in Chicago and a trustee of the Illinois State Normal Schools board. She was one of the first women to serve as a judge of elections in Illinois.

Estelle Northam was a strong advocate for women’s involvement in the public sphere and spoke widely about many issues of interest to voters and, more specifically, women. Nationally, she was important in Herbert Hoover’s 1928 presidential campaign, serving as Assistant Director of Women’s Activities for the Hoover-Curtis Organization Bureau and heading women’s groups in 28 states. One of her priorities was educating women about the voting process—including how to split a ballot between candidates of different parties. The goal seems to have been to have more women identifying as Democrats, or as affiliated with neither party, split their votes and cast their presidential votes for the Hoover.[1]

As Supervisor for the 1930 U.S. Census, overseeing efforts in several Chicago-area communities, Estelle Northam did active outreach in an effort to get people counted. Several area papers carried ads asking those who felt they had not been “enumerated” to mail a form to her, c/o Nichols School in Evanston. Presumably a census taker would then be sent to gather more information.[2]

Estelle Northam’s involvement in civic activities spanned many years. Her obituary in the Chicago Tribune bore the title “Mrs. Northam, Civic Leader, Dies” and noted that she was “active in civic affairs most of her life.”

Father: A.C. McChesney, doctor
Mother: Mary E. McChesney
Children: Yes, 1 - Neola
Education: La Salle Seminary for Young Women, Auburdale, MA; women's college in Berlin run by Mary Bannister Willard (from Evanston)
Years in Evanston: 1918-1963