Nellie Stone Johnson’s sewing machine

collections up close Blog

Collecting pieces of Minnesota's past for the future


The Minnesota Historical Society preserves and makes available a wide range of materials chronicling Minnesota's history and culture. The goals of the Collections Department are to collect and preserve; provide access and interpretation; and engage in education and outreach. This blog is a tool to share these stories and let people know what is happening in the department.

See Collections Up Close Blog Archive

All MNHS Blogs

Subscribe by e-mail:

 Subscribe in a reader

Nellie Stone Johnson’s sewing machine

By: Lori Williamson | Collections Up Close | July 18, 2017


“I’m not going to quit.  There is too much to do.  People need jobs, equality, education...Can’t stop now.”

--Nellie Stone Johnson, 1995

Nellie Stone Johnson (1905-2002) was one of Minnesota’s greatest champions for civil rights and economic opportunity.  For more than half a century the Lakeville, Minnesota native fought for justice and equality as a statewide labor union leader and organizer, a founding member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, and an advisor to Hubert Humphrey.  A longtime employee of the hotel industry, Johnson’s determined organizing efforts helped to eradicate racial and gender pay inequities and segregated work facilities in the Twin Cities.   Johnson retired from the hotel industry in 1963 and started a tailoring business in Minneapolis, where she used this sewing machine for over 30 years.  

Johnson continued to support labor and political causes and in 1989 the W. Harry Davis Foundation honored her service with the “Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship”, which awards financial assistance to racial minorities and union members seeking an education at Minnesota’s state colleges and universities.       

Adam Scher, senior curator   

Nellie Stone Johnson's shop