Mahala Pillsbury Biography

Mahala Fisk was born in Springfield, New Hampshire, on May 8, 1832. Her parents, Captain John and Sarah (Goodhue) Fisk, both came from prominent early families in New England. Mahala was well educated; she attended both Hopkinton Academy and Sanhornton Seminary, graduating at the age of 19. She taught school in New Hampshire until her marriage to John S. Pillsbury, a friend of her brother. The couple wed in New Hampshire in 1856 and traveled together to St. Anthony, Minnesota, John Pillsbury's home, shortly thereafter. 

Throughout her life, Mrs. Pillsbury was involved in helping others through her leadership in benevolent societies and philanthropic causes. In 1862 she provided help for refugees from the U.S.-Dakota War. She was a trustee for the Northwestern Hospital for Women, and was named a trustee of the Washburn Memorial Orphan Asylum in the will of its founder, flour milling magnate Cadwallader C. Washburn.

In 1881 Mrs. Pillsbury helped to found a home for the benefit of children and, later, for dependent older women, and served as its first president. The Pillsburys also purchased a large home at 819 Second Avenue South in Minneapolis to serve as low-cost housing for working women. They donated the house, known as the Mahala Fisk Pillsbury Home for Working Girls, to the Women's Christian Association of Minneapolis in 1899.

Mrs. Pillsbury joined the First Congregational Church in 1858 and served as president of the church's Benevolent Society for more than twenty years. An accomplished musician, she sang in the choir and played the organ that she and her husband had donated to the church.

The Pillsburys had four children, one adopted (Addie) and three biological (Susan, Sarah Belle, and Alfred). Mahala Pillsbury died on June 23, 1910 in Minneapolis, and was laid to rest in Lakewood Cemetery next to her husband, who passed away on October 18, 1901.