By Allison Herrera
Undergraduate, Louisiana State University
Bertha Berglin Moller was born in Sweden in 1888. Her family immigrated to the United States and she was raised in Rush City, Minnesota. After attending the Duluth Normal School, Berglin started her career as a schoolteacher. Berglin married Charles Frederick Moller in 1910. Due to her Swedish heritage and progressive attitude towards women, Moller developed an interest in women’s suffrage. Two of Moller’s uncles were government officials in Sweden, and supported women’s rights.
Moller began organizing for the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA) in 1916. The MWSA existed from 1881 to 1920. The organization’s goal was to obtain women’s right to vote. Members of the MWSA organized marches, petitioned, gave speeches and wrote articles to sway the Minnesota Legislature to approve woman suffrage. As a result of the members’ efforts, the Legislature eventually approved limited suffrage rights for women in 1919. After working with the MWSA, Moller then worked devotedly for the Congressional Union and the National Woman’s Party. In 1918, she served as the secretary of the Minnesota Branch of the National Woman’s Party (NWP) for one year. Moller’s most noteworthy efforts centered around her demonstrations in front of the White House and the Capitol. Throughout 1918 and 1919, Moller joined the marches and picketing by suffragists in Washington, D.C. As a result, she was jailed 11 times and served two short jail sentences. On one of those occasions, Moller led a hunger strike. She dramatized the political struggle for the 19th Amendment by staging suffrage ballets in theaters throughout D.C. Moller is credited with persuading the 1920 Democratic Party presidential nominee, James M. Cox, to support the drive for the 19th Amendment in Tennessee. In 1920 she also campaigned to lobby Warren G. Harding, the Republican presidential candidate on behalf of woman suffrage.
Bertha Moller became head of the Minnesota NWP after passage of the 19th Amendment and worked during the 1920s and 1930s on passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Much like Alice Paul, Moller entered law school at the University of Minnesota in 1921.
The efforts of Bertha Moller and other Minnesota suffragists are commemorated in the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota.
A detailed biography of Bertha Berglin Moller is found in Molly Guthrey, "Minnesota's Suffragists," St. Paul Pioneer Press, April 19, 2000. Background information on Moller’s activism in protesting and dramatizing the scene for women’s suffrage is included in Barbara Stuhler, “Organizing for the Vote: Leaders of Minnesota's Woman Suffrage Movement,” Minnesota History 54 (Fall 1995): 290-303. Available at: http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/54/v54i07p290-303.pdf
For additional information on the Minnesota Woman’s Suffrage Association see: http://www.mnopedia.org/group/minnesota-woman-suffrage-association.
Barbara Stuhler, Gentle Warriors: Clara Ueland and the Minnesota Struggle for Woman Suffrage (MN Historical Society Press, 1995).
Bertha Berglin Moller