Biographical Sketch of Alice Buenna Henkle


Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Alice Buenna Henkle, 1882-1957

By Monica L. Mercado, Assistant Professor of History, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York


Alice Buenna Henkle was born in Springfield, Illinois on October 25, 1882, the first of William Henry Henkle and Mary (Zane) Henkle’s two children. By 1900, the teenage Alice and her family were living on Madison Park Avenue in the Kenwood section of south Chicago, one of only a handful of private residential parkways in the city, afforded by William Henkle’s Illinois Trust and Savings Bank directorship. As the Kenwood neighborhood grew in step with the new University of Chicago in neighboring Hyde Park, Alice enrolled at Ascham Hall—a boarding and day school for girls—just a few blocks from the family home. Alice graduated Ascham Hall in 1901 and entered Bryn Mawr College in 1902, where she studied History, Economics, and Politics before withdrawing in October 1904, at the start of her third year. She later attended the University of Chicago for four non-consecutive quarters in 1906, 1908, and 1909, but never earned a degree. Little is known of her college years, although it appears Alice lived in Europe for part of 1908. She continued to live with her parents in Chicago through the 1920s.

Alice Henkle spent much of the 1910s traveling throughout the United States for her suffrage work. She was already active in the 1916 Chicago founding convention of the National Woman’s Party when it was widely reported that Henkle would be managing the campaign for Nevada state suffrage, while based out of Chicago. Over Labor Day weekend 1916, she was asked to speak about suffrage at the Saltair amusement park bandstand on Utah’s Great Salt Lake. She stayed in Salt Lake City for some time with her aunt Margaret Zane Cherdron, also an NWP activist. On January 23, 1917, the Chicago Tribune newspaper reported that Henkle was on the White House picket lines, noting her she was already “well known in Chicago suffrage circles.” The next day, the Tribune featured Henkle’s portrait under the caption “Picketing: Chicago Young Woman Who is ‘Shadowing’ White House for Suffrage Amendment.”

Henkle wrote about her time as “captain of the picket line” for the May 1917 issue of The Suffragist. In that piece, entitled “Heard on the Firing Line,” Henkle reflected on the many men and women she met on the front lines of the suffrage fight—from tourists to congressmen, policemen to construction workers, schoolboys to young women eager to join the cause. “Many stop to ask questions of give a word of encouragement,” she wrote. Politicians, once “too bashful to voice their sentiments in regard to the picket, [now] tell us they are for liberty for American women.” Anticipating larger successes, Henkle concluded, “we who stand holding these banners every day know that, once seen, men and women do not forget our purple, white, and gold flags. They have come to symbolize our insistent demand for justice.”

By the summer of 1917 Henkle was named a field secretary of the National Woman’s Party, continuing to work in the western states, including Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. In October, she began assisting organizing efforts in Spokane, Washington. In the 1920 federal census, Alice Henkle—now 37 years old—was listed as a suffrage organizer.

After the gains of 1920, Alice Henkle served as Secretary of the Illinois chapter of the National Woman’s Party. Henkle never married; she appears again in the 1930 census living in San Diego, California, and, later in life, spent much of her time in Harbor Springs, Michigan, on the northeast shores of Lake Michigan. Henkle died in 1957, and is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, in her birthplace, Springfield, Illinois. She left no known papers.

Sources: for birth and death information.

Alice Henkle, “Heard on the Firing Line,” The Suffragist (May 12, 1917), p. 4.

“Affairs in Society,” Colorado Springs Gazette (July 15, 1917), p. 20.

Bryn Mawr College, Program, Academic Year 1905-06 (Philadelphia, PA: The John C. Winston, Co., 1905).

“Eastern Suffragists in Earnest,” The Idaho Register (August 8, 1916), p. 3.

“Many Meetings are Planned by Workers,” Salt Lake Telegram (August 30, 1916), p. 9.

“Miss Alice Henkle Picket at Doors of White House,” Chicago Daily Tribune (January 23, 1917), p. 3.

“Personal Mention,” Colorado Springs Gazette (July 13, 1917), p. 7.

“Picketing,” Chicago Daily Tribune (January 24, 1917), p. 5.

Susan O’Connor Davis, Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2013).

“Woman Organizer is Called to Spokane,” Salt Lake Telegram (October 10, 1917), p. 3.

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