Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Jean Wallace Butler, 1851-1927
By Anna Harvey, student, Brown University
Director, Illinois League of Women Voters; President, Elizabeth Cady Stanton League; Chairman (Finance Committee), National Women's Suffrage Parade; Member (Board of Trustees), Chicago Political Equality League
To many, Jean Wallace Butler was "a well-known businesswoman," most recognizable from her advertisements for "Buena Skin Tonic, the first skin astringent lotion on the market" that appeared in local Chicago papers. It was from this highly public background that much of her early political engagement and subsequent suffrage work stemmed. Although details about her early life are scarce, Jean Wallace Butler was born around 1851 in Canada.
In 1915, Butler became President of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton League, and the following year she served as chairman of the finance committee for the National Women's Suffrage Parade. 1916 was particularly monumental for Butler, as she was instrumental in the organization of a massive letter-writing campaign to the Illinois state legislature, in which women from all over the state pressured candidates to reveal their views regarding women's suffrage.
In 1917, Butler attended the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson and stayed in Washington D.C. for the month of May, likely engaging in other forms of political activism. During this period, she also served two years on the board of trustees of Chicago's Political Equality League, utilizing her financial experience yet again. Her Chicago home was a frequent meeting spot, most notably as the site of the 18th Ward Civic League's weekly discussions. By 1919, Butler was a well-known force in the movement, and her attendance at the National American Woman Suffrage Association's Jubilee Convention, from March 24-29 of that year placed her among the ranks of other lauded activists. Butler died in Chicago in 1927.
Gail Laughlin, "Women Voters in Convention: Notable Gathering of Enfranchised Women," Everywoman, October 1913, 4-5. Accessed online at
Ida Husted Harper, ed., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922), p. 155. [LINK]
"Announcements," The Day Book, 5:191 (10 May 1916), p. 10. Accessed online at
"Announcements," The Day Book, 5:119 (16 February 1916), p. 32. Accessed online at
"News of the Day Concerning Chicago," The Day Book, 6:132 (3 March 1917), p. 6. Accessed online at
Advertisement for "Buena Skin Tonic," in Meyers Brothers Druggist, 38:4 (April 1917), p. 79. Accessed online at https://books.google.com/books?id=q-RXAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA79&lpg=PA79&dq=jean+wallace+butler+astringent&source=bl&ots=GAXbMQdUXO&sig=ScKqOabjq8kDI0ByJlW23NjpuyE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiIo9vvzc_VAhVB04MKHffeCjgQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=jean%20wallace%20butler%20astringent&f=false
National American Woman Suffrage Association. Handbook of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the Jubilee Convention . . . March 24-29, 1919, p. 308. Accessed online at