Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Bertha A. Wilcox, 1862-1949
By Annika Hogstorm, Iowa State University
Faculty Sponsor: Sarah Chase Crosby
Subject Librarian: Susan A. Vega Garcia
President of the Iowa State Suffrage Association
Bertha De Belloy was born 1862 in Illinois before moving to Ida Grove, Iowa where she married her husband William, had a daughter named Vera, and began her work as a suffragist, according to various government documents from Ancestry.com. Based on her roles and local and national involvement, Bertha A. Wilcox was active in the early women's suffrage movement in Iowa.
In particular, she had many influential roles in the Iowa State Suffrage Association. In 1905, Wilcox was said to be the recording secretary in The Women's Journal from December of the same year. In 1893, 1905, 1906, and 1907, she was elected president of the Iowa State Suffrage Association, which is known because of articles published in The Women's Journal in 1905 and 1907. Additionally, The History of Woman Suffrage, volume 6, mentions her as the president in 1893. During this time, Wilcox was a part of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and in 1893, she gave a speech as the president of the Iowa Women's Suffrage Association at the national convention of NAWSA.
Through these roles and involvement, Wilcox encouraged those in her state to participate in the fight for women's suffrage. In 1893, the published minutes of the NAWSA convention talked about spreading the suffrage cause across the state. In her speech, Wilcox specifically focused on all the ways the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association had done this; such as offering a $25 prize to clubs that showed increased numbers, distributing literature from national and state levels to schools and clubs that were not focused on suffrage (to spark debates), and encourage schools to have essay writing contests. At the end of this speech she stated: "There has never been such a time in the history of the Iowa Association when the clubs and the State organization worked in closer fellowship and such earnest, harmonious effort should surely be crowned with success." Based on this declared connection, she helped to unite the suffrage clubs across the state of Iowa in her time as president.
Wilcox was involved not only at a local level, but also at a national level. In a letter she wrote for The Woman's Journal, published in 1906, Wilcox encouraged clubs across the country to join the fight for suffrage and to not be disheartened by the blockage of women's suffrage on a national level. In this same paper, the Des Moines Leader, Bertha Wilcox is quoted discussing the Iowa State Suffrage Association gaining access to the Republican State Convention. This source specifically described that the women of the Political Equality Club are said to have distributed fans to the men of the convention on one hot day; on one side of the fan was a picture, and on the other side it said 'Let The Women Vote,' with quotes in favor for women's suffrage from notable men. This source also reveals that the Des Moines Leader praised her own work by saying, "It is doubted if the advocates of woman suffrage ever presented better arguments." Additionally, in The Women's Journal, published in 1906, Bertha Wilcox had written, "In the name of all that is sacred in a representative government which boasts that it was established and is perpetrated by the 'consent of the governed,' let us again unitedly protest against this colossal injustice to women."
In her later life, Wilcox moved to Los Angeles, California with her daughter, where she died in 1949, based on the California Death Index. However, before her death, Bertha A. Wilcox's positions and involvement clearly made her an active part of the suffrage movement.
Ancestry.com. "Bertha A De Belloy." Iowa Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1999. Ancestry.com. Accessed September 20, 2017. http://www.ancestry.com.
Ancestry.com. "Bertha Alice Wilcox." California Death Index, 1940-1997. Ancestry.com. Accessed September 20, 2017. http://www.ancestry.com.
Ancestry.com. "Bertha De Belloy." Iowa Marriage Records, 1880-1940. Ancestry.com. Accessed September 20, 2017. http://www.ancestry.com.
Ancestry.com. "Bertha Wilcox." 1900 United States Federal Census. Ancestry.com. Accessed September 20, 2017. http://www.ancestry.com.
"Iowa Annual Meeting." The Woman's Journal 37, no. 34 (1906).
Jordan, William George. "Informal Editorial Talks." The Search-Light, January 6, 1906. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101075305167;view=1up;seq=20wmjrnl37&div=35&g_sent=1&casa_token=&collection=journals.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, et al. The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 5.
"State Correspondence." The Woman's Journal 38, no. 45. (1907).
"State Correspondence." The Woman's Journal 35, no. 49 (1905).
Upton, Harriet Taylor, ed., Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Washington D.C.: Stormont and Jackson. 1893. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.rslfc2;view=1up;seq=8.