Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Nellie Healy O'Hara, 1866-1928
By Jennifer Coggins, archivist
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Nellie Healy O'Hara was born July 26, 1866 in Albany, New York. She spent her childhood in Kentucky, where her family moved shortly after she was born. She taught in the Cincinnati public schools before moving with her husband, J.B. O'Hara, to Palm Beach, Florida in 1911. J.B. O'Hara was a linotype operator in Cincinnati, then secretary of the West Palm Beach Board of Trade. He was active in the International Typographical Union and secretary of the Palm Beach County Fair Association.
Nellie Healy O'Hara was involved with a number of organizations, including the Catholic Daughters of America, the Women's Auxiliary of the International Typographical Union, the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), the West Palm Beach Business and Professional Woman's Club, and the Greater Palm Beach Woman's Athletic Club. She was Chair of the Girl Scout Council, Vice President of the Palm Beach County Fair Association, and Secretary of the Palm Beach County Welfare Association. She was a leader in efforts to establish the County Home for Children of Palm Beach, and was active in the Democratic Party.
In 1917, she was interviewed by the Palm Beach Post in support of women carrying home their own purchases from stores rather than having items delivered to their homes. She touted this as a way to save money and to "release able-bodied men for the army or for more important places in the industrial world" in war time. The following fall, she spent two weeks at a war college at the Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee (now Florida State University). The program, attended by over 375 women from around the state, focused on how home demonstration activities (education in household management and skills) could be used to support the war effort.
From 1918 to 1920, she was president of the Palm Beach Woman's Club, then chaired the club's Civics Committee. She also served as Vice President, then as Press Chair, of the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs.
She was the founder of the Civil League of Women at Palm Beach, which became the Palm Beach County League of Women Voters, the first League of Women Voters in the state of Florida. She helped start similar organizations throughout the state, and from 1921 to 1926 served as the first president of the Florida League of Women Voters. In October 1920, she advocated Palm Beach Post on behalf of the League, emphasizing that it is a non-partisan organization.
Nellie Healy O'Hara died on December 5, 1928 at age 62.
Altman, Burt. "Florida State College for Women/Florida State University School of Home Economics Florida Extension Services Collection, 1937-1969 [Finding Aid]," Florida State University. Accessed 21 November 2017. [LINK].
"Mrs. J.B. O'Hara Says 'Carry it Home'," Palm Beach Post, 22 September 1917.
"Florida Deaths, 1877-1939," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FPZN-SRH : 24 December 2014), Nellie Healy O'Hara, 05 Dec 1928; citing Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Florida, reference 20020; FHL microfilm 2,135,289.
Scrapbook, courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
"United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MX7P-BHN : 12 April 2016), Ellen Healy in household of Henry Healy, Kentucky, United States; citing p. 113, family 892, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 545,952.