Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Kate J. Herford Boeckh, 1868-1921
By Daniela Plunkett, undergraduate student, State University of New York at Oneonta
Kate J. Boeckh was one of the first women pilots in the United States.
Kate J. Herford was born in England in 1868 and migrated first to Canada, where she was recorded in Montreal in the 1901 census. She migrated to the United States in 1908, where she was listed in the 1910 federal census of the District of Columbia as a widowed, 41-year old household head with two teenage sons.
Boeckh joined the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage in February 1915 to help raise funds for the Susan B. Anthony amendment. In June 1915 she flew her biplane from California to Washington to draw attention to the suffrage movement, dropping suffrage literature along the way. On August 6, 1917, Boeckh was arrested with forty-six other women carrying banners with the purple, white, and gold of the National Woman's Party. They were all arrested for climbing the statue of Lafayette opposite the east gate of the White House.
Six women were arrested picketing outside of the White House and charged with "blocking traffic" and sentenced to thirty days in the Government Workhouse. On August 23, to protest the arrest of these women, Boeckh and five other women arrived at the White House with banners bearing the words, "I tell you solemnly, ladies and gentlemen, we cannot postpone justice any longer in these United States, and I don't wish to sit down and let any man take care of me without my having at least a voice in it."
After ten minutes they were all arrested. They were fined twenty-five dollar or thirty days at the Occoquan Workhouse. All the women refused to pay the fine. On August 28, Boeckh and all the other women were once again arrested. This time an appeal was granted and the judge declared this would be the last appeal he would give in the picketing cases until the Court of Appeals handed down a decision.
Boeckh was once again arrested on January 25, 1919 for applauding Mary Nolan's speech declaring her guilt for feeding the flames of the "Watchfires of Freedom" outside of the White House. She served three days in prison.
Little is known of her life after suffrage, other than that she attended a tea held in honor of the British suffragist, Mrs. Pethick Lawrence, in October 1920. She died in Chicago in 1921 and was buried in Toronto.
"Many Suffragists Enlist," Evening Star (Washington, DC), February 4, 1915, 16;
"Many Contributors to Suffrage Fund," Washington Herald, February 5, 1915, 6; "Adding Members to Aid Anthony Fund," Washington Times, February 5, 1915, 4;
Doris Fleischman, "Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont Proposes Woman's Political Party to Secure
Legislative Reforms Desired by Woman Voters, Des Moines Tribune, May 17, 1915, 5; "Suffrage Drops from Heaven," Wyoming Reporter, June 23, 1915,
"Arrest Six More in Banner Fight," Middletown Times Press (New York), August 24, 1917, 5;
"Militant Suff Does Not Look Part, One Bit," Washington Times, October 20, 1920, 9; Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920);
Inez Haynes Gillmore, The Story of the Woman's Party (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921).
1901 Canadian Census of Montreal.
1910 U.S. federal manuscript census, Washington, D.C.
Illinois, Cook County Deaths 1878"“1922." Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Illinois Department of Public Health. "Birth and Death Records, 1916"“present." Division of Vital Records, Springfield, Illinois. Accessed through ancestry.com.