Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
By Amanda Hercula and Liette Gidlow, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Clubwoman, Activist, Donor
Charlotte Berry Sherrard was born in November 1869 in Detroit, Michigan, to Joseph and Mary H. Berry. Joseph Berry was a successful businessman, having developed his own furniture varnish and working as a real estate entrepreneur. In 1891, when Charlotte Berry married Henry Gary Sherrard, her father commissioned architect Albert Kahn to build them a new home on the fifteen acres of land owned by the Berry family in Grosse Pointe Farms. Joseph Berry and Henry Sherrard were among the first full-time residents of Grosse Pointe Farms and served as president and clerk, respectively, of the Grosse Pointe Farms government when it was incorporated in 1893. Both the Berry and Sherrard families were wealthy, affluent members of the Grosse Pointe community. Henry Sherrard graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan and was later awarded a Master of Arts from the same university when his health began to decline. Henry Sherrard taught Greek and Latin at Detroit Central High School and later co-founded the Detroit University School, now University Liggett. He acted as assistant principal at the Detroit University School until 1901. Henry Sherrard was known nationally as one of the most thorough masters of the classical languages. The majority of his income came from expensive private tutoring.
Charlotte Sherrard gave birth to three children. Her son, Joseph B. Sherrard, was born in 1893. Her two daughters, Valerra G. Sherrard and Lorra D. Sherrard, were born in 1898 and 1900, respectively. Henry Sherrard died in November 1907, and Charlotte Sherrard never remarried. She never had formal employment, though she did teach Presbyterian Sunday School; she relied mostly upon her inheritance from her father's large fortune as well as her late husband's fortune. After her husband died, her son continued to live with her, and he contributed to the household income as a result of his successful career in law.
Charlotte Sherrard began her activism in the women's suffrage movement after her husband's death. In 1919, she served as the Chairman of Literature for the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association. As the chair, Sherrard organized all the printed materials utilized within the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association. In this position, Sherrard utilized printed materials from the National Suffrage Campaign and also created materials specifically applicable to Michigan.
Sherrard also put her great fortune to use in the Michigan suffrage movement. She was among a group of people, including Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford, Mr. and Mrs. Willard Pope, Mr. and Mrs. Gustavus Pope, Mrs. John B. Ford, and Mrs. Delphine Dodge Ashburn, who together donated nearly half of the money required to finance the entire women's suffrage campaign in Michigan. Sherrard was also the first president of the Michigan League of Women Voters. During her presidency in 1926, she traveled to Paris with the National League of Women Voters for a worldwide suffrage alliance meeting. Sherrard also used her large estate to her advantage in her suffrage work. In the mid-1920s, a traveling Shakespearean theatrical group was brought into a popular park in Grosse Pointe, located next to the Sherrard estate, to perform A Midsummer Night's Dream as a fundraiser for the women's suffrage movement. At the invitation of Sherrard, the actors used the Sherrard estate for their dressing rooms.
Charlotte Sherrard was active in the communities of Grosse Pointe and Detroit. In 1928, she served on the Board of Trustees for the Detroit University School. Sherrard also became active in Grosse Pointe politics, specifically endorsing Stephen H. Van Tiem for the Township Treasurer in 1930. Additionally, she was a member of the Women's City Club and St. Paul's Cathedral.
Even after the U.S. passed the Nineteenth Amendment, Sherrard continued her work in the international suffrage movement. In 1930, she accepted reappointment to the Suffrage and Elections Committee for the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship. As one of her last acts within the community, Sherrard hosted tea at the Grosse Pointe Country Club for Mrs. Willem Van Beuningen, a World War II survivor visiting from Holland. Sherrard died in Grosse Pointe on January 4, 1952, at the age of 82. She was buried in Elmwood Cemetery. Her obituary was listed in both the Detroit Free Press and the Grosse Pointe Civic News.
In an interview conducted by Margie Reins Smith for Heritage, Sherrard's niece spoke fondly of her memories of her aunt. She said, "I can still visualize her in the library, sitting by the fireplace, reading a book. The library was lined with bookshelves. There were books all over. Both Charlotte and Henry were great readers." Her niece also recalled memories of Sherrard sitting outside on the screened veranda during the summertime, watching the cars drive down the road in front of her house.
The Sherrard estate is still an important piece of Grosse Pointe history. Claimed as the first home designed and built by Albert Kahn, it boasts many unique architectural and landscaping features such as intricate stone work and wood paneling. There are still tours and events at the Sherrard estate today, and the estate was featured as the setting for a book written by Jack Kerouac, the one-time husband of one of Sherrard's granddaughters.
Photographs of the historic Sherrard estate can be found on the Grosse Pointe Historical Society website and in the July 28, 2016 Grosse Pointe News. A photograph of Charlotte Berry Sherrard can be found in the "Joseph Berry Exhibit" on the Grosse Pointe Historical Society website.
Aliotta, Ann Marie and Suzy Berschback. Legendary Locals of Grosse Pointe. Michigan: Arcadia Publishing, 2013.
Blackwell, Alice Stone. The Woman Citizen. Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission, 1918.
"Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 7." National League of Women Voters, January 1930. Women and Social Movements. [LINK]
City of Detroit: Deluxe Supplement, Volume 2. Detroit: Clarke Publishing Company, December 31, 1922.
"Economics govern-Pointe preservation." Grosse Pointe News, May 19, 1983. Grosse Pointe Public Library, Local History Archives.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. "Michigan." Chapter XXI in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pp. 303-316. [LINK to MI state report]
"Historical Architecture of Grosse Pointe – A Kahn or not a Kahn that is the Question – 59 Lakeshore." Higbie Maxon Agney Realtors, March 8, 2016. http://higbiemaxon.com/2016/03/08/historical-architecture-of-grosse-pointe-a-kahn-or-not-a-kahn-that-is-the-question-59-lakeshore/.
"Mrs. Charlotte Berry Sherrard." The Detroit Free Press, January 6, 1952, Obituaries section. Newspapers.com.
"Mrs. Charlotte Berry Sherrard." Grosse Pointe Civic News, January 17, 1952, Obituaries section. Grosse Pointe Public Library, Local History Archives.
"New D.U.S. Building." Grosse Pointe Civic News, June 1928. Grosse Pointe Public Library, Local History Archives.
"Pop-up adventure." Grosse Pointe News, July 28, 2016. http://www.grossepointenews.com/Articles-Community-i-2016-07-28-261568.114135-Popup-adventure.html.
"Re-elect Stephen H. Van Tiem." The Grosse Pointe Review, February 27, 1930. Grosse Pointe Public Library, Local History Archives.
"The Grosse Pointe Guide." Grosse Pointe Public Library, Local History Archives.
Schreiner, Charlene. "Joseph Berry Exhibit." Grosse Pointe Historical Society. http://www.gphistorical.org/berry/pages/b01.html.
"Suffrage Alliance to Meet in Paris." The Michigan Daily, May 28, 1926, Women's section, 36th ed. The Michigan Daily Digital Archives.
"Visitor from Holland Enthralls Pointers With Stories of War." Grosse Pointe News, June 21, 1951.
Wayne County, Michigan. 1880 U.S. Census, population schedule. Digital images. Ancestry.com.
Wayne County, Michigan. 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940. U.S. Census, population schedule. Digital images. Ancestry.com.
"When the Pointe was Growing Up...." Grosse Pointe News, August 4, 1960, Feature section. Grosse Pointe Public Library, Local History Archives.
Wilson, Justina Leavitt, ed. Handbook of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the Jubilee Convention. New York City: National Women Suffrage Publishing Company, 1919.