Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Harriet Sheldon (Mrs. Thomas B.) Wells, 1873-1961

By Isha Kumar, undergraduate, SUNY Binghamton, Professor Leigh Ann Wheeler

Secretary of the Woman Suffrage Party and Treasurer of the Leslie Suffrage Commission

Mrs. Thomas Bucklin Wells was born Harriet Haskell Sheldon in Brooklyn, New York on April 14, 1873 to George Preston Sheldon and Ann Frances Pendleton. She married Thomas Bucklin Wells on June 21, 1902. Wells was at one point the editor of Harper's Magazine, a monthly magazine focusing on literature, arts, politics and finance. Mrs. Thomas B. Wells trained in the schools of Greenwich and the Brooklyn Heights Seminary and then spent 4 years in Munich, Paris and Geneva before coming home. Then, for 10 years, she was the Secretary of the Woman Suffrage Party which then turned into the League of Women Voters.

Mrs. Thomas B. Wells was the treasurer for the Leslie Suffrage Commission and the Woman Citizen magazine. This magazine began as the Woman's Journal, printed monthly by the Women's Citizen Corporation at 171 Madison Avenue, New York. It was published from 1870-1931 and was founded by Lucy Stone but in 1917 it was purchased by Carrie Chapman Catt's Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission and merged with The Woman Voter and National Suffrage News to become known as The Woman Citizen. Mrs. Thomas B. Wells is listed in the credit section from volume 13 issue 1, to volume 16 issue 6. These were published from January 1928- June 1931. The Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission was a woman's suffrage organization formed by Carrie Chapman Catt, and Mrs. Thomas B Wells was added to it in 1917 where she promoted suffrage through education. She was also a part of the National League of Women Voters where she was the treasurer for the hostess state committee during their fifth annual convention in Buffalo, New York in 1924. She was also a director for the Republican Neighborhood Association and the English Speaking Union. The English Speaking Union of the United States was formed in 1920 and used English as a shared language to foster global understanding by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students and educators.

Mrs. Thomas B Wells' role in the National League of Women Voters was focused on issues like education in government, international cooperation to prevent war, child welfare, education, and uniform laws for women and women working in industry. In 1924 she participated in a series of conferences and dinner parties where these ideas were discussed. She also attended conventions such as one in Rochester in 1925. In addition to the National League of Women Voters, she seemed to be involved in a lot of charity work as well. A 1920 newspaper article mentions that she was on a board under the European Relief Council to raise money to feed undernourished war victims in Europe. The Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission had five hiring committee members that Mrs. Thomas B. Wells was associated with, most notably Carrie Chapman Catt, Mrs. Harriet Taylor Upton, and Miss Alice Stone Blackwell. Mrs. Thomas B. Wells helped in using the money the Commission had to help promote women's suffrage by educating the public. Mrs. Thomas B. Wells was evidently a very active suffragist and her contributions to the suffrage movement has helped women get to where they are today.

She died in New York City on February 8th, 1961.

Sources: North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, Operations, Inc., 2016

"25 Women Named on Board to Help in European Relief." New York Tribune (New York City), December 28, 1920.

"Busy Days Ahead for Women Voters;Complete Program." (Buffalo Enquirer ), April 24, 1924. Catt, Carrie Chapman, National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection (library of Congress), and Rose E. (Rose Emmet) Young.

"The record of the Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission, Inc., 1917-1929." The Library of Congress. Accessed October 01, 2017.

Anonymous. "Credits." Woman's Journal, January 1928, 3.

"Dances Bulk Large on Programs of Many of the Women's club." New York Herald (New York City), December 10, 1922.

Mrs. T.B. Wells, Mrs. D.A. Palmer & Mary G. Hay -- Suffrage Farm. 1917. Bain Collection. In Library of Congress. 2015. Accessed September 28, 2017.

"Sheldon Left $300,000." The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 16, 1910.

"Smallest Corner of League Office Treasurer's Own ." Buffalo Enquirer, April 26, 1924.

"Social Notes." Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester), April 13, 1925.

"Suffragist's to Be Her Guests." The Brooklyn Daily Edge, December 23, 1913.

"Suffragette Dies." The Bridgeport Telegram, February 10, 1961.

"Thomas B. Wells of Harper's Dead." The New York Times, September 29, 1944.

"Weddings of a Day." The New York Times, June 22, 1902.


A picture of of Mrs. Thomas B. Wells found in a newspaper article written in the Buffalo Enquirer published April 26th, 1924. It was accompanied with a paragraph all about her.

Source: The Buffalo Enquirer


Photograph shows suffragists at a suffrage farm including: (left to right) Mrs. Thomas B. Wells, Mrs. Daniel Appleton Palmer, head of the Bronx branch of the Woman Suffrage Party; and Mary Garrett Hay, chairman of the New York City Woman Suffrage Party.

Source: Library of Congress

back to top