Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of HERTHA HESS JOBSON HENLEY, 1876-1942

By Linda D. Wilson, Independent Historian

Future Oklahoma suffragist Hertha Hess was born on February 20, 1876, in Macon, Missouri, the daughter of Judge Charles P. Hess and his wife Carrie. After graduating from Macon (Missouri) High School in 1893, Hertha Hess attended St. James Academy, where she probably studied stenography, typewriting, and bookkeeping. She had oratory skills as evidenced by her presentation of a paper entitled "The Progress of the Nineteenth Century" at the 1893 high school commencement and her recitation of "The Face Against the Pane" at the commencement exercise of the St. James Academy at the Jobson Opera House in 1894. Hertha Hess studied law with her father and attended the Chicago Law School. She passed the bar in Missouri.

During her young adulthood, Hertha Hess organized a whist club for the young people in Macon, Missouri. Additionally, she was a member and hosted the Fin-de-siècle club. Hess was a charter member and the recording secretary for a women's relief organization for soldiers and sailors established in 1898, coinciding with the Spanish American War. Reportedly, she was "a first-class newspaper woman" while working on the editorial staff of the Macon Citizen.

Hess married attorney George R. Jobson circa 1899. In 1901 they moved from Macon, Missouri, to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he continued his work as a lawyer and she worked on the editorial staff of the Daily Oklahoman. As a capitalist, Hertha Jobson was an investor/incorporator of the Journalists' Investment Company of Oklahoma City in February 1907.

Tragically, George Jobson committed suicide on June 8, 1906. Two years later Hertha Jobson married Clarence L. Henley, a prominent Oklahoma City businessman, on December 22, in Macon, Missouri. Establishing their home in an affluent Oklahoma City neighborhood, they entertained the city's high society.

In addition to being a society lady, Hertha Henley actively worked for woman's suffrage and on Oklahoma City civic projects. In June 1918 the State Suffrage Campaign Committee unanimously elected her chair. National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) representatives suggested that Oklahoma suffragists needed to raise $25,000. Henley wrote to county chapters asking for donations. They refused to help and some county chairpersons resigned. Discouraged by this, Henley submitted her resignation to the NAWSA national headquarters. Carrie Chapman Catt was instrumental in keeping Henley as chair by promising to send national organizers to Oklahoma at no expense to the state if Oklahoma would pay for the expenses of their headquarters.

During 1918 Oklahoma suffragists circulated petitions and collected more than fifty thousand signatures. In October 1918 Henley presented the petitions to Oklahoma Governor Robert L. Williams in a ceremony on the capitol steps. During World War I, Henley was a member of the Council of Defense, specializing in food conservation work. For Independence Day in 1918 Henley wrote "Independence Day Proclamation" declaring that Oklahoma women loyally served their country during World War I, but they remained without the vote. In the article she quoted pro-suffrage remarks by Judge C. B. Ames of Oklahoma City. As chair of the Oklahoma State Suffrage Campaign Committee, Henley wrote and had published her defense for women's right to vote and asked Oklahoma men to approve an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution in October 1918.

Hertha Henley was a Republican in politics. In 1927 she served as president of the Woman's Republican Club of Oklahoma City. An active golfer, she was secretary/treasurer of the Oklahoma City Woman's Golf Club in 1915. Hertha Henley died on February 9, 1942, and was buried in Fairlawn Cemetery, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Her husband died twenty-three years later. They had no children.

SOURCES: Beaver (OK) Herald, 4 July and 24 October 1918. Rex F. Harlow, comp., Makers of Government in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, OK: Harlow Publishing Co., 1930). Ida Husted Harper, ed., The History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920, Vol. 6 (National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), 530 and 532. [LINK] Mattie Louise Ivie, "Woman Suffrage in Oklahoma, 1890-1918" (Master's thesis, Oklahoma State University, 1971), 51-52 and 55-56. La Plata (MO) Home Press, 14 June 1906. Macon (Missouri) Chronicle-Herald, 16 February 1942. Macon (MO) Republican, 12 May 1893, 8 June 1894, 11 October 1895, 10 June and 9 December 1898, and 20 October 1899. Macon (MO) Times-Democrat, 14 June 1906 and 24 December 1908. Missouri, Marriage Records, 1805-2002, accessed on on April 6, 2018. Muskogee (OK) Times-Democrat, 20 May 1915. New State Tribune (Muskogee, Oklahoma Territory), 21 February 1907. Oklahoma City (OK) Times, 17 February 1917. Oklahoma State Capital (Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory), 28 October 1904., Oklahoma State Vital Records Index, death record accessed online on April 5, 2018. U.S. Federal Census, 1880 and 1900, Macon, Macon County, Missouri. Wichita Daily Eagle (Wichita, KS), 19 May 1907.

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