Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Frances Sheldon Bolley, 1866-1930

By Madison Carr, Undergraduate: University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Congressional Chairman of State Officer Committee, North Dakota Votes for Women League

Frances Barnett Bolley (nee Sheldon) was born in Madison, Wisconsin on January 17, 1866 to Alfred and Lucy Sherwood Sheldon. Bolley graduated from Oberlin College with a bachelor's degree in Greek in 1887, then taught for several years in Madison high schools. She moved to Fargo, North Dakota in 1893 to be a preceptress and professor of Greek language and literature, German, and history at Fargo College, which was founded in 1887. Fargo College was a coeducational, private, liberal arts college associated with the Congregational Church. On September 23, 1896 in Janesville, WI, she married Henry Luke Bolley, a prominent professor in plant biology and zoology at the North Dakota Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University) and founder and first coach of the college's storied football program. Together they adopted two children, Donald Sheldon Bolley and Ann Sheldon Bolley Brady.

Bolley was involved with the North Dakota Votes for Women League, which was founded in Fargo in 1912. Bolley served as a congressional chairman at the first convention held at the Civic Center in Fargo on October 18, 1913.

Bolley was an active member of the Fargo community. She was a member of the Fargo Public Library board, the Fargo Board of Education, the Free Kindergarten Association, the Women's Club of Fargo, and the Florence Crittenton Home Board of Directors (which provided a home for unwed mothers), and did fundraising for the Fargo Community Chest. She was particularly involved with the Fine Arts Club of Fargo and the North Dakota Federation of Women's Clubs. After joining the Fine Arts Club of Fargo during its organization in 1911, Bolley went on to serve as the chairwoman of the program committee for many years. In 1924 she was elected President of the club and was re-elected to this position twice. She founded the History Section of the Fine Arts Club in 1926. At the time of her death, Bolley was parliamentarian of the North Dakota Federation of Women's Clubs, an organization that, according to the State Historical Society of North Dakota, wanted to "bring the women of the State into communication for acquaintance, mutual helpfulness, and the promotion of higher intellectual, social, and moral conditions."

Bolley died in Buenos Aires, Argentina on August 19, 1930 after suffering two strokes. She was traveling with her husband, who was conducting research on flax in the area. Her body was brought back to North Dakota and she is interred at Riverside Cemetery in Fargo.


Teigen, Danielle. Hidden History of Fargo. Charleston: The History Press, 2017.

Leonard, John William. Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, New York: American Commonwealth Company, 1914-1915, 112.

"Resolutions," Dickinson Press (Dickinson, ND), May 1, 1915.

"Fargo Woman Dies in South America," Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, ND), September 6, 1930.

"Biography," H.L. Bolley Photography Collection, University Archives, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

"Manuscripts by Subject - Women's History - #10202," Archives and Manuscripts, State Historical Society of North Dakota, 2018.

"Fargo College," Fargo, North Dakota: Its History, NDSU Archives, 2004.

"Finding Aid." Fargo College Records, (MSS 153) Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

Fargo Forum Sept. 4, 1930

Fargo Forum Sept. 6, 1930

Harper, Ida Husted. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 6, 1900-1920. [LINK]

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