Biographical Sketch of Kate Selby Wilder

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Kate Selby Wilder, 1876-1946

By Beth Twomey, librarian, North Dakota State University, North Dakota

Recording Secretary North Dakota Votes for Women League; Chairman of Woman for the Progressive Party of North Dakota; Recording Secretary North Dakota Branch of the General Federation of Women's Clubs; Superintendent for Press Work and State Lecturer for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of North Dakota.

Kate Selby was born January 23, 1876 in Meadville, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William A. and Adelia (Watson) Selby. In 1880 the family moved to a homestead 20 miles from Caledonia, North Dakota. Her father opened a law office in Caledonia and would travel by pony to visit his family. In 1882 the family moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where she graduated from high school. She worked in the Register of Deeds office in Grand Forks County until her marriage to Frederick H. Wilder in 1901 when they relocated to Fargo. They adopted one daughter Elizabeth.

Wilder helped organize the North Dakota Votes for Women League in February 1912. She served as recording secretary and in other capacities until the group re-organized at the League of Women Voters in 1920.

When presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt included woman suffrage on his platform in 1912, Wilder served as North Dakota Progressive Party chairman of women. In this capacity she hosted Jane Addams's visit to Fargo and Grand Forks.

Wilder served at local, state and national levels for the WCTU, including president of the Fargo union, state superintendent of press work, state lecturer, and national superintendent of the institute committee. She attended national WCTU conventions from 1912-1946.

During the unsuccessful 1914 campaign in North Dakota for the woman suffrage referendum, Wilder was in the field organizing public lectures, street meetings, and generating support for the cause. In 1917, the North Dakota legislature granted presidential and municipal woman suffrage.

In 1919 Wilder was elected as city commissioner in Fargo, holding the police commission portfolio for two years, and the health commission for two years. She was the first woman to hold city-wide office in North Dakota and thought to be the first woman police commissioner in United States.

Wilder served on the board of the Florence Crittenden Home and was a matron for the Order of the Eastern Star (a Masonic organization). She held leadership positions in several women's clubs including president of the Fortnightly Club and president of the School Center at Longfellow School in Fargo.

Kate Selby Wilder passed away on April 12, 1946 in Grand Forks, leaving behind one daughter Elizabeth Wilder Holland.


North Dakota Votes for Women League Records, NDSU Archives, North Dakota State University, Fargo. Mss 49, February 4, 1912.

History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920 edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Brownell Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Ida Husted Harper (pg. 501-507) [LINK]

Kate Selby Wilder Papers, Mss 367, NDSU Archives, Fargo, ND.

Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915 by William J. Leonard (p. 883) [LINK]

1940 Census- Fargo, Cass County, North Dakota;,82

History of North Dakota, by Lewis F. Crawford. Vol. 2. 1931, p. 347

Moriarty, Edith. "With the Women of Today." Grand Forks Herald, April 25, 1922. p.7.

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