Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Carrie Thomas Alexander Bahrenburg, 1861 – 1929
By William P. Shannon IV, Curator, St. Clair County Historical Society, Belleville, Illinois
Carrie Thomas Alexander Bahrenburg was born in Belleville, IL on March 4, 1861. Her parents were Col. John Thomas and Magdalena Von Aue Thomas née Holdener. Col. Thomas served as a St. Clair County Commissioner and as Superintendent of the St. Clair County Poor Farm. Carrie was first married to Henry Alexander, the founder of the Belleville Street Car Company. When he died of tuberculosis in 1908, Carrie inherited the business and oversaw its operations. She married Dr. William Bahrenburg in 1909. She died on November 24, 1929 at her home in Belleville.
She was involved with many organizations. Bahrenburg was a member of the Women's Relief Corps, the female auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1896, she was chosen to represent Illinois to the national convention of the WRC; in 1915, she became the National President. From 1900-1912, she served on the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, the first woman to do so. She also assisted with the home front effort during World War I, organizing the local chapter of the Women's Council of National Defense in Belleville in 1917.
Her activism for voting rights forms a central facet of her legacy. She worked at the local, regional, and national levels to support equal rights in the voting franchise. She organized women to run for the local school board in Belleville in 1912. In 1913, she organized a chapter of the Women's Equal Suffrage League in Belleville. This was done to assist women in accessing and voting in local elections.
That same year, she became a Director of the Illinois Suffrage Association and was also chosen to lead the Belleville Chapter of the Women's Civic League. She brought Belleville's clergymen together to preach about equal voting rights for women in 1914. During her tenure as the National President of the Women's Relief Corps, she called upon the organization to support equal voting rights for women; this was done at their National Convention in August of 1916 in Kansas City. As women were readying to vote for the first time in national elections, Bahrenburg founded the Belleville Chapter of the League of Women Voters in October of 1920.
She also supported Prohibition, being involved with the local chapter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Marrying the causes of prohibition and women's suffrage shows the paradox of Carrie Bahrenburg and of her era. Giving the right to vote, but removing the right to drink is an interesting juxtaposition of public responsibilities and private rights, but this was a common thread in the suffrage movement at the time.
- “Belleville Now Has Suffragette League,” Belleville News-Democrat (BND), March 21, 1913, 1.
- “Belleville Women Enter School Election,” (BND), April 12, 1912, 1.
- “Carrie Alexander Bahrenburg [obituary],” BND, March 30, 1929, 1.
- “Clergymen on Suffrage,” BND, April 25, 1914, 2.
- “League to Educate Women Voters to have Chapter Here,” BND, October 13, 1920, 1.
- “Urges W.R.C. to Endorse National Suffrage,” BND, August 30, 1916, 1.
- “Will Go to National Suffrage Convention,” BND, November 26, 1913, 1.
- Women's Relief Corps, Journal of the Thirty-Third National Convention of the Women's Relief Corps, Washington D.C., Boston: Griffith-Stillings, 1915.