Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Sarah C. Borland, 1852-1925

By Melissa Barthelemy, Graduate Student in History, University of California, Santa Barbara

Woman's Relief Corps; Patriotic Teaching Committee; Woman's Civic Club of Oakland; President of the Oakland City Club; president of the Suffrage Amendment League; corresponding secretary' for the California Equal Suffrage Association; the Ebell Society for the Advancement of Women

Sarah C. Borland was born in 1852, in New York. By 1880 she was married living in Kansas City, Kansas, and in 1881 she moved to Oakland, California with her husband David (1849-1915, a paperhanger and painter). The couple had three children. Not much is known about her life before moving to Oakland. Though once there, she lived at 406 13th Street with her husband David in the house built by his father, a well-known builder and plasterer. She is listed in Oakland city directories between 1892 and 1922 and worked in those years as a bookkeeper, secretary, and assistant. David is recorded as a paperhanger in Oakland in 1881, confirming the couple's earliest residence in the city.

Borland's life in Oakland was filled with social and civic group work. From around 1885 until at least 1897, she was active with the Woman's Relief Corps, the woman's auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, which was a group dedicated to remembering the Union Army in the Civil War. The Corps promoted Memorial Day as a national holiday and worked to promote patriotic education and pensions for nurses who served in the Civil War. In 1885 she was a delegate alternate for the Convention, and Borland was also a member of the Patriotic Teaching Committee of the Fifteenth National Convention in 1897.

She was vice-president of the Woman's Civic Club of Oakland, and president of the Oakland City Club in 1896. These clubs played an important role in the growth of Oakland—they brought women together to discuss important civic issues and subsequently influencing the men of their households to vote for forward-thinking civic plans. In May 1896, Borland hosted Susan B. Anthony who was touring California in support of the Woman Suffrage Referendum held that October.

Borland also served as the president of the Suffrage Amendment League of Oakland in 1907, as listed in Western Woman Magazine. In 1911, she was at the polls as part of the Amendment League to watch the polls for 12 hours and tried to influence the vote for women by being there. Women also watched polls to make sure that there were no illegal activities such as ballot stuffing or vote changing. The visibility of women at the polls was considered a useful tactic to help their cause, especially in the larger cities like San Francisco and Oakland. The Suffrage Amendment League was a pre-cursor to the League of Women Voters, which was formed in 1920 after the 19th Amendment was ratified. In 1911 Borland was also listed as the corresponding secretary for the California Equal Suffrage Association. Such groups were important both prior to women achieving the vote, and after to help mobilize women to get involved in politics and lobby for specific issues.

In 1912, Borland was the chairwoman of the civic section of the Ebell Society for the Advancement of Women. The Ebell Society was formed in Oakland in 1876 as a cultural and study club for women, based on the teachings of Adrian John Ebell, who was a doctor, teacher, and proponent of women's suffrage. The Society's most prominent project was raising money to buy land in Oakland to house a new public library to fulfill a challenge by Andrew Carnegie, who built the library. She also attended the National Conference of Charities and Correction in 1901, as part of her responsibilities as the director and associate chair of the Ebell Society of Oakland.

David Borland passed away in Oakland in 1915 and in the 1920 Sarah was widowed and lived with her married daughter, Harriet Gilson and her son-in-law. Sarah died in Oakland in 1925.


Allen, Annalee (2014). "Oakland Women found Intellectual Outlet in Ebell Society." Retrieved from:

Harper, Ida H., et al., eds. History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6.

Gordon, Ann D. The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Vol. 6: An Awful Hush, 1895-1906 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013), pp. 66-67. Retrieved from:

Historic Borland House website. Retrieved from:

Pardee Home Museum Newsletter (1999). Retrieved from:

Western Woman, Volume 1 (1907). Retrieved from:

Federal Manuscript Censuses for Sarah C. Borland: Kansas City, 1880; Oakland, 1900-1920. Death record for Sarah C. Borland, 1925. All accessed via Ancestry Library Edition.

Find-a-Grave death record for David C. Borland, 1915. Accessible at

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