Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Sara Cone Bryant (Borst), 1873-1956

By Flannery La Grua, M.A., M.S., Simmons College

Sara Cone Bryant was born in 1873 to Dexter and Dorcas Anne (née Hancock) Bryant in Melrose, Massachusetts. In 1895, Sara graduated from Boston University where she was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society. Additionally, she graduated from the Frau Doktor Hemple Seminary and the American Home School in Berlin. Sara was an educator, lecturer, journalist, and children's book author. She taught Poetry and English at Simmons College and lectured on storytelling at the Lucy Wheelock School.

Sara wrote children's books, collections of children's stories, and books advocating the educational purpose and function of children's stories. These primers teach adults, in particular educators, how to tell stories to children and contain her own adaptations of familiar stories such as “The Story of the Three Little Pigs.”

Her book I am an American is an educational resource for children teaching U.S. History and the values of American citizenship. Published in 1918, the book is situated between World War 1 and the ratification of the 20th amendment. In her chapter “How We Vote,” Sara writes about the children's fathers voting in order to walk them through the voting process. She describes the father arriving at the voting station, receiving the ballot from the election clerk, and, ultimately, casting his ballot. She concludes, “Now your father has done his part as a citizen to choose the representatives that make a Republican Government.” While Sara did not write about women ‘s suffrage directly, it is clear in this chapter and the rest of the book that her vision of America as the greatest country is rooted in the political participation of its citizenry. She draws a connection between the type of citizens we have and the types of representatives. Educated and honest people will vote for an educated and honest politician, or conversely a dishonest person will vote for a dishonest politician. She ends this sentiment by writing, “America has public schools for all the children, so they may grow up to be clean, sensible, and honest; then the [voting] majority will be good citizens, not bad; good rulers, not bad.” Likewise, in her chapter “My Mother's Flag” she teaches that Betsy Ross made the flag, cementing women's roles in the founding of America. Sara writes, “Men and women together are citizens of the American Republic, our United States. Together they work for the good of the country, and are equally valuable.” From here she argues that men and women deserve equal rights, though she again does not mention suffrage. She completes the chapter with a pledge for the children: “When I grow up to be a voting American citizen I will try always to be fair to both men and women. I want the Stars and Stripes, which were first made by a woman, to float over a country where women and men together are free and equal.”

In addition to teaching and writing, Sara lectured and presented as a storyteller, advocating the educational value of storytelling. In 100 New Money Making Plans for Untrained Women, author May C. Moore quoted Sara as saying, “Every child or adult likes stories of the heroes, and if you narrate your history in the form of a story about some great man or woman, you will not only hold the attention, but you will fix in the hearer's mind the facts of history.” The Register of Women's Clubs referred to Sara as a “real story teller for real children.” In addition to storytelling at private and public gatherings, Sara lectured at State Educational Associations and school boards. Her lecture topics included Irish, British, and American poetry; American poet Sidney Lanier; and children's stories.

Sara worked within the organizational leadership of the Suffrage movement. In 1900, she co-founded the College Equal Suffrage League with Maude Wood Park and served as first vice president. The CESL was originally founded to prepare women to participate in the Suffrage movement after graduating college; however, after time the league expanded their goals and promoted the activism of women while still enrolled in college. In 1901, Sara held the office of president of the CESL. A Boston Daily Globe article dated April 17, 1901 reported on a joint rally between the Young Women's Political Club and the College Equal Suffrage League at Faneuil Hall and summarized Sara's argument as, “every person in America should have equal rights, labors and privileges.” Additionally, Sara served as “toastmistress” on May 22, 1901 during a festival at Faneuil Hall that brought together the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association and the New England Woman Suffrage Association. Likely her expertise as storyteller and teacher made her well suited for the role of toastmaster.

Sara married Theodore Franz Borst on March 9, 1908 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts and they had two children, James and Elizabeth. They ran Little Tree Farms Inc. in Framingham Center, Massachusetts. Elizabeth attended Lasell Seminary for Young Women, now Lasell College. Sara and her husband hosted an annual Halloween party for Lasell students on their farm. Sara died in her Framingham home on May 28, 1956 at age 84.

Sources: Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013. Year: 1930; Census Place: Newton, Middlesex, Massachusetts; Roll: 927; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0387; Image: 73.0; FHL microfilm: 2340662. U.S. School Catalogs, 1765-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

Anonymous, “Non-Indexed Pages #2,” The Register of Women's Clubs 9, (1907): 130.

Cone Bryant, Sara. I am an American. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1918.

The Educational Work of Women's Organizations, 1890-1960. Edited by Anne Meis Knupfer and Christine Woyshner. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920, edited by Ida Husted Harper. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]

Lasell Leaves. XXXXVIII, no. 2 (1923): 12-13. Accessed Internet Archive

Lasell Leaves. XXXXIX, no. 1 (1923): 13. Accessed Internet Archive

Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.

Moore, May C. 100 New Money Making Plans for Untrained Women. Atlanta: National Woman's Exchange Pub. Co., 1904.

“Mrs. Sara C. Borst.” Daily Boston Globe. May 29, 1956.

The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for Massachusetts, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group number: 147.

“Russian Tea Served. Joint Rally Conducted in Faneuil Hall. Young Women's Political Club and College Equal Suffrage League Meet,” Boston Daily Globe, April 17, 1901, Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000.

Sara Borst, Ex-Teacher, Writer, Dies,” Boston Herald, May 29, 1956.

The Women's Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada. Edited by John William Leonard. New York: The American Commonwealth Company, 1914. [LINK]

Year: 1900; Census Place: Melrose Ward 3, Middlesex, Massachusetts; Roll: 663; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0879; microfilm: 1240663.

Bibliography of Sara Cone Bryant's Works:

Bryant, Sara Cone. Best Stories to Tell to Children. Illustrated by Patten Wilson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1912.

Bryant, Sara Cone. Brother Rabbit and Other Stories for Little Ones. Illustrated by Patten Wilson, and Honor C. Appleton. London: George G. Harrap Co., 1926.

Bryant, Sara Cone. The Burning Rice Fields. Illustrated by Mamoru Funai. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963.

Bryant, Sara Cone. Epaminondas and His Auntie. Illustrated by Inez Hogan. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1907.

Bryant, Sara Cone. Epaminondas: and Other Stories for Little Ones. Illustrated by Patten Wilson, and Honor C. Appleton. London: George G. Harrap, 1926.

Bryant, Sara Cone. The Gingerbread Man and Other Stories for Little Ones. Illustrated by Willy Pogány, Patten Wilson, and Honor C. Appleton. London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1926.

Bryant, Sara Cone. Good Stories. Illustrated by Florence Bradshaw Brown. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1924.

Bryant, Sara Cone. Gordon and His Friends. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1924.

Bryant, Sara Cone. How to Tell Stories to Children. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co, 1905.

Bryant, Sara Cone. I am an American. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1918.

Bryant, Sara Cone. Les Aventures de la Petite Souris. Illustrated by Lise Marin. Paris: Fernand Nathan, 1968.

Bryant, Sara Cone. The Magic Flute. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926.

Bryant, Sara Cone. New Stories to Tell to Children: Stories You Never Have Heard. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1923.

Bryant, Sara Cone. Stories to Tell to Children; Fifty One Stories with Some Suggestions For Telling. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1907.

Bryant, Sara Cone. Stories to Tell the Littlest Ones. Illustrated by Willy Pogány. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916.

Bryant, Sara Cone. The Story Reader. Illustrated by Virginia Grilley. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1929.

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