Biographical Sketch of Purle Evelyn Bottomes Athearn

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Purle Evelyn Bottomes Athearn, 1878-1941

By Julie Diane Larson, Independent Scholar, Santa Barbara, CA

Founder of the Twentieth Century Club; Member of the Equal Suffrage League, the Berkeley League of Women Voters, and the Claremont Park Book Club.

Purle Evelyn Bottomes was born in California on March 23, 1878 to John Thomas Bottomes (1839-1904) and Aurelia Jane Hargrave Corker (1847-1925). She had three siblings, Kate B. Francisco (?-1933), Betty Bottomes (1866-1871) and Ellen Aurelia Bottomes Durand (1871-1959). Evelyn, as she preferred to be called, graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, alongside her future husband, Fred Goodrich Athearn in 1900. Athearn practiced law at the oldest law firm in San Francisco—Athearn, Chandler and Hoffman—which was formed in 1912.

Purle Evelyn Athearn was a very active Berkeley socialite who was involved in many social and cultural clubs. In 1904 she helped found and was the first president of the Twentieth Century Club, a women's club that focused on social issues and performed philanthropic activities in Berkeley. The club raised money in 1913 to build its own club building in downtown Berkeley, and the membership of the club included many prominent women in state and local politics. Athearn was also active with the successful campaign for suffrage in California in 1911; she was part of the advisory committee for the Berkeley chapter of the Equal Suffrage League. She continued her involvement in the suffrage fight with the Berkeley League of Women Voters.

In 1917, she was one of the founders and first president of the Claremont Park Book Club, which was originally formed to knit socks for soldiers in World War I, while discussing books. The club is still in existence in the small Berkeley Hills neighborhood. This was one of many clubs formed by women and for women in this time period to discuss social and cultural issues. These types of clubs gave women an important outlet for interacting with other women outside of the home. The traditional image of an upper-middle class or upper-class woman at the time was one who remained at home, but clubs and associations like the Claremont Park Book Club allowed women to meet and discuss important social issues, such as suffrage, and sometimes plan political or cultural actions.

Athearn was the first president of the Berkeley Women's City Club in 1927. Athearn helped raise funds to create the club building so that the women could meet, socialize, and exercise. The building in downtown Berkeley was designed by famed architect Julia Morgan, who created a Moorish- and Gothic-styled building to house the rapidly expanding membership (4000 members by 1930). The large building contained club rooms, dining hall, and exercise rooms (including indoor swimming pool) for club members and their guests. Athearn probably called upon her previous experiences in 1913 with the Twentieth Century Club to navigate the complex building and fundraising issues.

She died in Berkeley, California in 1941, survived by her spouse and son, Folger Athearn (1906-1992) and Leigh Athearn (1910-1976).


Finacom, Steven (2005). Berkeley City Club Celebrates 75th Anniversary. Retrieved from:

Filbert, Pamela Athearn (2018). By any other name. Retrieved from”

Taylor, Tracey (2017). In Berkeley, a book group celebrates its 100th birthday. Retrieved from:

Thompson, Daniella. Berkeley City Club. Retrieved from:

Who's who among the women of California (1922). Retrieved from:

back to top