Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Miss Helen Osborn
By Halley Brooks, University of Missouri
Miss Helen Osborn, of Kansas City, Missouri, was the secretary of the Kansas City chapter of the Young Women's Christian Association and in February of 1911 became a founding member and secretary of the Kansas City Woman's Suffrage Association, and subsequently the Kansas City League. The purpose of the Kansas City League as stated in its constitution was “the study of public issues.” This study of public issues was divided into sections such as civics, legislation, education, and parliamentary law. As the secretary of the Kansas City League, Helen was present at the meetings of many other corresponding and smaller women's suffrage organizations throughout western Missouri. For example, she was present at the founding of the Quincy Women's Forum in Quincy County, Missouri in 1916 and was among 400 women who helped form the Women's Forum. As the secretary for the Kansas City League, she witnessed the spread of the suffrage movement throughout the state of Missouri. With the Kansas City League, Helen made speeches arguing for women's suffrage in front of local and state-wide audiences. The Kansas City League was one of the women's organizations responsible for forming the State Association which lobbied for women's suffrage both by spreading awareness throughout Missouri and by fighting to get legislation passed which would provide votes for women. Among the educational opportunities provided by the State Association, which was sometimes noted as simply “a name” for a concept that had not been actualized yet, the members had the opportunity to plan a state-wide women's convention to spread their ideas about women's suffrage. The proceedings of the 42nd annual convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which was held in April of 1911, specifically outlined the frustrating lack of funds that were available to suffragists of the time, saying “We have many speakers capable and willing to go through the State and organize clubs, and it is only our lack of funds that prevents them from going. The same lack of funds has confined our efforts to educate the people of our State to the co-operation which the press and public libraries will give.” Because of this lack of funds and, thus, the inability to bring plans of a State convention into fruition, roles such as Helen Osborn's which spread the ideas of suffrage to nearby, yet otherwise uninformed towns were invaluable to the suffrage cause.
National American Woman Suffrage Association. (1910). Forty-second annual report of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association given at the Convention held at Washington, D.C. April 14 to 19. New York. Accessible at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiuo.ark:/13960/t5m93v531;view=1up;seq=1
Mary Semple Scott, “History of Woman Suffrage in Missouri,” (1920). Missouri historical review, XIV:3-4 (1920), 321-22. Columbia, Mo.: State Historical Society of Missouri.
Wilcox, D. F. (1919). Quincy and Adams County history and representative men. Chicago: The Lewis Pub. Co. (pg. 521 & 530). Accessible at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiuo.ark%3A%2F13960%2Ft0tq5zm7d