Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Bertha F. McWilliams Kellers, 1874-?
By Lisa Hendrickson, Independent Historian
Corresponding Secretary: DeHart Equal Suffrage League, Auditor: New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association
Bertha F. McWilliams was born in 1874 in Pennsylvania to James and Sarah McWilliams. She had a sister Bella and a brother Owen. Initially the family lived in PA, but by 1880 they were living in Jersey City, NJ. Bertha married Frederick T. Kellers and they had three children Irmarita in 1896, Isabelle in 1897, and Charles in 1901. Records show the family living in Jersey City in 1920, but later they were living in Montclair, NJ. Census records state that Frederick was born in 1870 in NJ and was the owner of a marine transportation business.
The first documented involvement in the suffrage movement showed she was a member of the DeHart Equal Suffrage League in Jersey City, NJ serving as Corresponding Secretary in 1914. In 1917, she joined many suffragists across the country that helped to raised money for WWI efforts by selling Liberty Loan Bonds. Two groups who were quite active in New Jersey were the New Jersey Women's Liberty Loan Committee and the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association. The two groups coordinated their efforts through 200 local branches distributing over 25,000 pieces of literature and applications for bonds. Bertha Kellers was on the organizing committee along with many other prominent New Jersey suffragists. At the National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention in Washington D.C. in December of 1917 Bertha was one of the New Jersey delegates. Then at the May 1919 Atlantic City convention of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association (NJWSA), she was elected an auditor. In April 1920 she attended the NJWSA convention held at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, NJ. At the convention they worked on the business of winding up the affairs of the NJWSA and also adopted a constitution for the New Jersey League of Women Voters (NJLWV). The NJLWV was organized to continue the work of educating women in citizenship and organizing them as voters.
By 1940, Bertha and her husband had moved to Montclair, NJ. Unfortunately the author was not able to find any additional information about her life or her death.
Harper, Ida Husted, The History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6, 1900-1920, (New York: J.J. Little and Ives Company, 1922), pg. 428. [LINK]
“The DeHart Equal Suffrage League,” The Central New Jersey Home News, May 20, 1914, pg. 7.
“Suffragists Selling Liberty Loan Bonds,” The Central New Jersey Home News, June 5, 1917, pg. 4.
“Jersey Women at Convention,” The Morning Post (Camden, NJ), December 12, 1917, pg. 8.
“Mrs. Feickert Again Heads the Suffrage Forces in State,” The Central New Jersey Home News, May 19, 1919, pg. 3.
“Suffrage Victory Convention,” The Montclair Times, April 10, 1920, pg. 22.