Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Belle Louise Tiffany Sutherland, 1875-1966
By Sarah Hull, Head of Local History, Genealogy & Special Collections, Plainfield Public Library
Vice President of the Women's Political Union of New Jersey
Belle L. Tiffany Sutherland was born in Chautauqua County, Fredonia, New York on April 24, 1875, to George and Harriet Clark Tiffany. The Tiffany family, an early and prominent Fredonia family, were active in local and county politics and organizations. Belle grew up in Fredonia and in 1892 attended the Normal School there. The family resided at 54 Eagle Street for many years.
She was a graduate of Vassar College (A.B., 1897), with a special course of study in Paris, France, and enjoyed a long and notable career in music as a contralto vocalist, church soloist, and choral conductress. She worked as teacher and head of the vocal department for the Fredonia Normal School faculty from 1898 to 1900, and then as supervisor of music for the schools of White Plains, New York from 1901 to 1906. Her career then brought her to New Jersey, where she became the supervisor of music for the Westfield schools from 1906 to 1909, and then for the Newark schools from 1909 into the 1930s.
Belle served as the chairperson of the Attendance Committee for a hearing of a state constitutional amendment extending the right of suffrage to all females over the age of 21 held at the New Jersey State House in Trenton on March 12, 1912. Her documented suffrage involvement included membership in the Women's Political Union national organization and serving as vice president of the Women's Political Union of New Jersey. She was an active member in many other organizations and committees including the Joint Legislative Committee of New Jersey Suffrage Organizations, the Child Labor Committee, the Women's University Club, and the College Women's Club of Essex County, New Jersey. The New Jersey state report in the History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6, noted her continuous support of woman suffrage through the adoption of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
At age 38, she married the 36-year-old William Platt Sutherland, Jr. on November 7, 1913. The couple did not have any children. By 1940, William's health began to fail, and the couple moved from Newark, New Jersey back to Belle's hometown of Fredonia, New York.
In her retirement, Belle remained active in civic and community affairs. She died on October 29, 1966, at the age of 91. She is buried next to William in Forest Hill Cemetery in Fredonia.
“Former Westfield Teacher Married.” The Courier-News, November 13, 1913, pg. 12.
“Fredonia Items.” The Buffalo Commercial, July 14, 1898, pg. 7.
Leonard, John William, Woman's Who's Who of America: a biographical dictionary of contemporary women in the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, (New York: American Commonwealth Co., 1914), pg. 817. via Hathi Trust Digital Library, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/pst.000020615772?urlappend=%3Bseq=805
“Miss Belle Tiffany.” Dunkirk Evening Observer, July 12, 1948, pg. 6.
“Miss Belle Tiffany Has Resigned.” The Courier-News, December 1, 1909, pg. 2.
“Miss Belle Tiffany of Newark.” The Central New Jersey Home News, February 12, 1910, pg. 3.
“Miss Belle Tiffany Returns to Fredonia.” Buffalo Courier, July 25, 1909, pg. 41.
“Mr. Sutherland of Fredonia Died Monday.” Dunkirk Evening Observer, August 29, 1950, pg. 9.
“Mrs. Sutherland Died Saturday; Had Long Career.” Dunkirk Evening Observer, October 31, 1966, pg. 11.
“On To Trenton.” The Courier-News, March 8, 1912, pg. 5.
Passport Application, 1795-1925: for Belle L. Tiffany in 1898—Ancestry.com
“Suffrage Call to Arms Stirs State.” Asbury Park Press, December 18, 1912, pg. 2.
“Suffrage Notes.” Trenton Evening Times, August 17, 1914, pg. 7.
“Suffragettes to Visit Trenton.” The Courier-News, March 4, 1912, pg. 1.
US Census 1900, Pomfret, Chautauqua, New York—Ancestry.com
US Census 1940, Fredonia, Chautauqua, New York—Ancestry.com
US School Catalogs, 1765-1935: for Belle Louise Tiffany, Vassar College 1861—Ancestry.com
US School Yearbooks,1900-1990: Fredonia Normal School 1900 —Ancestry.com
“Weddings this Week.” Dunkirk Evening Observer, November 10, 1943, pg. 6
“Fredonia Normal School Faculty-1900.”Dunkirk Evening Observer, April 10, 1945, pg. 9.