Biographical Sketch of Blanche Morse

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Blanche Morse, 1870-1940

By Madison Judd, Undergraduate, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Corresponding Secretary for the California Federation of Women's Clubs; College Equal Suffrage League; Berkeley Center of California Civic League;

Miss Blanche Morse was born January 31, 1870 in Oakland, California. She was the fourth of seven children born to Ralza (1932-1901) and Ellen (Pratt) Morse (1840-1920). Blanche's family moved from New York to California in 1870 since Ralza wanted to work for the San Francisco and Alameda Railroad Company instead of working as an independent farmer.

In 1894, Blanche graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a bachelor's degree in psychology. During her time at UC Berkeley, Blanche also discovered her passion for math, drawing, French, and zoology.

Blanche began her post-graduate career by working at Yale University in an unknown occupation. She then worked from 1908-1910 as the Corresponding Secretary for the California Federation of Women's Clubs (CFWC), which aimed to improve communities through volunteer services.

After being introduced to women-run organizations with the CFWC, Blanche used the knowledge she acquired as the Corresponding Secretary to establish two chapters of the College Equal Suffrage League (CESL) in Northern California. According to Mabel Craft Deering, chair of the CESL in 1911, Blanche "naturally appealed strongly to club women," which helped her establish a suffrage club in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. According to Deering, Blanche would campaign "between heats at races (and) occupied pulpits on Sunday evenings...and made suffrage so popular [in Humboldt and Del Norte] that the amendment (to create new chapters) carried by large majorities in both counties."

As a member of the CESL, Blanche also established a temporary headquarters for the league in Sacramento, California. According to Blanche, the California State Fair, which is held in Sacramento, was the optimal place to recruit women "from all parts of the State, a large portion of whom, naturally, come from the country" since the CESL could "reach many people...whom it would be difficult, at another time, to come in contact (with)." Blanche helped set up a large tent at the fair, "(o)ver the front of (which) five stars were set, each bearing the name of one of the five ‘free States,' and upon the sixth were emblazoned the words, ‘California Next!'."

Blanche reinforced her commitment to the suffrage movement when she helped found the Berkeley Center of California Civic League in 1911 and became the league's first president and state organizer 1911-1913. During the league's initial years, its primary goal was to convince women to register, vote, and take active roles in election processes. The league also focused on "educating members about how government worked at all levels; studying and sometimes adopting policy positions on a wide array of political issues, particularly those concerning women; providing pro-and-con election information to voters; campaigning for and against some measures on the ballot; and investigating public problems."

After working for an unknown amount of time as an educator at McKinley Intermediate School in Berkeley, California, Blanche became the principal of the school in 1920. According to History of the Berkeley Schools, "under (Blanche's) management the school will undoubtedly hold its place among the (top schools in Berkeley)." During her time as a principal, Blanche focused on teaching English to recent immigrants in "two years or less" and reconstructing lesson plans for the History and Reading departments. Blanche stated that "we are learning to regard the school as a laboratory for solving educational problems. We also look upon it as a shop where the children shall work ‘for the joy of working,' and not for some dimly perceived ulterior end."

Blanche passed away on December 18, 1940, in Alameda, California.

 

"College Women to Hold Banquet: Graduates Interested in Votes for Fair Sex to Meet at Berkeley Hotel." The San Francisco Call, 18 July 1911, p. 9.

Sources:

1870 United States Federal Census. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

1940 United States Federal Census. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

California, Death Index, 1940-1997. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000.

College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California. Winning Equal Suffrage in California: Reports of Committees of the College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California in the Campaign of 1911. Leopold Classic Library, 2019.

"College Women to Hold Banquet: Graduates Interested in Votes for Fair Sex to Meet at Berkeley Hotel." The San Francisco Call, 18 July 1911, p. 9.

"Home." GFWC CALIFORNIA FEDERATION of WOMEN'S CLUBS, www.cfwc.org/.

Kopp, Emma Lue. "A Brief History of the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville." League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville History of the League Comments, 13 May 1995, www.lwvbae.org/history-of-the-league/.

Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915 [LINK]

Newspapers.com Obituary Index, 1800s-current. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2019.

New York, State Census, 1865. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.Web: California, Berkeley Public Library Obituary Index, 1894-1979 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

Register of the University of California. University of California, 1882.

Waterman, S. D. History of the Berkeley Schools. 1918.

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