Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Cora Adelia Wellhouse Bullard, 1863-1941
By Colleen Kingsbury and Liette Gidlow, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Farming Magnate, Clubwoman, and Activist
Cora Adelia Wellhouse was born on January 25th, 1863 on her father's farm in Salt Creek Valley, Kansas. She was the daughter of Susan and Frederick Wellhouse, native Ohioans who had moved to Leavenworth County, Kansas in 1859 with Cora's three older siblings. The Wellhouses were a prominent family in Kansas and Frederick was particularly notable; by the time of his death, he had served as a captain in the Union army, a state legislator, and a justice of the peace. The Wellhouses originally owned a family farm, but Frederick eventually established a commercial apple orchard operation in 1876. During her adulthood, Cora Wellhouse Bullard was instrumental in the running of the Wellhouses' orchards and was well respected (along with her father, dubbed "the apple king of Kansas") within the agricultural community of Kansas. In addition to her professional agricultural activities, Wellhouse Bullard was extremely active in politics and was part of the fight for suffrage in the state of Kansas through the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association (KESA).
Cora Wellhouse spent her young adulthood in school and campaigning. She began her education in the Leavenworth County Public Schools and at the age of 18 left her beloved orchards for Central Wesleyan College in Missouri where she studied business and agriculture before returning to live with her family in 1885. Wellhouse then helped to elect America's first female mayor, Susanna Salter. She served as an advisor and organizer on the historic Salter campaign in Argonia, Kansas at only 24 years old. Wellhouse's previous experience campaigning then served her well in 1888 when Frederick Wellhouse ran for the state legislature. She toured the state campaigning on her father's behalf and he was successfully elected. In the following June, Cora Wellhouse married Henry Shelby Bullard, adding his last name to her own.
For the next fifteen years, Wellhouse Bullard's life was dominated by her work with her family's orchards and the designing and construction of her and Henry's home in Tonganoxie, which was eventually dubbed Stonehaven Farms. In 1893, at the age of 30, Wellhouse Bullard began individually designing the plans for her future home, but construction, which she oversaw, did not begin until 1898. The finishing touches were finally completed by 1905, at which point Wellhouse Bullard (along with her father, brother, and husband) was also part owner and operator of the world's largest privately owned apple orchard.
After the completion of this years-long project, Wellhouse Bullard's political involvement and club activity soared, culminating in her election as second-vice president and first district president of KESA on May 11, 1911. Previous to her election to the board of KESA, Wellhouse Bullard was most active in the Kansas State Board of Agriculture, of which she was an honorary member and whose meetings she attended religiously for more than thirty years. Following her election to the KESA board, Wellhouse Bullard made several speeches in favor of suffrage, including the opening address at the KESA convention in May 1912 and a speech at the annual reunion of Old Settlers Association of Cherokee County later that summer. During her address at the KESA convention, Wellhouse Bullard was quoted in the Salina Evening Journal as expressing the dominant argument for female suffrage at the time, that it would raise up society as a whole because women were responsible for the domestic sphere. She said: "The advancement of the community, state, or nation is measured by the advancement of its women. Every man however great is after all only a man child, the son of woman. Every boy's first and last school room is in the heart of his mother." During the 1912 convention, Wellhouse Bullard was also reelected second vice president and first district president. KESA's efforts paid off only a short time after, with the passage of the Equal Suffrage Amendment by popular vote on November 5, 1912 in Kansas. A celebratory town hall meeting was held shortly after at Stonehaven Farms and was attended by many, including the governor of Kansas, Walter R. Stubbs.
This victory did not slow Wellhouse Bullard down, and she was quite active in many organizations for the next decade, many of which had not traditionally accepted female members. Her accomplishments continued when she became the first woman to preside over a Kansas Board of Agriculture session, which she did initially in January of 1913. The following November she was the first woman appointed to the Kansas State School Book Commission, a committee in charge of selecting textbooks for the state's schools and contracting with publishers. She was continually reappointed to this position until 1923. Wellhouse Bullard was also the first woman to be a full member of the U.S. Livestock Owners and Producers Association and the first woman to hold a position on the Board of Directors of the Kansas Livestock Association.
In addition to these achievements, she continued to be active in suffrage work and was the president of the Good Citizenship League (formerly KESA) in 1916 when the decision was made to change the name back to the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association in support of a federal suffrage amendment. The 1916 convention was also particularly notable because Carrie Chapman Catt, the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, was the principal speaker. Wellhouse Bullard had a wide scope of interests and between 1912 and 1925, in addition to KESA, she held an elected position in the following organizations: the Kansas State Council of Defense, the Native Daughters Club, the National Farmers' Association, the Kansas State Historical Society, the Tonganoxie Public Library Board, and the Leavenworth County Sunday School Association.
Wellhouse Bullard's activism was already slowing down by the early 1920s, but with the death of her husband Henry in 1925, her public life came to a close. She stayed at Stonehaven Farms for only 17 months after his passing before moving into the George H. Nettleton Home for retired women in Kansas City. She was 63 years old and had already experienced the passing of both her parents, all her siblings, and her husband; the couple had been childless. Wellhouse Bullard lived in the Nettleton Home for the remainder of her life, before passing away on February 19th, 1941. She left a long legacy of social activism and was an incredibly important figure in Kansas agriculture. Cora Wellhouse Bullard is buried with her husband at Maple Grove Cemetery in Tonganoxie, Kansas.
A photograph of Cora Wellhouse Bullard can be found in History of Leavenworth County Kansas by Jesse A. Hall and Leroy T. Hand on page 545 at http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/jesse-a-hall/history-of-leavenworth-county-kansas-lla.shtml
Blackmar, Frank W., eds. History of the Kansas State Council of Defense. Topeka: Kansas State Printing Plant, 1921.
Coburn, F.D. Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture for the Quarter Ending March, 1910. Topeka: Kansas State Board of Agriculture, 1910.
"Give Mothers a Vote." The Salina Evening Journal, May 7, 1912. Newspapers.com.
Hall, Jesse A. and Leroy T. Hand. History of Leavenworth County Kansas. Topeka: Historical Publishing Company, 1921. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/jesse-a-hall/history-of-leavenworth-county-kansas-lla.shtml
Hempstead, Bertha. "Society." The Topeka State Journal, January 19, 1918. Newspapers.com.
"House Party at Bullard Home." The Topeka Daily Capital, March 18, 1916. Newspapers.com.
Husted Harper, Ida, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
"Kansas Equal Suffs are in Topeka Today." The Topeka State Journal, April 13, 1916. Newspapers.com.
"The Kansas Federation Club News." The Hutchinson News, May 11, 1912. Newspapers.com.
Kansas Federation of Women's Clubs. Yearbook: outlines of work. Emporia: Kansas Federation of Women's Clubs, 1920.
"Kansas Gains Converts." The Woman's Journal, July 27, 1912. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.
"Legislators are Still Deadlocked on Supply Bills." The Leavenworth Times, March 11, 1915. Newspapers.com.
"Meeting of National Farmers' Association." The Southwestern Grain and Flour Journal, January 1, 1916. HathiTrust.
"Mrs. Bullard a Busy Woman." The Topeka State Journal, January 15, 1916. Newspapers.com
Porter, Kent and Olga Porter. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Fall 2017. Kansas Historical Society. https://www.kshs.org/resource/national_register/nominationsNRDB/Leavenworth_StonehavenFarmNR.pdf
"13,000 Schoolrooms." The Woman's Journal, June 8, 1918. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.
"Woman Farmer Always at Agricultural Convention." The Topeka Daily Capital, January 10, 1918. Newspapers.com.
"Woman Presides for First Time." The Woman's Journal, January 25, 1913. Nineteenth Century Collections.
"Women Wept for Joy When They Heard of Suffrage Victory." The Topeka Daily Capital, October 14, 1911. Newspapers.com.