Biographical Sketch of Jane Elizabeth Humbird Burr

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Jane Elizabeth Humbird Burr, 1869-1944

By Melissa Hermes, education coordinator: Otter Tail County Historical Society, Fergus Falls, MN

Activist in St. Paul Democratic Party politics

Jane Elizabeth Humbird was born in Cumberland, Maryland in April 23, 1869. Her parents were John A. Humbird, a railroad builder and lumber magnate with timber holdings in Canada and the United States and Caroline Stalnaker, born in Virginia. In 1880 the family lived in Hudson, Wisconsin. The Humbird family moved to St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota in 1889.

Jane Humbird married Stiles Wilton Burr in 1897. He was a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School. The couple had five children, three of whom survived infancy - two daughters, Eleanor born in 1901 and Margaret born in 1904. A son John was born in 1908. She and her daughters were frequent travelers to Europe. The Burrs divorced in the early 1920s and Jane never remarried.

Burr was active in civic affairs. She served on the board of directors for the Y.W.C.A and as vice president of the Woman's Welfare League of St. Paul. The Women's Welfare League was established in 1912 and considered to be "the St. Paul counterpart to the Equal Suffrage Association." The mission statement for the Women's Welfare League included striving, "'to procure for women the rights of full citizenship.'" Burr's other work for woman's suffrage included serving on the board of directors for the Ramsey County Suffrage Association.

At the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association convention in 1917, Burr was elected to serve as MWSA director from St. Paul. She was part of a slate of officers described as "pro-administration" or in favor of the policies of MWSA president Clara Ueland. Opposition to the slate came from members of the Scandinavian Woman Suffragist Association out of Minneapolis. Ueland forces submitted a slate of officers that local newspapers called a "blue ticket." This "National Ticket" in the MWSA records at the Minnesota Historical Society lists Burr with other officers and directors, "recommended by delegates from Twin Cities Organizations who favor the policy of the National American Woman Suffrage Association." The ticket won easily.

In April 1919, the Political Equality Club held a Jubilee Luncheon to celebrate "the fact that presidential suffrage has become law in Minnesota and in Maine and Missouri." The club invited returned delegates to the NAWSA convention to speak at the luncheon, including Jane Burr.

When the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association changed its name to the Minnesota League of Women Voters, Burr was one of the first officers of the organization. She was elected to serve as the 2nd Vice President. Members of the Ramsey County League of Women Voters chose Burr to represent them as their first president.

Jane Burr frequently hosted people who were attending MWSA and League of Women Voters meetings in the Twin Cities as well as the wives of elected officials. An article in 1931 reported, "the fireside supper at the home of Mrs. Jane Humbird Burr Thursday night has become a traditional get-acquainted feature of league state conventions since the afternoon reception to delegates was given up in its favor. More than 100 delegates from leagues outside of the Twin Cities will be present."

Burr made the national news in 1920. Described as a member of "the old suffrage board" of Democratic women, she was one of eleven women appointed to serve on the Democratic National Committee with seventeen male delegates. Newspaper articles stated that, "these women will be actual members of the committee and not merely associates. They will share all responsibilities and duties." Burr was an at-large delegate to the 1920 Democratic National Convention and to the 1928 Democratic National Convention and served on the Executive Board of the Woman's Democratic Club of Minnesota 1933.

In 1936, her name appears in a half page advertisement in the Minneapolis Star newspaper appealing to citizens to reelect FDR and elect Elmer A. Benson as governor. Jane Burr died in Ramsey, MN in 1944.

SOURCES: Minnesota, Marriages Index, 1849-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

"Address Women's Group." Minneapolis Star, March 18, 1933, p. 16.

"John A. Humbird, who Accompanied His Father To Construct Railroad System in Brazil, Was Pioneer Lumber Operator in Northwest, Railroad Builder and Bank Organizer." Cumberland Sunday Times, January 30, 1955, p. 4.

"Leaders Plan Rally in State to Mark Event." Minneapolis Tribune, August 19, 1920, p. 11.

"League of Women Voters Holds Brilliant Celebration Dinner." Minneapolis Tribune, October 29, 1919, p. 9.

"Local Women Leave for Washington to Attend Big Meeting." Minneapolis Tribune, December 2, 1917, p. 30.

Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association Records. Minnesota Historical Society.

"Miss Ruth Mitchell of St. Cloud Nominated for President at State League of Women Voters' Convention." Minneapolis Star, October 1, 1931, p. 12.

"Mrs. Burr to Be Host to Women Voters' League." Minneapolis Tribune, February 4, 1921, p. 10.

"Mrs. Ueland Again Chosen President." Minneapolis Tribune, November 18, 1917, p. 10.

"Mrs. Jane H. Burr To Motor in Europe." Minneapolis Star, December 11, 1928, p12.

"Old Regime wins Stormy Session of Suffragists." Minneapolis Tribune, November 18, 1917, p. 10.

"State Suffragists Will Hold Annual Meeting in St. Paul." Minneapolis Tribune, November 11, 1917, p. 36.

"St. Paul Woman Is Proxy at Meeting." Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 29, 1926, p. 8.

Stuhler, Barbara. Gentle Warriors: Clara Ueland and the Minnesota Struggle for Woman Suffrage. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995.

"Suffragists Back of Federal act Score." Minneapolis Tribune, January 17, 1919, p. 10.

"Suffragists to Hold a Jubilee Luncheon." Minneapolis Tribune, April 4, 1919, p. 10.

To All Democrats and Liberal-Minded People Minneapolis Star Oct. 31, 1936 p. 9.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Year: 1920; Census Place: St Paul Ward 7, Ramsey, Minnesota; Roll: T625_854; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 82

U.S. Bureau of the Census, Year: 1880; Census Place: Hudson, St Croix, Wisconsin; Roll: 1446; Page: 410D; Enumeration District: 241

"Women Share Honors With Men on Executive Committee of Democratic National Committee." The Independent-Record [Helena-Montana], March 14, 1920, p. 18.

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