Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Bertha K. Passmore, 1881-1955
By Marie Wegman, independent historian, Missouri
Suffragist, political activist
Bertha Knobloch Passmore was born on October 27, 1881, in Hamburg, Germany, the daughter of a German consul to New York. She was educated at New York University in the School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance and is listed in a 1906 publication of students in 1906.. In 1904, she met Charles L. Passmore, a traveling representative of the Meyer Brothers Drug Company at the World's Fair in St. Louis. They married on August 25, 1910, in Little Rock, Arkansas, and settled in St. Louis, Missouri. She became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1913.
Bertha Knobloch Passmore became interested in politics after participating in a suffrage march while studying at New York University. In 1914, she served as vice chair of the Referendum Suffrage Campaign in Kansas City and organized the initiative petition effort to put the Missouri Suffrage Amendment on the November 3, 1914, General Election ballot. She was also one of the prominent organizers for the 1916 Golden Lane suffrage demonstration in St. Louis. From 1915 to 1918, she served as vice president of the Missouri Woman Suffrage Association. In 1916, she became the congressional chair for Missouri of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, serving until 1918. While in this position, her work centered on the drive for a federal suffrage amendment.
After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Bertha Knobloch Passmore worked with many organizations that educated women on voting practices and ballot issues. She was a member of the League of Women Voters, the Women's Legislative Committee, and served as legislative chair for the Board of Religious Organizations in St. Louis. She also served two terms as president of the West End Republican Association. Her later work focused on women's rights and the education of children. In 1921, she led a successful legislative campaign that created the family court system in St. Louis. In 1924, she lobbied the Republican State Convention to adopt an education resolution that supported safe education facilities for all students and fair compensation for teachers. She made three bids for the Republican legislative nomination to the Missouri House of Representatives between 1926 and 1936. She won the nomination in 1936, but she lost her bid for the lower house in the general election of that year. She continued to advocate for women and children after the start of World War II. After the end of the war, she devoted her time to finding homes in the United States for German orphans. She died on May 21, 1955, of heart failure at her home in St. Louis.
Education and course of study are found in New York University Bulletin 1906-1907; New York University Bulletin 1907-1908. News of her marriage appears in the Arkansas Democrat, 26 August 1910; Meyer Brothers Druggist: Volume 31, 1910. Suffrage activities are in Missouri newspapers like the St. Joseph News Press/Gazette and St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Suffrage legislative work is in the Missouri Historical Review: "History of the Woman Suffrage Movement in Missouri: Congressional Work" by Mrs. Charles Passmore, Vol XIV, Nos. 3-4, April-July 1920. Post suffrage work appears in Missouri newspapers like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Election results and candidate information appear in the Official Manual of the State of Missouri, 1928 and Official Manual of the State of Missouri, 1938. News of her death appears in the article: "Funeral Services in Ohio for Mrs. Charles Passmore," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 25, 1955. See also, "Missouri," Chapter 24 in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920, pp. 352-69, edited by Ida Husted Harper. [LINK]