Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Barbara Halcrow Wylie, 1865-1951

By Susanne Caro, librarian, North Dakota State University

Treasurer and Corresponding Secretary, W.T.C.U., Secretary, Women's Foreign Ministry Society, Secretary of the Red Cross Society

Barbara Halcrow Wylie was born in Houlland, Shetland, in 1865 to John Halcrow, and Elizabeth Mason Halcrow. She was the eldest of ten children. Her family moved to Ontario in 1873, where she attended the Collegiate Institute of Goderich. The family moved to the Bowesmont area of North Dakota in 1881. She became a naturalized citizen on September 14, 1889, and four years later, in 1893, she received her land patent for 160 acres of land north of Drayton, N.D.

She taught at the primary school in Drayton for seven years before marrying George Wylie on August 6, 1895. George was described as "an unusually attractive young man of sterling Christian Character." At this time she was the treasurer for the state Woman's Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.), and was described as being "much interested in all matters pertaining to temperance and the best good of humanity, and is willing to give herself as far as possible to the advancement of the work." She served as treasurer for only one year due to the birth of her son, Harold, February 18, 1897. She described her marriage as the happiest time in her life. On December 26, 1900, her husband died suddenly from heart failure while they listened to an address at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Drayton.

In 1901 she remained active with the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society (W.F.M.S.) and in 1902 she was a delegate to the general executive. "Our cause in the state has been greatly strengthen by the appointment of Mrs. Barbara H. Wylie of Drayton as secretary of the Grand Forks District. She brings to her task energy and ability and hearty devotion to Christ and every department of His cause."

Wylie was active in the W.C.T.U. serving as the treasurer from 1896 until 1905 when she was elected Corresponding Secretary, a post she held until 1940. In 1910 she was "honored as a state delegate to the national convention in Baltimore." As corresponding secretary she maintained communication with the various W.C.T.U. organizations in the state, and sent letters to government agencies including a 1911 petition for the "appointment of women on the boards of all state institutions having women as inmates or employees." In 1912 she gave an address at the convention titled Our Aims and Methods.

Wylie was appointed as a delegate to the Annual Congress of the American Prison Association by Governor Hanna in 1913, and attended the meeting in Indianapolis that October. In 1913 the focus of the W.C.T.U. shifted, and Wylie reported that suffrage was the main subject of the convention that year and had increased the interest and enthusiasm of participants. She reported that she was attending the national conference in Brooklyn New York on October 1913 where she reported that W.C.T.U. institutes "became a great factor in the suffrage campaign."

In the role of corresponding secretary, Wylie stayed in Bismarck during the legislative session "looking after the interest of prohibition and woman's suffrage." In 1915 she wrote "We are rejoicing over recent victories in many states, though our own senate has been making an unenviable record, depriving the womanhood of the state a little longer, of the right which are bound to come."

Wylie worked on fundraising and membership efforts for the W.C.T.U., giving talks on overcoming resistance to win new members. At the 1919 State Jubilee Drive, she spoke on "How to Win Members" and "Americanization." Her work on Americanization was in response to the W.C.T.U. call for members to: "Put one immigrant family on your calling list. Teach English to one foreign-born mother. Get one immigrant to become a citizen. Americanize one woman."

When her son, Harold, went to college, she moved back to the family home in Bowesmont to care for her mother. In 1920 Wylie was living with her mother and sisters May and Ellen, and was working as a housekeeper. After her mother died in 1920, she moved to Fargo where she was in charge of the state W.C.T.U. headquarters, a position she would hold for twenty years.

In addition to her work with the W.C.T.U., in 1914 she was also described as being the secretary for the Women's Foreign Ministry Society for ten years and that she "favors woman suffrage." In 1917 she was the secretary of the Red Cross Society, auxiliary to the Grand Forks Chapter. Her letters appeared regularly in North Dakota newspapers, including in 1920 when she and W.C.T.U. president, Elizabeth Anderson, wrote a forceful letter in support of Theodore G. Nelson, a leader of the Independent Voter's Association which fought the Non-Partisan League. This was the result of a circular described as an "indecently suggestive pamphlet." In 1922 she and Anderson petitioned Congress for the passage of the Jones Miller narcotic bill, and an extension of time for Austria to pay its debt to the United States.

She continued to support temperance, and in 1930 signed a petition for prohibition, describing herself as a "farmer's daughter." Poor health caused her to resign as corresponding secretary of the W.C.T.U. in 1940. She moved back to Bowesmont, but then went to the Walker Methodist Home in Minneapolis, Minnesota to be closer to her son and his family. In 1945, Mrs. John B. Cooley remarked that Wylie would be called, sometimes late at night, by state legislator L.L. Twichell regarding temperance legislation. Wylie died February 8, 1951, at the age of 85, in Hennepin, Minnesota. Her remains were cremated and interned with her husband in the Drayton Cemetery. After her death, an issue of the White Ribbon Bulletin was dedicated to her memory. She had been an editor of the Bulletin for 15 years, and as corresponding secretary had provided columns updating the W.C.T.U. membership on the activities of the organization.


1920 Unite States Census Roll, North Dakota, Pembina, Lincoln, District 0096, sheet 9a.

"Americanization as Patriotic Service," The Union Signal, 44, no. 4 (1918): 5.

"A week with Solons," The pioneer express. (Pembina, N.D.), Feb. 28, 1913. Chronicling

America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Bureau of Land Management, Doc. no. 14788, Halcrow, Barbara, 1893.

Elizabeth Preston Anderson, "Eighty-five Beautiful Years, White Ribbon Bulletin," 55, no. 2 (1951): 3.

Fortieth Annual Report of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Convention held in the Casino, Asbury Park, New Jersey, Oct. 31-Nov. 5, 1913, 209.

"From Mrs. Wylie" White Ribbon Bulletin, 19, no. 2 (1915): 3.

H. Journal, 29th Sess. Legis. Asemb 105-106 (N.D. 1944).

"Important work at W.C.T.U. meeting." Bismarck daily tribune. (Bismarck, N.D.), Oct. 5, 1910. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

John William Leonard, Woman's who's who of America: a biographical dictionary of contemporary women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. (American Commonwealth Company, NY), 908. [LINK]

James A. Minder, Roy H. Minder, and Fred J. Minder. Pembina County North Dakota in the World War (Crystal Call, N.D., 1919), 23.

"Mrs. E.P. Anderson, Barbara H. Wylie Refute Slanders," Jamestown weekly alert. (Jamestown, N.D.), Nov. 4, 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

"North Dakota's Jubilee Conference." The Union Signal, 45, no. 18 (1919): 11.;id=wu.89060922036;view=1up;seq=1145;num=186;start=1;sz=10;page=search

"North Dakota Kernels," The Fargo forum and daily republican. (Fargo, N.D.), Sept. 12, 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.>

"Obituary," White Ribbon Bulletin, 55, no. 2 (1951,): 1.

The Prohibition Amendment Part 1: Hearings on H.J. Res. 11, 38, 99. 114, 219 and 246 Before the H. Comm. on the Judiciary. 71st Cong. 622 (1930).

"Reports from Conference Secretaries," Woman's Missionary Friend, 33, no. 2 (1901): 71.

"Reviews the Work." Jamestown weekly alert. (Jamestown, N.D.), Sept. 17, 1896. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Roster of the Men and Women who served in the Army or Naval Service (including the Marine Corps) of the United States or its Allies from the State of North Dakota in the World War, 1917-1918, Volume 4. Bismarck: The Bismarck Tribune, State Printers and Binders, 1931.

"S. Journal 12th Sess. Legis. Assemb. (N.D. 1911), 156.>

S. Journal, 67th Cong., 2nd Sess. 124.

'State Officers are Appointed," The evening times. (Grand Forks, N.D.), 30 Sept. 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

"Sudden Death," The pioneer express. (Pembina, Dakota, N.D.), Dec. 28, 1900. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Theodore Gilbert Nelson. Scrapbook memoirs. (1957) 67.

"Votes For Women Will Be the Cry," Devils Lake inter-ocean. (Devils Lake, N.D.), Sept. 12, 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

"W.C.T.U. Board Meets In Fargo March 5-6." The Bismarck tribune. (Bismarck, N.D.), Jan. 26, 1931. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

"W.C.T.U. Officers." The Fargo forum and daily republican. (Fargo, N.D.), Oct. 2, 1905. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

"W.C.T.U. to Meet," Bismarck daily tribune. (Bismarck, N.D.), June 3, 1912. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Western Womanhood, 2, no. 8 (1896), MSS653 NDSU archives.

"Women's Foreign Missions," Mower County transcript. (Lansing, Minn.), Oct. 15, 1902. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.


Barbara Halcrow Wylie, 1896

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