Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Bessie Boswell, 1869-1923

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, SUNY Binghamton

Bessie Stewart was born in Kentucky in 1868 to Wesley and Annie Sheafield Stewart. Bessie married Charles E. Boswell of Indiana in 1895 or 1896. Their only child, Mildred, was born in Utah in 1899, though the family was living in Green River, Wyoming at the time of the 1900 census, with Charles working as a railroad clerk. The family moved to Nevada about 1903. The next two censuses found the family in Reno, with Charles working as a park keeper in 1910 and a clerk in a lumber office in 1920. Mildred was working as a clerk in Reno in 1920.

Bessie Boswell was active in the fall 1913 statewide suffrage campaign that succeeded in getting woman suffrage on the ballot for 1914. She helped statewide officers by distributing suffrage literature in Reno and in more rural counties. The voters approved woman suffrage, which was extended to local and statewide elections only. In 1916 the "Suffrage Special" train, organized by the National Woman's Party, made a western tour to influence women voters in those states to punish the Democratic Party for its failure to pass a federal woman suffrage amendment during Woodrow Wilson's first term. Bessie Boswell joined the luncheon meeting in Reno in April 1916 to meet with the "Eastern envoys" from the NWP, who spoke at that event. In February 1920 the Nevada legislature ratified the 19th Amendment and Nevada women voted in their first presidential election that November.

Outside of suffrage, Bessie Boswell was a member of the Reno Pythian Sisters and she worshiped at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. She died in August 1923 at the age of 55 after a long illness.


Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., The History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920, Vol. 6, (National America Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), 521. [LINK]

Federal Manuscript Censuses: Wyoming, 1900; Nevada, 1910 and 1920. Accessed online via

Death certificate, Nevada, for Bessie Boswell, 4 August 1923. Ancestry Library Edition.

"Women Preparing for Mass Meeting," Nevada State Journal (Reno, NV), 22 April 1916, p. 8.

"Mrs. C. Boswell Called by Death," Reno Gazette-Journal, 4 August 1923, p. 6.

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