Biographical Sketch of Alice Maud Bonham

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Alice Maud Bonham, 1870-1957

By Evelyn Rose, PharmD, Project Director
Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project, San Francisco, California
www.GlenParkHistory.org

Alice M. Bonham, Oregon Suffragist and advocate of women's educational equity

Stephen B. and Margaret (née Budd) Bond, welcomed Alice Maud, the second of four daughters, in Keokuk, Lee County, Iowa on February 24, 1870. Natives of Nova Scotia, Canada, the Bonds had emigrated to the United States five years earlier.

By the age of 10, Alice and her family had moved to nearby Des Moines where her father was a farmer. When she was 17, Alice was issued a marriage license in Des Moines to G. H. Slater. Yet their union appears to have been short-lived as no further record is found. In fact, by 1900 Alice is still using the name of Bond, having moved with her family to Chicago. There, her father was employed as a foreman at the famous Pullman Company, a manufacturer of railroad cars. After completing four years of high school, she became employed as a stenographer.

By 1906, the entire Bond family had relocated to Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon. She soon met Harry Wesley Bonham, co-owner of the Bonham and Currier General Store. By 1917, Bonham was president of Bonham & Currier, Inc., a department store in downtown Portland. Bonham and his business partner, Edmund S. Currier, were recognized as popular young grocery entrepreneurs, described as "fine young men" and "endowed with a business tact that have by perseverance and square dealing [built] up one of the largest general merchandise dealings in the city." In September 1906, Edmund Currier married Alice Huiscamp, like Alice a native of Keokuk, Iowa. Then on October 3, 1906, Harry Bonham married "Miss Alice M. Bond, an attractive and accomplished young lady."

According to Ida Husted Harper's The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI, Alice (Mrs. A. Bonham) had been elected secretary of the Oregon branch of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1906, whose president was Abigail Scott Duniway, the "pioneer suffragist of the great Northwest." In 1908, Alice (Mrs. H.W. Bonham) accompanied several other members of a "committee of Portland's prominent women" to the state capital at Salem with Mrs. Duniway to file a petition with the secretary of state to allow all citizens the right to vote, regardless of sex. Other women of the committee included Mrs. O'Brien, Mrs. W.E. Potter, Mrs. Gilbert, Mrs. W.S. Dunniway, all of Portland, and Mrs. Imogene G. Bath of Hillsboro. After five failed attempts, Oregon women finally achieved the right to vote on November 6, 1912.

The Bonhams greeted their first and only child, a daughter, in 1908, which may explain Alice's absence from suffrage activities after that year. Once suffrage was achieved and her daughter was attending school, Alice joined Portland's Chapter C of the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) Sisterhood in 1913, an organization founded in 1869 by seven women in Alice's home state of Iowa to further the cause of education for women. The P.E.O. Sisterhood is still active today, with over 250,000 members in 6,000 chapters in the United States and Canada, and 200 chapters in the State of Oregon alone.

Alice was elected Guard of the Officers of Chapter C, one of Portland's four P.E.O. Sisterhood chapters, in September 1914. One month later, she helped organize a sewing and philanthropic club at St. John's Episcopal Church to make garments for Portland residents who found themselves in need. They elected to name the new group the Quid Libet Circle, an idea spawned by Alice herself.

In 1915, Alice was elected recording secretary for P.E.O. Sisterhood Chapter C and by 1916 was elected as third vice president. She also became an active member of the Portland chapter of the Young Women's Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.) in 1919. In 1920, she was elected vice president of P.E.O Sisterhood Chapter C, and in 1921 conducted a memorial hour at the organization's statewide meeting.

For a surprise party in honor of her husband in 1921, Alice served a "sumptuous repast" and was declared to be "an artist in the culinary art." Moreover, she also was apparently a woman of adventure: at the age of 52, Alice accompanied her daughter on a three-day camping trip down the Columbia River.

After the early 1920s, there are no further accounts of Alice's participation in women's civic activities, perhaps because her husband had experienced a serious illness in late 1921. She passed away in Portland on May 11, 1957 and is buried at the River View Cemetery.

Performing a balancing act between motherhood and civic activities, in the first quarter of the twentieth century there were likely many young women in Oregon who benefitted from Alice Bonham's dedicated service to the community and her role in the fight for equity in the provision of educational opportunities for women.

Sources

1.Lynda Neffe and Rich Wilmes Family Tree. Available at Ancestry.com (subscription required).

2.Alice Bonham, Portland, Oregon. Available at Find-a-Grave.com (subscription required).

3.U.S. Federal Census, 1920. Available at Ancestry.com (subscription required).

4.U.S. Federal Census, 1880. Available at Ancestry.com (subscription required).

5.U.S. Federal Census, 1900. Available at Ancestry.com (subscription required).

6.Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa), July 29, 1887. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

7.U.S. Federal Census, 1940. Available at Ancestry.com (subscription required).

8.Husted Harper I (editor). The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI, 1900 to 1920. National American Woman Suffrage Association: New York, New York, 1922. Available at Google Books.

9.St. Johns Review (Portland, Oregon), October 5, 1906. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

10.Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon), January 16, 1908. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

11.Oregon Historical Society. Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915). Available at The Oregon Encyclopedia.

12.The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon), November 8, 1912. Available at The Oregon Encyclopedia.

13.U.S. Federal Census, 1910. Available at Ancestry.com (subscription required).

14.The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon), December 18, 1913. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

15.The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon), September 27, 1914. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

16.The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon), October 16, 1914. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

17.Portland Sunday Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), October 18, 1914. Available at NewspaperArchive.com (subscription required).

18.The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon), March 6, 1915. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

19.The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon), May 6, 1916. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

20.Oregon State Chapter, P.E.O. Sisterhood. Available at PEOOregon.org.

21.The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon), October 12, 1914. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

22.St. Johns Review (Portland, Oregon), December 12, 1919. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

23.The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon), March 11, 1920. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

24.Portland Sunday Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), March 14, 1920. Available at NewspaperArchive.com (subscription required).

25.St. Johns Review (Portland, Oregon), February 18, 1921. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

26.The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon), May 15, 1921. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

27.The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon), August 20, 1922. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

28.U.S. Federal Census, 1930. Available at Ancestry.com (subscription required).

29.The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon), December 13, 1922. Available at Newspapers.com (subscription required).

30.Portland Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), December 23, 1921. Available at NewspaperArchive.com (subscription required).

[No image of Alice Maud Bonham was located]

back to top