Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Cora Louise Boehringer, 1878-1951

By Janolyn Lo Vecchio, independent historian

Arizona educator, politician, and feminist, Cora Louise Boehringer, (who was known as C. Louise Boehringer) was born in Morrison, Illinois in 1878. Her parents, Jacob and Louise Greenawald Boehringer, immigrated to the United States after the Civil War. Boehringer's first language was German, and she learned English when she started school at age 5. She began teaching in rural and grade schools and graduated from the Illinois Normal School in 1902. After graduation, she was Director of the Normal Department in Gennessee, Illinois (1903-1905), and Director of the State Normal School in Cape Girardeau, Missouri (1906). When the Missouri Normal School opened in Springfield, Missouri in 1907, Boehringer was asked to organize and superintend it, a position she held for five years. She continued her education by simultaneously earning a Bachelor of Science degree in teaching from Columbia University and a diploma in supervision from the Teachers College in New York in 1911. Next, she became superintendent of the Training School for Teachers in Springfield, Illinois in 1912. While living in Illinois she became active in the suffrage movement and joined the Woman Suffrage League.

In 1908 at age 30 Boehringer filed a homestead claim for a 40-acre ranch in Yuma, Arizona for her parents and epileptic brother. She moved to Yuma permanently in 1912 to join her family who were operating a dairy farm. Arizona was a bustling western state which offered new scope for Boehringer's talents and abilities. After moving to Yuma, she began teaching at Crane School, a four-room building in the Yuma Valley. In 1913, community leaders began circulating petitions to recall Yuma County Superintendent of Education John Hess. Boehringer was one of four candidates (all women) who ran against John Hess in Arizona's first recall election. When Boehringer won the election on May 31, 1913, she became the first woman elected to political office in the new state of Arizona.

While serving as Yuma County Superintendent of Schools, Boehringer participated in national and state professional organizations. Herbert Hoover appointed her as chair of the Arizona woman's drive for food conservation in 1917. She served on National Education Association committees and was elected secretary of the Arizona State Teacher's Association in 1919. As Legislative Chair of the Arizona Federation of Women's Clubs, Boehringer lobbied for bills for child welfare, women jurors, and minimum wage for women. In 1920 she was appointed chair of the Woman's Auxiliary Democratic Committee of Yuma County. She was also a member of the Yuma County Equal Suffrage Club, Association of University of Women, Octotillo Club, Commercial Club and the League of American Pen Women.

Serving as Yuma County Superintendent of Schools deepened Boehringer's interest in politics as a means to address education and women's issues. In 1916 she ran for election as State Superintendent of Public Instruction but was defeated. Undeterred by her political defeat, Boehringer decided to run for the Arizona House of Representatives. Boehringer won the election and served two terms in the Arizona state legislature (1921-22). During her first term she introduced nine bills. She sponsored and secured passage of legislation for child welfare. Her biggest legislative victory was the establishment of the first per capita funding for Arizona schools and creation of an Arizona school board. As chair of the Committee on Education, she presided over joint House and Senate education committee sessions when this bill was debated. However, Boehringer believed her most important legislative contribution was passage of House Bill No. 170, which declared every child to be the legitimate child and heir of its natural parents. This bill legitimized children born out of wedlock so they could inherit property on an equal basis with children born in wedlock.

A talented woman of incredible energy, Boehringer juggled multiple roles skillfully. While running for political offices, serving as a state legislator, and managing an alfalfa ranch, Boehringer edited and published an educational journal and created professional organizations for Arizona women. In 1917 she purchased a magazine, Arizona Teacher, which became the official publication of the Arizona Education Association. For 22 years Boehringer owned, edited, and published Arizona Teacher, which was the only educational journal in Arizona as well as a forum for Arizona teachers and the Arizona Education Association. Although the number of women administrators in higher education and women in the work force was increasing, there were no state organizations for working women. To bridge this gap, Boehringer organized the State Council of Administrative Women in Education in 1915. Members included women county school superintendents, high school department heads, and principals. During 1925-26 Boehringer served as state president of this organization.

Next, she turned her attention to the broader needs of working women in Arizona. As a single working woman, C. Louise Boehringer began working for women's issues when she joined the Women's Suffrage Movement and Women's Trade Union League in Illinois. In July 1919 she attended the organizational meeting of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs (BPW/USA) in St. Louis, Missouri. Boehringer returned home determined to create an Arizona chapter of this organization to promote full participation, equity, and economic self-sufficiency for working women. She contacted already existing Business Girls Clubs in Yuma, Tucson, Phoenix, Prescott, Douglas, and Nogales to support her goal. On February 12, 1921, the Arizona Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs (BPW/AZ) was established in Phoenix, Arizona with six charter clubs (Tucson, Phoenix, Prescott, Douglas, Yuma, and Nogales). Boehringer was elected the first state president of the new organization and drove over 1,500 miles on unpaved roads during her presidency to visit state clubs. In 1924 she served a second term as BPW/AZ president and also served as national vice-president for Arizona for the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs.

Through these years, the focus of her activities remained education. She was editor of Arizona Parent Teacher (1925-1933), National Altrusan (1929-32), and Arizona Geography. Boehringer was elected vice president of the League of American Pen Women in Arizona and president of the Arizona Parent Teacher Association. In 1928 she was appointed by Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover as Arizona chair of the Better Homes in America Committee to adapt the national housing and home life program in Arizona. In spite of a rigorous working schedule, Boehringer completed a master's degree at the University of California in 1930.

Her advocacy for public education led to her appointment at age 55 as Director of Curriculum at the Arizona Department of Education from 1933-39. It was a demanding position with unique challenges created by the Depression. In 1933, the state legislature reduced educational funding by 20% even though attendance of school children increased. She wrote papers and organized conferences to combat the threat of future financial cuts by the state legislature. In March 1934, Boehringer and other state educators gave a three-day presentation on educational needs at the Arizona state legislature. Boehringer also worked to modernize Arizona's educational system by revising and standardizing state curriculum in schools. She published thirteen curriculum bulletins averaging 177 pages for all school subjects with course goal statements, descriptions of the teacher's role in adapting the course, and suggested school programs and addressed other issues such as bilingual education techniques. She also reviewed and selected new textbooks and dictionaries for all schools and served as Chairman of Educational Broadcasts in Arizona.

At age 62 Boehringer ran a third time for the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1940. When she was defeated, she retired and returned to her ranch in Yuma. In 1953, she moved to live with her sister-in-law in Seattle, Washington. C. Louise Boehringer died in Seattle, on September 11, 1956.

Two quotes, summarize Boehringer's educational philosophy:

"The teacher's life is full of hard work and inadequate financial reward, but it is full of joy and good times for those who love children and young people and it is filled with satisfaction in service well rendered."
"Wherever you are, you are again facing an Opportunity. You are stimulating minds and developing characters -- or you are not...There is no finer Opportunity in life than that of teaching boys and girls."

(Both quotes from Arizona Teacher and Home Journal)

Boheringer's career reflected her dedication to her beliefs. Her outstanding contributions to Arizona education were recognized by Delta Kappa Gamma, National Altrusa, and the National League of American Pen Women. She is listed in four editions of Arizona's Who's Who, Women of the West, Leaders in Education. In 2008, she was inducted into the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame.

Although she never married, C. Louise Boehringer influenced the lives of numerous children and women. Throughout her career she worked continuously to develop and modernize Arizona's education system. C. Louise Boehringer's contributions an Arizona legislator, education administrator, publisher, and feminist created a lasting legacy for Arizona women and children.

SOURCES:

Arizona Federation of Business and Professional Women: Women Who Made A Difference: 1921-1968. Tucson: Arizona Business and Professional Women's Foundation, Volume 1 1994: pp.3-22.

Skirting Traditions: Arizona Women Writers and Journalists 1912-2012. Tucson: Wheatmark, 2012: pp. 17-23.

Brown, Wynne: More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Arizona Women. Helena: Two Dot Globe Pequot Press 2003: pp. 70-82.

Conners, Jo: Who's Who In Arizona. Tucson: 1913 pp. 617-19.

"Arizona's First Woman Official Is Summer School Teacher Here," The Columbian Evening Missourian June 27, 1922, p.1.

Boehringer, C. Louise, "Editorial Comment," Arizona Teacher and Home Journal, May 1926, p. 6.

Boehringer, C. Louise, "Editorial Comment," Arizona Teacher and Home Journal, September, 1925, p. 6.

Boehringer, C. Louise, "Elementary Education in Arizona," Fifteenth Biennial Report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to the Governor of the State of Arizona. July 1, 1938 to June 30, 1940, pp. 12-14.

C. Louise Boehringer clipping file, Arizona Historical Society, Tucson, Arizona.

Lo Vecchio, Janolyn, "C. Louise Boehringer: Arizona's First Lady of Education," unpublished paper presented at the 2000 Arizona History Convention, Tucson, Arizona.

back to top