Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Helen (Mrs. A. H.) Beardsley, 1873-1958
By Markayla Mulvain, student, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Oshkosh, WI
Vice President (1913-1919), Elkhart, Indiana, Women's Franchise League; 1st president (1920), Elkhart, Indiana, Indiana League of Women Voters; 1st women elected on Elkhart County School Board
Helen Maude Brown was born on October 8, 1873 in Kendallville, Indiana to Gilbert and Ethel Brown of Indiana. Helen never attended school, but was able to read and write. In 1897, Helen married Andrew Hubble Beardsley of Indiana. Mr. and Mrs. Beardsley later went on to have two children, Walter and Bruce Beardsley. Both of the Beardsleys were very involved in politics and suffrage within Indiana.
Helen was a strong advocate for women's rights in Indiana. In 1913, Mrs. Beardsley founded the Elkhart chapter of the Women's Franchise League of Indiana, which was an organization to secure women's voting rights. She served as vice president through 1919. During this time period, Beardlsey was chosen, along with a fellow member, to meet with President Wilson to discuss women's suffrage. After the 45-minute discussion, the President admitted that he was in favor of women's suffrage.
Although meeting with President Wilson was a huge step forward for Beardsley and her league, it did not grant them the full rights they were fighting for. Around 1920, Helen Beardsley formed and became the first president of the Indiana League of Women Voters. During that same time, Helen's husband served in the Indiana State Senate. He was also a strong advocate for women's rights and proposed and succeeded in getting the state legislature to approve the Beardsley Full Suffrage Amendment, which would have granted women the right to vote in Indiana if they had been a state resident for one year, and a resident of the county they resided in for at least sixty days. This Amendment needed to be approved a second time by the legislature and then it would have gone out to a statewide vote. The ratification of the 19th Amendment superseded the state process.
Helen Beardsley also became the first woman elected to the Elkhart School Board. However, the date of this accomplishment is unknown. Helen passed away in 1958 at age 85 in her Los Angeles home.
Death record, Helen Maude Beardsley, Beverly Hills, CA, accessed via Ancestry Library Edition.
Inventory of the Annie Belle Boss Papers (League of Women Voters), Indiana University South Bend, accessible online at https://library.iusb.edu/search-find/archives/finding-aids/annie-bell-boss.pdf.\
Women's Franchise League of Indiana, article on Wikipedia, accessible at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_Franchise_League_of_Indiana.