Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Alma B. Sasse (Troxell), 1895-1967
By Nicole Patri, undergraduate student, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Alma B. Sasse was a woman who was passionate about suffrage and politics. She was born in Brunswick, Missouri in 1895 to Frederick C. Sasse and Dora B. Sasse. Alma was the oldest of three children. She had a sister, Josephine, and a brother, Louis Donald. Her father was a lawyer and her mother took care of the house. They were a well-off family, and were fortunate enough to own their own house. The Sasses were a Catholic family, at least in Alma's early years. They attended St. Boniface Catholic church where Alma was involved in events with the church. In 1902 Alma and her mother had small parts in a play for their church. That same year Alma was a flower girl for a funeral at the church. Both of her parents were Republicans and actively involved in political organizations. Her passion for politics most likely came from them, as Alma would eventually lead the women's division of the organization her father was in.
Alma Sasse attended school from a young age. After grade school she spent 2 years attending Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. By 1913 she was studying arts and science at the University of Missouri, where she graduated in 1915. She became involved in suffrage at the university and gained experience with organizing. In spring of 1915 she was appointed chairman of Missouri Universities first "School of Suffrage," whose goals were to organize men and women interested in suffrage and to educate students about why it mattered. She helped set up the curriculum and raise interest for the new field of study, which would be adopted in many other schools around the country in the years after her graduation. She also did many plays for the woman's group at her university, including one play where one of the lead actresses dropped out and Alma took her place with only 10 days left to rehearse.
After graduation, she started her career as a political organizer almost immediately. She was awarded a two-year teaching certificate from the University of Missouri in September of 1916, but there is no record of her going into teaching. Instead, she got a job as a personal staff member of Carrie Chapman Catt, the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association at the time. Under Catt she helped organize campaigns to recruit women for political demonstrations. She seemed to be extremely comfortable talking to the press and public, as can be seen by her aggressive campaign method of talking to people personally to persuade them instead of doing letter campaigns. She was quoted often in newspapers and gave some powerful speeches to college campuses, including Missouri University, the school she graduated from.
One of the most powerful demonstrations she organized in her early years was the Golden Lane parade at the Democratic National Convention in 1916. It was a demonstration where they stood outside of the convention. They did no walking, contrary to it being a "parade." Her organizing and speaking skills during this event got her noticed by other important activists from around the country, and soon after she was invited to help organize campaigns for women's suffrage in New York. From there she went on a speaking campaign in other states including Michigan, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia, with most of her time spent in West Virginia. She was described as a brilliant speaker and kind-mannered, and her success in campaign organizing eventually took her to Washington D.C. to help gain support for the federal suffrage amendment. Once national suffrage was passed her work did not end; it shifted to other areas of focus.
In January of 1919 she was back in St. Louis trying to get a suffrage bill passed in Missouri. By this time, her reputation as a speaker and organizer was well known, and in July 1919 she was elected as state chairman of the Republican Women's executive committee. She was the youngest person of any gender to hold the position. After her election, she spent much of her time organizing campaigns in Missouri and going on speaking tours throughout the Midwest and the Pacific coast of the United States. Inspired by her travels and the different women she met, she wrote The Handbook for Republican Women. Published in 1920, this book was a staple for the Republican Women's committee, and it was passed out to all women who had recently received the vote to educate them about the party's history and beliefs. Her work as state chairman of the organization made it the best branch in the entire country, and she was elected director of the Women's Republican Committee in September of 1920.
As director of the committee, she became extremely passionate about ending the League of Nations. At times her views and beliefs became quite radical. In 1920 she made a speech in Paris, Missouri that may have been the end of her being in the public spotlight. In her speech she stated that the League of Nations had not allowed Switzerland to join, had sent American men to Russia during World War I, and was setting up a white slave trade. None of these statements were true, and she faced backlash from newspapers and the public, with one woman calling her out in the middle of her speech. To make matters worse, she wrote letters to newspapers saying that she was misquoted by the reporters at one of her speeches. She was called out by the editor of one newspaper, and it seems her career took a sharp downturn. Although she continued to speak around the country, her reputation had been damaged, and she was less of a public figure after the incident.
She did stay involved in activism, but it was short lived. In December of 1921 she was on the ballot to be a delegate for the Republican State Convention. Although she had many supporters, the law was that she needed to be 30 years old, and she was only 28. She continued to go on speaking tours for a couple more years, but eventually stopped her activist work. In May of 1927 Alma married Alexander Troxell and took the name Alma Sasse Troxell.
As she aged it seemed that she got more into writing. She wrote a book titled The Mystery of the Chinese Box that was published in 1939 followed by a book titled Terry Carvel's Theatre Caravan that was published in 1943. Terry Carvel's Theatre Caravan was a story about a woman in college who wished that she could get into plays. The book was well liked by the public and got many good reviews. Eventually she moved to Washington, where she lived out the rest of her days. She died in 1967 in Seattle, Washington from an unspecified illness.
Vandiver, C. P., editor. "'Callista and Dorothea.'" Chariton Courier, 20 June 1902, p. 1. Newspapers.com.
"Scribner Shots." Chariton Courier, 27 June 1902 [Keytesville, MO] , p. 1. Newspapers.com.
"Curators of M.U Meet in St. Louis." The Evening Missourian, 7 Sept. 1915 [Columbia, Missouri], p. 1, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/64364755
"Women's Stunt Play Chosen." The Evening Missourian, 28 Mar. 1915 [Columbia, Missouri] , p. 1, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/64358505
"School of Suffrage Will Open Tuesday." The Evening Missourian, 14 Mar. 1915, p. 1, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/64357936
"Boosts Golden Lane Parade." St. Louis Dispatch, 21 May 1916, p. 38, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/138323149
"Suffragists Busy on Plans to Win Democrat's Favor." St. Louis Dispatch, 14 May 1916, p. 39, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/138251880
"Miss Sasse Director of Women's Organization." The Gerald Journal, 24 Sept. 1920 [Gerald, Missouri], p. 1, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/513161428
"60 Co-Eds Pledge to Suffrage League." The Evening Missourian, 27 Oct. 1916 [Columbia, Missouri], p. 1, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/68098375
""Sassy" Miss Sasse Pulls A Real "Boner"." The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune, 27 Oct. 1920, p. 6, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/26786539
Richardson, Katherine. "Republican Textbook for Women." The St. Louis Star and Times, 10 Aug. 1920, p. 15, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/204822498
"Donald Sasse's Sister Dies in Seattle, Wash." Moberly Monitor-Index, 21 Dec. 1967 [Moberly, Missouri], p. 16, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/20704683
Richardson, Katherine. "Politics Is the Vocation of This 23-Year-Old Missouri Girl." The St. Louis Star and Times, 4 Sept. 1919, p. 13, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/204535710
"Congressman Dyer in Clash With A Negro." The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune, 28 July 1919 [Chillicothe, Missouri], p. 5, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/18103156
"Women Choose St. Louisienne for G.O.P. Committee." St. Louis Post Dispatch, 27 July 1919, p. 35, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/139391235
"Suffrage Bill is First on Calendar of Both Houses." The St. Louis Star and Times, 11 Jan. 1919, night ed., p. 2, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/204467393
Sasse, Alma B. "Home Press Misquotes Miss Alma Sasse." Letter. La Plata Republican, 8 Oct. 2020 [La Plata, Missouri], p. 1+, newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/80328836
Missouri, Chariton, 1920 U.S. census, Digital Images. Ancestry.com. http://www.ancestry.com : 2019