Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Beulah Boyd Ritchie, 1864-1939

By Randolph Hollingsworth, PhD, independent scholar

West Virginia suffragist

Anna Beulah Boyd was born in Wheeling, West Virginia on March 24, 1864; she was the eldest child of Annie B. Caldwell (1842-1918) and Judge George Edmund Boyd (1839-1913). She had two brothers, George Jr. (1866-1934) and Alfred (1868-1894). She graduated with a bachelor's then a master's degree from Wooster University, a Presbyterian co-educational school in Ohio (and which became today's College of Wooster). After graduation she dropped her first name and went by her middle name, Beulah, when she taught for two years in the late 1880s at the Presbyterian coeducational Carthage College in Missouri. She moved back to Wheeling and taught for two years in the public schools there before she started teaching at Fairmont State Normal School (now Fairmont State University). She met Charles Marcene Ritchie (1869-1957), a bookkeeper in Fairmont. They married on June 3, 1893, and by the next year they had their one child, a daughter. Jean Boyd Ritchie (1894-1980) married H. Hillier Hoagland and with their two children eventually went to live in Erie, Pennsylvania.

As a young mother, Ritchie took up what became her life-long work of public service. In November 1895, she attended a three-day convention at Grafton, organized by Mary G. Hay and Rev. Henrietta G. Moore of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), with about fifty women, where they founded the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association. Beulah Boyd Ritchie presented one of six addresses on woman suffrage given by locals on the second day, and hers was entitled: "Does the Working Woman Need it?" Her mother, Annie Caldwell Boyd, was elected the state's founding Corresponding Secretary, whose task was to try and keep the nine new local clubs alive. Jessie G. Manley, from Fairmont, was elected president - Manley's mother Margaret J. Grove was elected president of the newly formed Fairmont Woman Suffrage Club which formed on the third evening after the lecture by NAWSA's Rev. Henrietta Moore in the State Normal School hall. Ritchie was elected the corresponding secretary of the local club. Many of the founding members agreed to use the NAWSA Course of Study for political science readings and discussions in their communities. In Wheeling, Annie C. Boyd together with Fannie J. Wheat and Dr. Harriet B. Jones organized their club's petition drive to convince legislators to include woman suffrage in the upcoming new charter for Wheeling. They also set up a booth in the summer of 1896 at the State Fair to hand out literature and to collect signatures for a petition to the state legislature for woman suffrage.

In January 1897 Fairmont hosted the second state convention and featured Carrie Chapman Catt. Beulah Boyd Ritchie was elected recording secretary and her mother was re-elected as corresponding secretary. Several of the clubs organized by NAWSA Organization Committee member Mary G. Hay in 1895 (identified in Manley's report to NAWSA in 1896 as clubs in the following cities and number of members: Wheeling, 22; Benwood, 8; Wellsburg, 12; New Cumberland, 2; New Martinsville, 9; Clarksburg, 39; Grafton, 21; Fairmont, 43, and Mannington, 43) had already stopped meeting. Cracks in the state organization begin to show when no one from West Virginia showed up for the 1898 NAWSA convention, and the only report came from the president Fannie J. Wheat of Wheeling on the bills "of interest to women" that passed that year in West Virginia. The funding from West Virginia to the national organization had dried up, despite Manley's promise of $100 a year earlier, and the state relied on Fairmont P.E.C. which could raise only $20. Meanwhile, that year the Charleston Woman's Improvement League was organized as a member of the National Association of Colored Women and took on suffrage as part of their work. There was no white women's suffrage club in Charleston at the time.

The fourth state convention, in the fall of 1899, also took place in Fairmont with Carrie Chapman Catt coming in from NAWSA as in previous years to support them. That year, Beulah Boyd Ritchie was elected president and had a strong executive committee with her mother as corresponding secretary, Fannie Wheat to represent them on the national executive committee, and Jessie Manley as press superintendent. Ritchie's ascendancy to the presidency of the state organization was heralded by Carrie Chapman Catt in the National Suffrage Bulletin: "Mrs. Ritchie is young, enthusiastic and intelligent. The work in the State is in promising condition and the Association will undoubtedly increase in membership the coming year." Ritchie had, what Fannie Wheat described as the "brave little" Fairmont Club, successfully organized an unprecedented lecture by the Rev. Anna Howard Shaw to a joint session of both Houses of the state legislature. Shaw was the first woman to speak before the West Virginia Legislature. Shaw's expenditures were paid mostly by the Fairmont P.E.C. which had held pancake suppers, festivals, and a Woman's Exchange to afford it. Some individuals from the Wheeling club sent in contributions, and the then-defunct Clarksburg club sent Ritchie the last of the money from their treasury. The state organization also began to offer prizes to university students for the best orations on the topic of woman suffrage. Since no new clubs organized on their own, Ritchie encouraged fundraising in Fairmont (a weekly cake sale) to pay expenses for a NAWSA organizer to come to West Virginia. The Fairmont Political Equality Club's financial success allowed for the leadership to send funds every year to NAWSA and, according to a history of the club in a 1914 newspaper article, funds were sent twice to help Ohio in their state campaigns for woman suffrage and "contributed largely" to the NAWSA bazaar held in Madison Square Garden in 1900. By 1900 the West Virginia Woman's Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) officially endorsed women's suffrage.

In 1901, Judge George E. Boyd, Beulah Ritchie's father, drafted a bill for women to vote for Presidential electors, a narrow version of partial suffrage that would not call for an amendment to the state constitution. The bill was defeated in the House, 31 to 25, and was tabled in the Senate. Ritchie reported to the National convention that no one from their suffrage clubs had attended or lobbied for the bill "which is always necessary for the carrying of any measure." Her disappointment was palpable, and she included in her report that U.S. Senator Stephen B. Elkins had helped to destroy the bill by attending the session in person. She emphasized that "Many members [of the legislature] express themselves as favorable" of woman suffrage, as did the Attorney General who had told her that if presented to the voters of the state as a constitutional amendment, it would carry.

Ritchie's report to the National convention in 1902 led with a self-chastisement: "West Virginia is not really entitled to a report this year as she has not visibly progressed, although the leaven is undoubtedly working. There is but one club in the State..." But she praised her Press Superintendent and founding president Jessie Manley toward the end of her short report, stating that Manley's "reports are very encouraging." It must have been very exciting for Ritchie at that year's convention, which included the first International Woman Suffrage Conference, to see Manley's mother, Margaret Grove, seated in honor on stage with the NAWSA's chosen Pioneer Workers.

By March of 1903, Ritchie could show that her work had garnered new members, and that they had "about 600 signed enrolment cards on file." She had also led a drive earlier that fall in writing personal letters to each member of the legislature and enclosing suffrage literature. The campaign continued through the winter with hands-on lobbying which led to the crafting of a new bill for Presidential suffrage for women. It was not successful - again. In February 1904, Ritchie reported to NAWSA that "West Virginia is still in the ranks of the workers for freedom." She admitted that 1903 had "been an 'off' year," yet they had increased their membership. She had organized a meeting at the nascent Fairmont Country Club where they gave a tribute to the pioneer suffragist Lucy Stone on the 10th anniversary of her death. They had also decorated the Christian Church to honor Elizabeth Cady Stanton upon her death in October 1902 and also had plans to celebrate the great activist Susan B. Anthony.

In 1904, Ritchie stepped down as president of the state suffrage organization though she continued in various positions at the state level and served as president of the stalwart supporter, Fairmont Political Equality Club (P.E.C.). At the state convention in August 1904 at Moundsville, she was elected Vice President at large. The Fairmont P.E.C. often met at her home, 403 Gaston Avenue. As early as 1903 she had chaired the local W.C.T.U. branch's Franchise Department, and by October 1907 she served in the rigorous role of the state's corresponding secretary for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She also served as a member of the Woman's Missionary Society of the Presbyterian Church.

Her leadership experience paid off. In 1908 when NAWSA asked for signers of a petition to be sent to Congress, Fairmont P.E.C. sent in 600 names. That year, the William Haymond Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution formed, and Ritchie successfully applied for membership through her maternal grandmother's ancestor. In 1911 the state suffrage convention at Fairmont elected Ritchie, who as president of the local club hosted the convention, to serve as a delegate to the national convention. Ritchie (by then serving as the WV member of NAWSA Executive Council and president of the Fairmont P.E.C.) lined up lawyers, doctors, businessmen and editors as speakers in public meetings in 1913 to support the woman suffrage bill (which had been presented twice before). This time it gained a majority in both houses of the legislature; however, they did not win the required two-thirds votes to send a constitutional amendment to the state voters. Ritchie remembered years later the exciting times of 1913, including the march in Washington D.C. where the crowds hemmed them in and tore the banners from their automobiles. She remembered that their marching line of eight abreast was forced into a single file as the crowds grew more violent. She remembered that when the men in the crowds saw the West Virginia women's banner, they started calling them "coal diggers," and "snake hunters" as well as other names.

Ritchie organized a public suffrage meeting in the County Courthouse in Fairmont on March 4, 1914, featuring Helen Ring Robinson, the first State Senator in Colorado, who spoke on "The Ballot and the Home." Her speech was printed in detail in the local paper with many accolades. In July, the West Virginia Equal Suffrage League convened in Parkersburg, and Beulah Ritchie was elected again as member of the National Executive Committee. The state convention in Fairmont in April 1915 provided a picture of confidence that victory was theirs in the legislative session in the fall of 1916. Beulah Ritchie, president of the local suffrage club, welcomed all and led off the presentations by many at the evening's banquet for 100 guests in the dining room of the Manley Hotel. By the summer of 1916 the anti-suffragist clubs in various cities organized the West Virginia State Association Opposed to Woman's Suffrage which set up a booth at the Fairmont Fair. The president Mrs. D.C. Gallaher of Charleston and honorary president Mrs. A.B. Fleming of Fairmont (a former First Lady of West Virginia), had invited the anti-suffragists' champion Clara E. Markeson to speak. The controversy over the club bringing in an outsider to contribute to the debate included open letters by the suffragists that were printed in several newspapers. The legislative session ended up defeating the suffrage bill once again.

In 1919, Ritchie signed up as a member of the State Advisory Committee to support the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association's State Ratification Committee organizing to lobby for the woman suffrage bill. She was also a leader in the Fairmont Woman's Club that year, bringing her full range of experience in organizing to the fore. In the spring of 1920, the legislature met in special session and with the organization of the suffragists at full throttle, approved the bill for ratification, becoming the thirty-fourth of the thirty-six states needed for ratification of the amendment. During a victory celebration upon hearing the news of Tennessee's ratification of the amendment in August, Ritchie gave her statement to the press: "The end of the age long struggle is an object lesson in faith that right will prevail." In the fall of 1920, at the age of 55, Beulah Boyd Ritchie was working as the librarian at the Fairmont City Library when she voted for the first time in a presidential election.

Beulah Boyd Ritchie died on October 4, 1939, from complications from breast cancer she had been fighting since 1935. She had been cared for nearly a month in the Warren State Hospital, a public psychiatric institution at Conewango, Penn. She is buried near her family in the Woodlawn Cemetery at Fairmont, West Virginia.

Resources

"Anna Beulah Boyd Ritchie," FindAGrave.com https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/44085604.

"Beulah B. Ritchie," Certificate of Death, File No. 92255, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Accessed via Ancestry.com

Boyd, Annie Caldwell. "West Virginia," Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association at The Central Christian Church... Des Moines, Iowa, January 26th... 29, 1897. Rachel Foster Avery, ed. (Philadelphia: Alfred J. Ferris, 1897). Available online via HathiTrust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015005295657?urlappend=%3Bseq=654

"Boyd," 325-326 in West Virginia and Its People, Volume II. Thomas Condit Miller and Hu Maxwell, comp. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1913.

"Boyd, Miss Beulah, teacher, Carthage College," 42 in Emery's Carthage [Missouri] City Directory, 1888. Carthage, Missouri: C. Emery, [1888]. https://archive.org/details/carthagemissouri00cart/page/42/mode/2up/

Catt, Carrie Chapman, "Committee on Organization," 43-44 in The Twenty-Eighth Annual Convention of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association at ... Washington D.C., January 23d to 28th, 1896. Rachel Foster Avery, ed. Phil.: Alfred J. Ferris, 1896. Available online via HathiTrust: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015005295657&view=1up&seq=401

"Committees of Woman's Club," The [Fairmont] West Virginian (April 22, 1919): 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1919-04-22/ed-1/seq-3/

"D.A.R. Meeting Wednesday," The [Fairmont] West Virginian (November 19, 1917): 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1917-11-19/ed-1/seq-3/

Effland, Anne Wallace. "A Profile of Political Activists: Women of the West Virginia Woman Suffrage Movement," West Virginia History 49 (1990), pp. 103-114. A transcription of these pages available online at http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh49-8.html.

Effland, Anne Wallace, "The Woman Suffrage Movement in West Virginia, 1867-1920," M.A. thesis, West Virginia University, 1983. Available via The Research Repository@WVU at https://researchrepository.wvu.edu/etd/7361.

"Fairmont Gets It," The Fairmont West Virginian (August 11, 1904): 8. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092557/1904-08-11/ed-1/seq-8/

"Fighting the Long Fight: West Virginia Women and the Right to Vote," A West Virginia Archives and History Online Exhibit. West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. http://www.wvculture.org/history/exhibitsonline/suffrage/suffrage1.html

"Finances," Proceedings of the Thirtieth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association .... Washington D.C.... February 13...19, 1898. Rachel Foster Avery, ed. Phil: Alfred J. Ferris, 1898. Available online via HathiTrust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015005295657?urlappend=%3Bseq=840

"Letters to the Editor, An Open Letter," The West Virginian - Fairmont (August 28, 1916): 9. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/data/batches/wvu_rollins_ver01/data/sn86072054/0041566039A/1916082301/0866.pdf

"Mrs. B.L. Butcher on Library Board," The [Fairmont] West Virginian (March 12, 1919): 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1919-03-12/ed-1/seq-1/

"Mrs. Robinson is Greeted by a Large Crowd," The Fairmont West Virginian (March 4, 1914): 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092557/1914-03-04/ed-1/seq-1/

"Meet To-morrow Night," The Fairmont West Virginian (November 10, 1904): 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092557/1904-11-10/ed-1/seq-1/

"Missionary Society Meeting," The Fairmont West Virginian (April 17, 1905): 5. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092557/1905-04-17/ed-1/seq-5/

"Notes from the Field," National Suffrage Bulletin [New York] Vol 5, No. 3 (November 1899): 1-2, Available online via HathiTrust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015021929115?urlappend=%3Bseq=42

"Officers Are Elected for the Year by Woman Suffrage Association of State," The Clarksburg [W.Va.] Telegram (November 2, 1911): 8. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84037844/1911-11-02/ed-1/seq-10/

"Officers Elected by [WCTU] State Convention," The Daily Telegram [Clarksburg, W. Va.] (October 10, 1907): 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85059715/1907-10-10/ed-1/seq-3/

"Plans Completed for Suffrage Meet," The [Fairmont] West Virginian (April 6, 1915): 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1915-04-06/ed-1/seq-3/

Ritchie, Beulah Boyd. "Annual Report of the Political Equality Club of Fairmont," Wheeling Sunday Register (November 22, 1896): 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092523/1896-11-22/ed-1/seq-3/

Ritchie, Beulah Boyd. "West Virginia," Proceedings of the Thirty-second Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association...Washington D.C., February 8 ... 14, 1900. Rachel Foster Avery ed. Philadelphia: Alfred J. Ferris, 1900. Available online via HathiTrust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.rslfdp?urlappend=%3Bseq=98

Ritchie, Beulah Boyd. "West Virginia," Proceedings of the Thirty-Third Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association... at Minneapolis, Minn. May 30 ... June 5, 1901. Alice Stone Blackwell, ed. Warren, Ohio: Frank W. Perry, 1901. Available online via HathiTrust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.rslfdq?urlappend=%3Bseq=133

Ritchie, Beulah Boyd. "West Virginia," Proceedings of the Thirty-Fourth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, held at Washington D.C., February 14th... 18th, 1902. Alice Stone Blackwell and Harriet Taylor Upton, eds. Warren, Ohio: Frank W. Perry, 1902. Available online via HathiTrust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.rslfdr?urlappend=%3Bseq=97

Ritchie, Beulah Boyd. "West Virginia," Proceedings of the Thirty-Fifth Annual Convention of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association Held at New Orleans, La., March 19th to 25th, inclusive, 1903. Harriet Taylor Upton and Elizabeth J. Hauser, eds. Warren Ohio: Wm. Ritezel & Co., 1903. Accessible online via HathiTrust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015039253557?urlappend=%3Bseq=636

Ritchie, Beulah Boyd. "West Virginia," Proceedings of the Thirty-Sixth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.... Washington D.C. February 7-10, 1904. Accessible online via HathiTrust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015039253557?urlappend=%3Bseq=772

"State W.C.T.U. Meets at Salem," The Fairmont West Virginian (October 12, 1907): 8. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092557/1907-10-12/ed-1/seq-8/

"State Woman's Suffrage Club," Wheeling [W.Va.] Register (November 29, 1895): 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092518/1895-11-29/ed-1/seq-2/

"State Women are Attending the National Woman Suffrage Association in Washington," The Daily Telegram [Clarksburg, W.Va.] (December 3, 1913): 4. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85059715/1913-12-03/ed-1/seq-28/

Stone, Elizabeth. "Fairmont Women Among the First to Come Out Openly for the Equal Suffrage Cause," The [Fairmont] West Virginian (August 19, 1920): 1, 8. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1920-08-19/ed-1/seq-1/

Stone, Ida B. "Fairmont Clubs Do Fine Work," The Fairmont West Virginian (October 22, 1914): 8. Available online via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092557/1914-10-22/ed-1/seq-24/

"Suffrage Association," West Virginia [Kingwood, WV] Argus (December 6, 1900): 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092245/1900-12-06/ed-1/seq-3/

"Suffrage Women Working for Love," The [Fairmont] West Virginian (August 28, 1916): 9. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1916-08-23/ed-1/seq-9/

"Suffragists Elect New Officers," The Fairmont West Virginian (July 31, 1914): 5. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092557/1914-07-31/ed-1/seq-5/

"Suffragists Hold Conference; Campaign Outlined at Banquet," The [Fairmont] West Virginian (April 9, 1915): 1-2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1915-04-09/ed-1/seq-1/

"Suffragists Meeting Here," The Fairmont West Virginian (October 27, 1911): 4. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092557/1911-10-27/ed-1/seq-4/

"W.C.T.U. Nineteenth Annual Meeting of the Central Woman's Christian Temperance Union," The Fairmont West Virginian (September 17, 1904): 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092557/1904-09-17/ed-1/seq-3/

"West Virginia," 980-984 in History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. IV, 1883-1900. Susan B. Anthony & Ida Husted Harper, eds. Rochester, N.Y.: Susan B. Anthony, 1902. Available online via HathiTrust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/coo.31924052143595?urlappend=%3Bseq=1060

"West Virginia Men Urge Ratification," The Woman Citizen (January 17, 1920): 737. Available online via HathiTrust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/inu.30000098651064?urlappend=%3Bseq=665

Wheat, Fannie K. "West Virginia Woman Suffrage Association," Proceedings of the Thirty-first Annual Convention of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association ... Grand Rapids, Mich. April 27 ... May 3, 1899. Rachel Foster Avery, ed. Warren, Ohio: Perry, 1899. Available via HathiTrust:

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