Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1880-1920
Biography of Alice Bertha Curtis, 1874-1956
By Brenden Barco, Ph.D., Raleigh, N.C.
Alice Bertha Curtis was born in Holland, Iowa on January 1, 1874 to English immigrants Thomas and Elizabeth Curtis. The family later settled in other parts of Iowa including Colfax, Jackson, and Allison, where Thomas and later his son William were listed as farmers. While Elizabeth had no occupation, both parents could read and write and appeared to encourage their four daughters to pursue an education--all were listed as schoolteachers by 1900. Details about her childhood can be found on the book jacket of her story Children of the Prairie: "In those days Iowa was turning from the flax- and wheat-growing of pioneer days to the production of oats and corn and hogs. She went to a small schoolhouse... [and] had a Cornish pony, for all her forebears came from Cornwall, England." Alice and her older sister Edith ultimately both attended Iowa Teachers College and later furthered their education at the University of Iowa, where Alice earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1903. By 1907 Alice was Professor of English at the State Normal School (now University of Northern Iowa).
Alice later relocated to Wisconsin where she taught at the State Normal School in Milwaukee and became active in the women's suffrage movement. By late 1911 she resigned her post to become a state organizer of the Political Equality League (PEL), which campaigned for the 1912 referendum to give women the right to vote. As part of the movement, Alice gave speeches across the state, including a suffrage campaign via river boat from Oshkosh to Green Bay.
Alice Bertha Curtis during her time in New York, c. 1922
Following the defeat of the suffrage referendum, Alice remained in her role at PEL, demonstrating in favor of a constitutional amendment in a "siege" of the state senate chambers the following year. During this time, she also earned an M.A. at the University of Chicago and taught classes in organization and public speaking at suffrage conventions in Wisconsin and Michigan. However, a second push for suffrage in June 1915 failed in the Wisconsin state legislature.
Despite her successful organizing for the Wisconsin suffrage movements, Alice resigned her position and relocated to Iowa to care for her father. Back in her home state, she continued to advocate for the suffrage cause:
"It must be remembered Wisconsin is a strong brewery state, the strongest in the country, and it is a state with a large population. That is a hard anti-suffrage combination. Iowa with its large rural population is a far better suffrage field." Considered a "gift to Iowa," Alice was soon serving as executive secretary of the Iowa Equal Suffrage association in advance of the state's 1916 referendum.
Although the Iowa referendum too lost, Alice expanded her involvement in the movement, traveling across the country and participating in suffrage campaigns in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and New York just to name a few. In these efforts she assisted fellow Iowan and National American Woman Suffrage Association President Carrie Chapman Catt as her private secretary, relocating to the organization's offices in New York and Washington.
Alice Bertha Curtis, c. 1939
With the changes in the postwar era and the advent of women's suffrage, Alice worked with the YWCA and women physician groups to offer lectures on topics including citizenship and sex education. Alice eventually settled in Fort Collins, CO, where she was Associate Professor of English at Colorado A&M College (now Colorado State University) for twenty years until her retirement in 1942. She also published works including articles, short stories, and poems, perhaps the most well known being two children's books, Children of the Prairie (1938) and Winter on the Prairie (1945). Alice died on April 19, 1956.
Alumni Directory, The University of Chicago, 1913, 91. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL.
The Alumnus, Vol 30, No 3, Iowa State Teachers College, 1946, 5,22.
The Alumnus, Vol 37, No 3, Iowa State Teachers College, 1953, 26.
The Alumnus, Vol 40, No 3, Iowa State Teachers College, 1956, 27.
"Annual" Dances to be Held In Fort Colins This Year. Rocky-Mountain Collegian (Fort Collins, CO), Apr 27, 1932. Proquest.
"As You Were" - 10 Years Ago Today. Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), Mar 28, 1924, 3. Newspaperarchive.com.
Aurora Suffrage Organization a Model; One of the Youngest in the State. Chicago Daily Tribune, Apr 27, 1913, H2. Proquest.
Ballots for Both in the Pine Tree State. Daily Kennebec Journal (Kennebec, ME), Jul 10, 1917, 6. Newspaperarchive.com.
Ballots for Both in the Pine Tree State. Daily Kennebec Journal (Kennebec, ME), Jul 18, 1917, 6. Newspaperarchive.com.
Bouquets. Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA), Feb 4, 1933, 5. Proquest.
Children of the Prairie, AB Curtis, 1938. Thomas Y. Crowell: New York.
Citizenship School. Burlington Gazette (Burlington, VT), Mar 22, 1920, 5. c.
College News From Over Iowa. Des Moines News, Apr 7, 1917, 4. Newspaperarchive.com.
Delegates to Suffrage Meeting Pronounce Convention Just Ended Most Successful in Many Years. State Journal (Lansing, MI), Nov 7, 1914, 7. Proquest.
Demand is Great for Iowa Alumni. Register and Leader (Des Moines, IA), Aug 26, 1907, 3. Proquest.
Educational Program Launched at Girls' Club. Chattanooga Daily Times (Chattanooga, TN), May 27, 1919, 6. Newspapers.com.
Employed Women Will Have Night School of Citizenship. Des Moines Sunday Register, Mar 21, 1920, 27. Proquest.
Equal Suffrage Meeting. Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL), May 27, 1911, 4. Proquest.
Equality League Will Have Tent. Green Bay Gazette, Aug 20, 1912, 3. Proquest.
The Hawkeye, Vol XII. Class of 1903 University of Iowa, 1902-03, 40. George T Reddick Printer and Binder: Iowa City, IA. https://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/islandora/object/ui%3Ayrbks1_9586#page/1/mode/2up
Hope to Make Iowa New Link in Suffrage Chain. Marble Rock Journal (Marble Rock, IA), May 4, 1916, 6. Newspapers.com.
Increased Activity in Suffrage Cause. Register and Leader (Des Moines, IA), Jan 23, 1916, 5. Proquest.
Iowans Take Lead in Big Campaign. Greene Recorder (Greene, IA), Apr 26, 1916, 3. Newspapers.com.
Iowa State Census, 1885. Incorporate Town of Allison, Butte County, IA. 328.
Iowa State Census, 1905. Allison, IA, 506.
I.S.T.C. Class Will Have Reunion Here. Evening Courier and Reporter (Waterloo, IA), May 13, 1921, 15. Newspaperarchive.com.
Kenosha Women are Jubilant. Kenosha Evening News (Kenosha, WI), Jun 6, 1916, 3. Newspapers.com.
League Plans for Suffrage Talk at Fair. Green Bay Press-Gazette, Aug 28, 1915, 9. Proquest.
List of United States Citizens Arriving at Port of New-York, Aug 31, 1929, 51. Ancestry.com.
Miss Alice Curtis to Give Suffrage Address at Fair. Green Bay Press-Gazette, Aug 11, 1915, 9. Proquest.
Miss Curtis Indorses Plans for Publicity. Register and Leader (Des Moines, IA), Jan 13, 1916, 5. Newspaperarchive.com.
Mrs. Chapman Catt Will Speak Today. Register and Leader (Des Moines, IA), Feb 6, 1916, 5. Proquest.
The Old Gold 1922, 1922, 42. Iowa State Teachers College: Cedar Falls, IA. https://scholarworks.uni.edu/uni_yearbooks/87/
Pave Way for Equal Suffrage by Aggressive "Stumping" in Wisconsin. Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct 27, 1912, H5. Proquest.
Personal Mention. Register and Leader (Des Moines, IA), Feb 5, 1916, 7. Proquest.
Plans Complete for School Here. Daily Gate City and Constitution-Democrat (Keokuk, IA), Aug 27, 1920, 8. Newspaperarchive.com.
Recent Lectures at Fort Collins. Trail and Timberline No. 56, 1923, 7. The Colorado Mountain Club, Denver, CO.
Schedule of Lectures. Chattanooga Daily Times (Chattanooga, TN), May 31, 1919, 6. Newspapers.com.
School of Citizenship. Rolfe Arrow (Rolfe, IA), Mar 25, 1920, 1. Newspaperarchive.com.
The Silver Spruce 1926, Junior Class of the Colorado Agricultural College Fort Collins, 1926, 220. Welch-Haffner Printing: Denver, CO. Ancestry.com.
The Silver Spruce 1939, Students of Colorado State College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts, 1939, 32. The Publishers Press/Daniel-Smith: Denver, CO. ancestry.com.
Social and Personal. State Journal (Lansing, MI), Oct 27, 1914, 5. Proquest.
Speak at Up-river Points. Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL), Sep 5, 1912, 1. Proquest.
State News. Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL), Aug 23, 1915, 6. Proquest.
Suffrage School Opens June 18. Grand Rapids Tribune (Grand Rapids, WI), Jun 24, 1914, 6. Proquest.
Suffrage Victory - 1919. Waukesha Freeman (Waukesha, WI), Apr 10, 1919, 2. Newspaperarchive.com.
Suffrage Worker Comes Today to Open Campaign. Register and Leader (Des Moines, IA), Dec 24, 1915, 4. Proquest.
Suffrage Workers Will Meet Here. Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), Jul 26, 1917, 3. Newspapers.com.
Suffragetes Are Told Make "Some News." Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, Jun 2, 1912, 43. Proquest.
Suffragette's Suggestions Are Sensible. Muncie Evening Press, May 22, 1912, 4. Proquest.
Suffragettes on Boat Trip Down Fox River. Green Bay Gazette, Aug 30, 1912, 3. Proquest.
Suffragists Are Fortunate. Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL), Feb 10, 1915, 6. Proquest.
Suffragists Leader Gives Campus Talk. Daily Transcript (Norman, OK), Jul 24, 1918, 1. Newspapers.com.
Suffs Invade Election Crowds in Effective Street Campaign. Register and Leader (Des Moines, IA), Mar 28, 1916, 14. Proquest.
To Meet At Madison. Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL), Oct 11, 1913, 1. Proquest.
United States Census, 1880. Supervisor's District 2, Enumeration District 228, Colfax Township, Grundy County, IA, 17A-18B. Ancestry.com.
United States Census, 1900. Supervisor's District 3, Enumeration District 65, Jackson Township, Butler County, IA, 2B. Ancestry.com.
United States Census, 1930. Supervisor's District 2, Enumeration District 35-48, Ward 5, Precinct 1, Fort Collins, Larimer County, CO, 8A. Ancestry.com.
United States Census, 1940. Supervisor's District 2, Enumeration District 35-52, Ward E5, Fort Collins, Larimer County, CO, 10B. Ancestry.com.
Will Work for Iowa. Adams County Free Press (Corning, IA), May 31, 1916, 8. Newspapers.com.
Will Tour Western Counties of State. Green Bay Gazette, Sep 19, 1912, 9. Proquest.
Winter on the Prairie, AB Curtis, 1945. Thomas Y. Crowell: New York. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009930727
Wisconsin Hard for Suffs. Register and Leader (Des Moines, IA), Dec 25, 1915, 2. Proquest.
Wisconsin Women to Aid Suffrage Workers in Iowa. Green Bay Press-Gazette, Nov 15, 1915, 4. Proquest.
Woman Suffrage. Gazette (Stevens Point, WI), Aug 30 1916, 12. Newspapers.com.
Woman Suffrage Notes. Enid Events (Enid, OK), Jun 20, 1918, 2. Newspapers.com.
Women and Wisconsin. Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL), Nov 20, 1913, 10. Proquest.
Women Don't Have to Pay Poll Tax. Ottumwa Tri-Weekly Courier (Ottumwa, IA), Jun 1, 1916, 7. Newspapers.com.
Women Swarm About Corridors of Capitol. Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL), Jul 31, 1913, 1. Proquest.
Women to Continue Fight. Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL), Jul 2, 1915, 1. Proquest.
Working Women Need Ballot Says Leader. Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL), Dec 4, 1914, 1. Proquest.
World Conference of Women Physicians to Study Important Health Questions. Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA), Jul 26, 1919, 3. Newspapers.com.
Y.W.C.A. Social Work Launched in Jackson. Jackson Daily News (Jackson, MS), Apr 10, 1919, 6. Newspapers.com.