Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Helen (Mrs. John B.) Ford, 1875-1952

By Laura De Roo

[A Blue and Gold Star Mother with empathy for people, just causes and history.]

Helen Sarah Sloane was born on July 11, 1875 in Kensington, London, England to American parents, Rush Richard Sloane and Helen Frances Hall. Her father was a lawyer, an abolitionist, a mayor and a capitalist of Sandusky, Ohio. Both her parents could trace their lineage back to the Revolutionary War and beyond. Miss Sloane was the oldest of two daughters born to her parents, but she had four older stepsiblings born of her father's two earlier marriages.

Miss Sloane's early education probably took place in Sandusky, Ohio, where she was raised. She capped off her studies at the famous Utica Female Academy, though by the time Miss Sloane attended, it was known as Miss Piatt's School, after the Principal in Charge. The school provided a two-year course of study through college prep.

A few months following the completion of her schooling, Miss Sloane married John Battice Ford, Sr. (b. Oct 25, 1866 in Albany, IN) on December 19, 1894 at Grace Episcopal Church in Sandusky. The reception was held in her parents' home (403 E. Adams St.). The event was the highlight of the year, with several hundred attending. The couple's honeymoon was an extended trip across the South, before taking up residence in Detroit, where John B. Ford was an executive in the family Plate Glass Company. He later founded the Michigan Alkali Company and built a large office building that is still known as the Ford Building. His passport application dated August 8, 1919 gives his occupation as manufacturer of chemicals and owner of coal mines.

On March 3, 1897 the couple had a son, John Battice Ford, Jr. born in Wyandotte, Michigan and a few years later, on January 27, 1899 another son was born, Frederick Sloane Ford. Though these are the only children's records located, the 1900 Federal Census stated that Helen had 3 births, but only two living children.

Mrs. Ford, like many affluent women, took an active role in society. She was interested in theater and the arts, as seen by her membership in the Society of Arts and Crafts, Chamber Music Society, Theater Arts Club and the Detroit Branch of the Needlework Guild of America. Mrs. Ford was interested in boating, as we find her and her family's membership in the Detroit Boat Club, The New York Yacht Club, the Grosse Pointe Little Club and in 1916 she worked with a group of boys from her hometown as the director and inspiration of the Swastika (well-being) Missionary Club.

Mrs. John B. Ford along with other activists started the Priscilla Inn in 1914. It was a "five-story, 200-unit residence for students and young working women in downtown Detroit." In 1917 she was a member of the College Equal Suffrage League, a cause she worked for and supported financially through the passing of the 19th Amendment. In 1919 these women organized the Women's City Club of Detroit pulling all the city's women's clubs under one organization. The Club's intent was "to promote acquaintance among women." They also encouraged other cities in Michigan in setting up similar organizations.

Mrs. Ford set aside many of her commitments during both World Wars and devoted much of her time to the Red Cross. Serving as the vice chairman of the Detroit Chapter at one time. During WWI, women such as Mrs. Ford, steadfastly labored on the home front. This was ultimately one more avenue that furthered the cause of women's suffrage.

On October 8, 1941 Mr. John B. Ford died of a heart attack. Mrs. Ford lived eleven more years. She passed away August 19, 1952 at Gross Pointe Farms following a two-year illness. She was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan. Among her other affiliations, Mrs. Ford was also a member of Christ Church of Grosse Pointe, Michigan.


England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915, 1875 Kensington District. p. 457, vol. 1a p.176 (found on

London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms 1813-1917, Baptism record, Aug 22, 1875, Bishop's Transcript, South Kensington St. Jude Kensington and Chelsea, England (found on

1880 Federal Census, Sandusky, Ward 1, Erie County, Ohio, dated June 7, 1880 p. 31 Family No. 313

Sons of the American Revolution Membership Application, 1889-1970 Judge Rush R Sloane, SAR Membership # 2441

Encyclopedia of American Biography 1800-1902 p. 854 Rush Richard Sloane

Find-A-Grave Rush Richard Sloane, Oakland Cemetery, Sandusky, Ohio, Memorial ID # 44917239 (

Ohio Centennial Anniversary Celebration at Chillicothe, OH. May 20-21, 1903 p. 711-713, bio of Rush Richard Sloane (found on image 742 and 744)

Probate records Erie County, Ohio. Will Record for Rush R. Sloane, Vol. 16, 1909-1911 probate date Sep 30, 1909, image 191 from reel on

Find-A-Grave Helen Frances Sloane, Oakland Cemetery, Sandusky, Ohio, Memorial ID # 69176881 (

Facebook post by The Landmark Society of Greater Utica on The Utica Female Academy. Post dated April 23, 2015

Ohio, County Marriage Records 1774-1993, The State of Ohio, Erie County, p. 352, record # 1052, Dec. 19, 1894

Sandusky Register, Sandusky, Ohio Dec 20, 1894 p 5, Col. 3 and 4. "Brilliant Nuptials"

1900 Federal Census, Wyandotte Ward 1, Wayne County, Michigan collected June 23, 1900, Family No. 398

Priscila Inn 2916 Cass at Ledyard 1938 Flickr ( posted Jun 11, 2010 Charlie Malesev.

Article "Human Betterment in the Industrial World" sub-headed, "Detroit Girls at the Priscilla Inn May Have Comforts of Home". Original source not found. ( Google Image Results for

Sandusky Star Journal, Sandusky, Ohio, Monday, March 6, 1916 p. z, Col. 4 "The Swastika Missionary Club... [p 5 on reel]

Sandusky Star Journal, Sandusky, Ohio Thursday, July 20, 1916, p. 4, Col.4, "The Swastika boys...during the Regatta..."

Women's City Club - National Park Service, Detroit: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary #21 Women's City Club

Dau's Blue Book for Detroit and Suburban Towns 1912, University of Michigan Library Digital Collection, URL: p 59 Ford, Mr. & Mrs. John B. Ford (Sloane). Pages 11, 13, and 19.

Dau's Blue Book for Detroit and Suburban Towns 1917, University of Michigan Library Digital Collection, URL: p. 66 Ford, Mr. and Mrs. John B. (Helen Sloane), pages 13, 15, and 19

The Social Secretary of Detroit -- Google Books, p. 77 Ford, Mr. and Mrs. John Battice (Helen Sloane), p. 9 list of club names and numbers.

Women's City Club Records, Finding aid prepared by Sarah Krebs, June 21, 2016, p. 3, Grand Rapids Public Library, History and Special collections Department.

Wayne County, Michigan, Death Index 1934-1953, 19 Aug 1952 Helen Sloane Ford

Death Record in Michigan, 1867-1952 Helen Sloane Ford death Aug 19, 1952, File Number 001566.

Rossford Record published Aug 22, 1952 p. 1, Col 5. Helen S Ford's obit, Repository: Rossford Public Library

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