Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mrs. Frances Sheldon Bolley 1866-1930

By Beth Twomey, librarian, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota and Madison Carr, Undergraduate: University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota

Frances Sheldon was born January 17, 1866 in Madison, Wisconsin to Alfred and Lucy Ann Sheldon. She married Henry Luke Bolley around 1896. Frances graduated from Oberlin College with a bachelor's degree in Greek in 1887, then taught for several years in Madison high schools. She moved to Fargo, North Dakota in 1893 to be a preceptress and professor of Greek language and literature, German, and history at Fargo College, which was founded in 1887. Fargo College was a coeducational, private, liberal arts college associated with the Congregational Church. On September 23, 1896 in Janesville, WI, she married Henry Luke Bolley, a prominent professor in plant biology and zoology at the North Dakota Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University) and founder and first coach of the college's storied football program. Together they adopted two children, Donald Sheldon Bolley and Ann Sheldon Bolley.

Bolley was involved with the North Dakota Votes for Women League, which was founded in Fargo in 1912. Bolley served as a congressional chairman at the first convention held at the Civic Center in Fargo on October 18, 1913. In 1916 she participated in an extraordinary meeting spurred by the presence of two nationally known suffragists, Elsie Hill of Connecticut and Vivian Pierce of California. During this meeting, the North Dakota branch of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage was formed. Bolley presented a resolution that they call upon Congress to act quickly on suffrage, which was passed without debate.

Bolley was an active member of the Fargo community. She was a member of the Fargo Public Library board, the Fargo Board of Education, the Free Kindergarten Association, the Women's Club of Fargo, and the Florence Crittenton Home Board of Directors (which provided a home for unwed mothers), and did fundraising for the Fargo Community Chest. After joining the Fine Arts Club of Fargo during its organization in 1911, Bolley went on to serve as the chairwoman of the program committee for many years.

She was active in the war relief effort serving as vice president of the War Relief Association. Bolley was president of the Woman's Club and very active in the Federation of Women's Clubs in North Dakota including serving as the vice-president at large for many years and as the president of the fourth district in Fargo. She also served on the board of education.

In 1924 she was elected President of the Fine Arts Club and was re-elected to this position twice. She founded the History Section of the club in 1926. At the time of her death, Bolley was parliamentarian of the North Dakota Federation of Women's Clubs, an organization that, according to the State Historical Society of North Dakota, aimed to "bring the women of the State into communication for acquaintance, mutual helpfulness, and the promotion of higher intellectual, social, and moral conditions."

She passed away while traveling abroad with her husband on August 19, 1930 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her remains were returned to the United States and she is buried in Fargo, North Dakota.


Federated Clubs are in Session in Fargo. The Fargo forum and daily republican. [volume] (Fargo, N.D.), 17 Oct. 1906. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Francis Broad Sheldon Bolley. Find a Grave.

Good Attendance Promised at Mid-Winter Meeting at Fargo. The Fargo forum and daily republican. [volume] (Fargo, N.D.), 02 Feb. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Hospital Supplies Made by Fargo Women Used on Battlefields of France. The Fargo forum and daily republican. [volume] (Fargo, N.D.), 10 April 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Meeting Minutes. Votes for Women League of North Dakota, Fargo Branch Records, 1912-1919. Mss. 49. Institute for Regional Studies & University Archives North Dakota State University Libraries.

National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, U.S.A.; NAI Number: 302021; Record Group Title: General Records of the Department of State; Record Group Number: Record Group 59; Series Number: Publication A1 205; Box Number: 1324; Box Description: 1930-1939 Argentina Be -- Lu

Program of Convention of Woman's Clubs at Devils lake Announced. Bismarck daily tribune. [volume] (Bismarck, Dakota [N.D.]), 05 Oct. 1911. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Selected Passports. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 34; Volume #: Volume 060: Germany

State Suffragettes Are Discussing Votes for Flickertail Women. The Fargo forum and daily republican. [volume] (Fargo, N.D.), 18 Oct. 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Suffragettes Organize. The nonpartisan leader. (Fargo, N.D.), 13 July 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Federal Manuscript Census. Year: 1910; Census Place: Fargo Ward 7, Cass, North Dakota; Roll: T624_1140; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0046; FHL microfilm: 1375153

Teigen, Danielle. Hidden History of Fargo. Charleston: The History Press, 2017.

Leonard, John William. Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, New York: American Commonwealth Company, 1914-1915, 112. [LINK]

"Resolutions," Dickinson Press (Dickinson, ND), May 1, 1915.

"Fargo Woman Dies in South America," Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, ND), September 6, 1930.

"Biography," H.L. Bolley Photography Collection, University Archives, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

"Manuscripts by Subject - Women's History - #10202," Archives and Manuscripts, State Historical Society of North Dakota, 2018.

"Fargo College," Fargo, North Dakota: Its History, NDSU Archives, 2004.

"Finding Aid." Fargo College Records, (MSS 153) Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

Fargo Forum Sept. 4, 1930

Fargo Forum Sept. 6, 1930

Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 6, 1900-1920. [LINK]

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