Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Caroline Bartlett Crane, 1858-1935

By Emma Valley, student, Michigan State University

Caroline Julia Bartlett, "America's Housekeeper," was born on August 17, 1858 to Lorenzo Bartlett and Julia Brown in Hudson, Wisconsin. Her father, Lorenzo, was an important part of her scholarly development, later resulting in Bartlett being among the first wave of American college-educated women. Bartlett was actually able to read by the age of four and continued to push herself to be the best version of herself throughout her lifetime.

The Bartlett family were active members of the church up until two of their infant children died. After that point, her parents became skeptical of religion and left the Methodist church, which definitely impacted Bartlett growing up. In spite of her family's doubts, Bartlett stuck with and worked hard on her biblical studies but questioned the portrayal of God.

Regardless of her questioning of God, Bartlett grew up with the church remaining a major part of her life. She became an ordained Unitarian minister and was one of the first women ministers in Michigan. She became a minister of the People's Church of Kalamazoo in 1894 and used the church and its employees to open the doors of many of her social concerns. Her prior experiences as a school teacher, a principal, a journalist, and a city editor all helped shape Bartlett's concerns while working for the church. She used her position as a religious leader in state politics as well. Here, Bartlett promoted prison reform, women's property rights, change in the local poor relief system, and remained a strong advocator for the removal of the death penalty.

Bartlett stepped down from her ministerial position in 1898 after speaking with Susan B. Anthony at the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. "Either the home or Profession -- or most likely both suffer." Anthony cautioned once she learned of Bartlett's marriage to the physician, Augustus Warren Crane.

Bartlett realized at that point that stepping away from her career meant more time for opportunities at home and social reform. From that point on, Bartlett threw herself into social reform originally by bringing prominent citizens of Kalamazoo to a local slaughterhouse, thereby winning the support to help pass meat inspection laws. "America's Housekeeper" comes from Bartlett's efforts to improve urban sanitation. Bartlett aided in creating a strict sanitary system that had not been established prior due to the support she had earned in Kalamazoo. While working with the sanitation system, Bartlett also remained involved in the suffrage movement. In 1891, she delivered the closing sermon at the National American Women Suffrage Association in Washington D.C. Due to her continuous activism, she was eventually appointed president of the Michigan Woman's Committee of National Defense during the first World War.

By 1914, Bartlett and her husband Augustus adopted two one-year-old infants named Warren Bartlett and Juliana. By the 1920's, Bartlett also became responsible for the creating of the "Everyman's House," after becoming interested in housing reform. Bartlett's focus remained on the lack of suitable housing for working-class people. "Everyman's House" was conceived by Bartlett where she did an adequate home design for the common man, but more specifically the common woman. "Everyman's House" went on to win the "Better Homes Movement" award in which went on to receive praise from both Presidents Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge.

Fifteen years later, at the age of 76, Caroline died on March 24, 1935 from injuries resulting from a fall in her own home. She had also experienced a stroke prior to the fall. She was the epitome of a strong leader and woman. Reverend Caroline Bartlett Crane was someone who was not only able to bridge the gender gap, but also excel as a minister, and most importantly as a social reformer.


"Caroline Bartlett Crane Biography." Biography Caroline Bartlett Crane: Everyman's House - Digitization Center Western Michigan University Libraries,

"Caroline Bartlett Crane." Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography,

"Caroline Bartlett Crane." Michigan Women Forward,

Ann Zaske, "From the Vault: Caroline Bartlett Crane: Suffragist, Social Reformer, Unitarian Minister." From the Vault: Caroline Bartlett Crane: Suffragist, Social Reformer, Unitarian Minister | The Bridge | Carthage College, Carthage College, 11 Nov. 2013,

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