Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Belle Vail Hoadley Sears, 1865-1902
By Linda D. Wilson, Independent Historian, Oklahoma City, OK
Nebraska suffragist Belle Vail Hoadley Sears, the daughter of Sydney C. and Eliza A. (Wiley) Hoadley, was born on October 10, 1865, in Illinois. Her father and mother were born in Vermont and Massachusetts, respectively. Her father worked as a carpenter. Belle Hoadley married Willis Gratz Sears, an attorney and judge, on May 11, 1887, in Turin, Iowa. They had seven children; two died in childhood. By 1900 the Sears family lived in Tekamah, Nebraska. While living in Nebraska, Willis Sears served as a Republican in the state house of representatives and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in the sixty-eighth through the seventy-first congresses.
Belle Sears's first involvement in the woman's suffrage movement occurred in November 1901, when she attended the three-day woman suffrage convention held in Lincoln, Nebraska. Carrie Chapman Catt was the guest speaker. At the symposium held on Thursday, November 14, Belle Sears was among eight suffragists, who gave responses to the question, "How Would the Enfranchisement of Women Advance the Progress of Civilization?" She responded that it "would tend to purify politics." On the last day of the convention, she was elected as one of two auditors. Additionally, she was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.
At age thirty-six, Belle Sears died after a brief illness at her home on May 16, 1902, in Tekamah, Nebraska, and was buried in the Tekamah Cemetery. Willis Gratz Sears died on June 1, 1949 and was buried in the same cemetery as his wife.
Bancroft Weekly Blade (Bancroft, NE), May 23, 1902. Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current, for Belle V. Sears and Willis Gratz Sears, accessed on Ancestry.com on March 14, 2021. Norman Gershom Flagg and Lucius C. S. Flagg, comps., Family Records of the Descendants of Gershom Flagg of Lancaster, Massachusetts, with Other Genealogical Records of the Flagg Family Descended from Thomas Flegg of Watertown, Mass. and Including the Flegg Lineage in England ([Quincy, IL: Cadogan Hatcher], 1907), 57 and 59. Ida Husted Harper, ed., The History of Woman Suffrage, 1900-1920, Vol. 6 (NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), 369. [LINK] Iowa State Census, 1885, Belvidere, Monona County, Iowa. Iowa, U.S., Select Marriages Index, 1758-1996, for Belle Hoadley. Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, NE), November 10 and 14, 1901. "Willis Gratz Sears," Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress, https://bioguideretro.congress.gov/Home/MemberDetails?memIndex=S000212 accessed on March 18, 2021. U.S. Census, 1870, Onawa, Monona County, Iowa. U.S. Census, 1880, Belvidere, Monona County, Iowa. U.S. Census, 1900, Tekamah, Burt County, Nebraska.