Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Electra Collins Doren, 1861-1927

By Ann Marie Linnabery, assistant director, History Center of Niagara

In the annals of woman's suffrage, you will not find Electra Collins Doren in the frontlines of the struggle but her quiet contribution to its history is no less important. She did not make history but she chronicled it so future generations would know the work and effort that so many women took part in to achieve the right to vote. Electra C. Doren was born in Georgetown, Ohio on December 4, 1861, the daughter of James G. and Elizabeth B. Doren. Her father was an editor and reporter for several local newspapers in Ohio in the second half of the 19th century. Education and public service were the hallmarks of the Doren family and they were characterized as being "devoted to literary pursuits and learned professions, loyalty to the religious and political principles of their ancestors, and fidelity and integrity in all things." Of their seven children, four daughters survived to adulthood and all went on to careers in some aspect of education. Electra graduated from the Cooper Female Seminary in Dayton, Ohio in 1879. One source indicates she attended the Library School in Albany, NY but others state she immediately went to work for the Dayton Public Library after graduation. For the next 17 years, Electra worked as a librarian in that city and in 1896 was named Director of the Dayton Public Library system.

As new chief librarian, Miss Doren initiated programs to professionalize and broaden the Dayton Public Library's influence. These included establishing a two-year librarian training school, inaugurating a school library program with the Dayton Public Schools, overseeing the conversion of the library collection and catalog to the new Dewy Decimal system, and creating a public open shelf library for the first time in Dayton. She also either started, or served on, several local and state library associations. In 1905, Electra Doren left Dayton to take the position as the first Director of the Library School at Western Reserve University (now Case Western University) in Cleveland. Not much is written about her years there. In March 1913, Dayton was extensively damaged during the "Great Flood of 1913" which inundated the eastern and central United States. Doren left her post at the University to return to Dayton to rebuild its main public library and resume her role as head librarian. Due to her efforts, the main library reopened three months later and two branch libraries, both built with funding provided by Andrew Carnegie, opened later that year. She also started the first "rolling library" (aka bookmobile) in the nation so people in suburban and rural areas had access to books. Despite her eight-year absence and the destruction caused by the flood, Electra Doren was able to increase the Dayton library budget from $64,000 to $225,000 and the number of volumes from 36,000 to 185,000. During World War I, Doren was on a national committee to raise funds and select books to create libraries for American soldiers and sailors in the field and on ships. Electra C. Doren continued her library work up until her death on March 4, 1927. A new branch library in Dayton was named in her honor a year later.

Given her family's progressive political, social and educational beliefs, it is likely that Electra Doren joined the Woman's Suffrage Party of Montgomery County, Ohio when it was organized in 1912. When the 19th amendment was finally passed giving women the vote, the League of Women Voters was established in 1920. When the Dayton, Ohio chapter of the League was formed in 1921, Doren was one of its founding members. Her greatest contribution to woman's suffrage however, was the material she collected and preserved detailing the history of that movement in Ohio, and the organization of Dayton's League of Women Voters, from the 1860s to the 1920s. Considering the scope of materials in the collection, Electra Doren must have been member of the Woman's Suffrage Association as well as other women's organization. Following her death, materials were added to the collection over the next 70 years. It is now the largest compilation of Woman's Suffrage documents in the United States. The collection is housed in the Dayton Metro Library's main location. The collection is divided in two parts:

Woman's Suffrage Association (1867 – 1920)

  • Box 1 - Diaries, meeting minutes and general correspondence from women involved in Ohio's efforts at suffrage in 1869 – 1888 and 1912 - 1919
  • Box 2 - Correspondence by and between the leaders of the later suffrage movement in Ohio including Harriet Taylor Upton, Elizabeth J. Hauser, Mrs. Oscar Davisson and others, 1912 - 1919
  • Box 3 - Legal documents, financial statements, convention materials, transcripts of speeches from local and national suffrage and League of Women Voters conventions, 1912 - 1920
  • Box 4 – Miscellaneous newspaper and magazine articles, 1912 – 1920
  • Box 5 – Campaign of 1912 Scrapbook, Campaign records of Woman's Suffrage Party of City of Dayton and Montgomery County, June 7 – Sept. 3, 1912
  • Box 6 – Scrapbooks: publications of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association, 1913
  • Box 7 – Photographs: Woman's Suffrage Association and League of Women Voters, 1913
  • Box 8 – Oversized Photographs: Woman's Suffrage Association and League of Women Voters

League of Women Voters (1920 – 1997)

Detailed Finding Aids for the collection are on the Dayton Metro Library's website but the materials are not available in digital format.



"John Gates Doren," Centennial Portrait and Biographical Record of the City of Dayton and of Montgomery County, Ohio, edited by Frank Conover, 470-488. Dayton: A. W. Bowen, 1897. Accessed 7/6/2020


Hesselgesser, Susan. "Celebrating One of Our Own, Electra C. Doren." The Voter. A publication of the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Area. Volume 93, issue 8, August 2016. Accessed 7/6/2020

Online Sources

"Electra C. Doren." Wikipedia. Last modified 10/18/2020. Last accessed 11/14/2020

"Electra C. Doren, 1861-1927." Women's Suffrage Collection 1867-1990. (Dayton Metro Library). Accessed 7/6/2020

"Empowered Women: History of Dayton Women and the Dayton Woman's Club" Teachers' Guide. Children's Historical Publishing. 2019. Accessed 7/6/2020

Bambakidis, Elli. "Woman's Suffrage Association and League of Women Voters: A special collection of historical materials at the Dayton & Montgomery County Public Library, Dayton, Ohio." May 1992, revised May 1998. file:///C:/Users/ANNMAR~1/AppData/Local/Temp/finding_2188.pdf Accessed 7/6/2020

Landis, Chris. "Electra C. Doren: Librarian, Innovator, Suffragist." Miami Valley Art Quilt Network. Dayton, Ohio. Accessed 7/6/2020

Owen, Gewn. "Electra C. Doren," Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, OH. Accessed 7/6/2020

Villalva, Kim. "Reading Builds Much Needed Community." Children's Historical Publishing. RSS Blog. 4/30/2020. Accessed 76/2020

Newspaper Articles

"Books for Troops are Badly Needed." The Steuben Courier, Bath, NY. October 12, 1917. P. 6Beacon Daily Herald. Beacon, NY. October 25, 1923. P. Beacon NY Daily Herald 1923 - 1685.pdf Accessed 7/7/2020

"Staff of Library Tells of Appreciation for Former Leader." The Dayton Herald. Dayton, Ohio. March 8, 1927. P. 28 Accessed 11/14/2020

  • Box 1 – Activities, correspondence, financial documents, legal documents, etc. 1935 -1997
  • Box 2 – Printed materials, including newsletters, 1922 – 1978
  • Box 3 – Printed materials, studies and programs, 1924 – 1976
  • Box 4 – Printed materials, studies and programs, 1960 – 1988
  • Box 5 – Civil Service and legal documents, 1944-1945
  • Box 6 – Foreign policy – Minutes, publications, newspaper clippings, directories, correspondence, National Democracy, discussion and speech techniques programs, 1938 – 1995
  • Box 7 – Newspapers and miscellaneous materials, 1936 – 1997
  • Boxes 8 – 24 – Scrapbooks: Books 1 to 24, 1921 – 1944
  • Box 25 – Scrapbooks: Pan American Conference and clippings from Baltimore newspapers, 1922
  • Box 26 – Scrapbooks: Pan American Conference and clippings from Baltimore newspapers, 1922
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