Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1876-1920
Biography of Bertha Ferguson 1876- ?
By Alyssa Fleschner, University of California, San Diego
Bertha J. Ferguson was born in Canada, April 1876, daughter of Pete and Catherine Ferguson. She was the eldest of two, but already an aunt to Annie Ferguson's baby, Emma. In 1881, the family immigrated to America and resided in Drayton Pembina, North Dakota. The 1900 US census confirms that the family had been living in America for 19 years. Bertha attended the University of North Dakota, where she graduated to become a teacher. She had an impact on society by becoming an outspoken leader who inspired countless women in her local community and surrounding cities.
After graduating in 1899, Bertha continued her residence in North Dakota and began teaching children at the Ramsey, Pierce, and Nelson County Summer School. By 1910 she resided in Grand Forks and taught high school. In this period she joined the Young Women's Club of America and quickly approached voting issues and women's rights as she became more immersed in the club. Before 1912 there are handwritten records of the club's meetings and new bills that were constantly being drafted, however, not a single bill passed until the women's movement started to go national. Thus, our evidence comes in three October 1912 newspapers from the Grand Forks Herald where Bertha becomes a secretary for the club and attended numerous events. The main objectives of the club were to secure suffrage to them by the state and inform women of their rights. In addition to her role as secretary, Bertha was also described as an "able speaker.". She educated others on English Drama and became a well-liked faculty member who was even given a year's leave of absence.
The records of the Votes for Women Club of Grand Forks indicate that it was founded in March 1912 and that Bertha Ferguson was its first Secretary. In March 1914, Ferguson addressed a local meeting of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union on "Why North Dakota Should Have the Vote" as part of a statewide referendum on women's suffrage. Male voters defeated the proposition by some 9,000 votes out of almost 90,000 cast. The club became less active after the state's passage of municipal and presidential suffrage in 1917 and it disbanded after state ratification of the 19th Amendment in December 1919.
Bertha Ferguson's date and place of death are unknown.
List of UND graduates; accessible online at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiuo.ark:/13960/t2d85s48w&view=image&seq=40&q1=ferguson
"Jane Addams in the State Today," Grand Forks (ND) Herald, 28 Oct. 1912, p. 5. https://www.newspapers.com/image/351465483/?terms=Mrs.%20bertha%20Ferguson&match=1
"Will Study the Drama," Grand Forks (ND) Herald, 31 Oct. 1912, p. 9. https://www.newspapers.com/image/351466044/?terms=Mrs.%20bertha%20Ferguson&match=1
"Dinner Enjoyable Affair," Grand Forks Herald, 30 October 1912, p. 6. https://www.newspapers.com/image/351465818/?terms=Mrs.%20bertha%20Ferguson&match=1
"Handsome Dinner for Miss Addams," Grand Forks Herald, 26 October 1912, p. 6. https://www.newspapers.com/image/351465405/?terms=Mrs.%20bertha%20Ferguson&match=1
"W.C.T.U. Held Meeting," Grand Forks Herald, 20 March 1914, p. 5. https://www.newspapers.com/image/351442476/?terms=Mrs.%20bertha%20Ferguson&match=1
National Park Service, "North Dakota and the 19th Amendment," accessed online at https://www.nps.gov/articles/north-dakota-and-the-19th-amendment.htm.
Votes for Women Club Records, 1912-1919, Collection Overview, University of North Dakota, Department of Special Collections, Digital Finding Aids; accessible at https://apps.library.und.edu/archon/?p=collections/findingaid&id=410&q=&rootcontentid=54161
State Historical Society of North Dakota, "Section 3: Woman Suffrage, 1912-1920," accessed online at https://www.ndstudies.gov/gr8/content/unit-iii-waves-development-1861-1920/lesson-4-alliances-and-conflicts/topic-8-suffrage/section-3-woman-suffrage-1912-1920
Untitled article noting Bertha Ferguson's teaching in 1906, The Evening Times (Grand Forks, ND), 6 July 1906, image 6, accessible online at https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042373/1906-07-06/ed-1/seq-6/#date1=1777&index=0&rows=20&words=Ferguson+Forks+Grand+Miss&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=North+Dakota&date2=1963&proxtext=%22Miss+Ferguson%22+%22grand+fork%22&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1