Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Ruth Whitman (Mrs. T.B.) Sears, 1874-1954

By Sarah Jayne Gipson, independent scholar

Member of the Berkeley Federation of Mothers Club; advisory board member of the suffrage club of the Berkeley Women's Christian Temperance Union

An active member of the Berkeley, California suffrage campaign, Mrs. T.B. Sears was born Ruth Heywood Whitman on February 19, 1874 in Louisville, Kentucky. While attending the University of Kansas, she met fellow student Thomas Bartlett (T.B.) Sears. Not long after their 1901 marriage, Mr. Sears's career as a professor of railway engineering led to the couple's relocation to Berkeley, California.

Throughout her time in Berkeley, Ruth Sears was active in a variety of women-focused organizations. As part of the Berkeley Federation of Mothers Club, she petitioned the mayor of Berkeley to have kindergarten become part of the school curriculum.

In August 1911, after considerable work with the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), Mrs. Sears was appointed to the advisory board of the Berkeley Branch of the Union's suffrage club. She took part in many meetings and events including a 30-automobile parade in support of women's suffrage. By referendum, California voters approved woman suffrage in November 1911.

Professor Sears's career ultimately brought them to settle in Vallejo, California. Mrs. Sears continued to work with the WCTU, eventually becoming president of the Solana and Napa County chapter. As chairwoman of the chapter's Alcoholic Education board, she publicly advocated for the enforcement of a law teaching the effects of alcohol in California schools.

Mrs. Sears passed away on November 13, 1954 in Vallejo, California. She was 80 years old.


The Berkeley Gazette, October 5, 1910

The Berkeley Gazette, October 18, 1911

Napa Valley Register, March 8, 1938

Oakland Tribune, March 31, 1910

Oakland Tribune, May 5, 1911

Red Bluff Daily News, January 17, 1915

Sacramento Bee, December 3, 1921

The San Francisco Call, December 21, 1910

The San Francisco Call, August 20 1911

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