Annie Belle Boss Papers (League of Women Voters)

1914-1931 (3 Hollinger legal size boxes, 1 Flat Box with 1 Scrapbook                                                                                                                    (16” X 10 1/2” X 4”), with Deed of Gift).

 

The papers pertain to the Woman’s Franchise League of Indiana and its successor, the Indiana League of Women Voters, and especially to the activities of Annie Belle Rittel Boss (Mrs. John C. Boss) (circa 1874-1946), a middle-class woman of Elkhart, Indiana who was active in these organizations on the local, district and state levels. Mrs. Boss’s papers became the property of her daughter, Helen K. Boss Winterhoff, and upon Mrs. Winterhoff’s death were obtained by members of the League of Women Voters of Elkhart. They presented the collection to IUSB in 1984.
These papers include publications, correspondence, internal records and other memorabilia of the Woman’s Franchise League of Indiana (1915-1920) and the Indiana League of Women Voters (1920-1931) as well as a history of the latter organization compiled in 1977. Some of the materials concern the local Elkhart branch of the two organizations.
Many of the items originated with Helen Beardsley of Elkhart, who founded the Elkhart chapter of the Woman’s Franchise League of Indiana in April, 1913. Serving on the board of the state organization, she became the first president of the Indiana League of Women Voters in 1920. During her years as president (1920 - 1922), the state headquarters was at Elkhart, after which time it was moved to Indianapolis. Mrs. Beardsley was the wife of Andrew Hubble Beardsley, a leading Elkhart businessman, who as a state legislator included woman suffrage in his platform and was influential in the passage of suffrage legislation in Indiana.

Annie Belle Rittel Boss

Annie Belle Rittel Boss was the daughter of an Elkhart butcher, Philip Rittel, and the wife of John C. Boss, an engineer and inventor. She helped organize the Elkhart YWCA and served as its president. She was active as an early member of the Elkhart branch of the Woman’s Franchise League of Indiana, and chaired its fund raising project. In the state organization she held the important position of 13th District chairman from 1915 or 1916 to 1920, organizing numerous chapters in northern Indiana. Later, in the Indiana League of Women Voters, she held a number of offices and committee chairmanships, serving as a board member and treasurer of the state League, and attending a number of national conventions. Her daughter, Helen K. Boss, also was active in the Leagues.
Of special interest are manuscripts of Mrs. Boss’s speeches, her correspondence, her financial records, clippings and other items pertaining to her work, as well as some personal correspondence of Mrs. Boss, including letters to and from her cousin, James A. Zellers, an executive with Remington Rand.

PROCESSING NOTES
The papers had apparently been filed by Mrs. Boss in cardboard secretarial boxes. After donation to IUSB, some of the materials had been sorted and place in twenty acid-free folders. Folders had been made for some of Mrs. Boss’s correspondence, for items pertaining to Boss Engineering Co., her husband’s company, and for items documenting various aspects and locations of the women’s organizations and their work. Many other items, such as additional correspondence and memorabilia, communications and publications of the state organizations, and a correspondence course on woman’s issues, were still unfoldered in the boxes. Some of the papers were in a soiled condition, some were too large for the boxes in which they had been kept, and a large number, especially the communications of the state organizations, are quite fragile. The papers have been used a number of times by researchers since their donation to IUSB in 1984. In the absence of any sort of inventory, it was difficult to tell how much care had been taken to keep the items in the order in which they were received.
In processing the collection, a listing of the folder headings was made, as well as a general description of the nonfoldered items. Then, following the general outline of these groupings, all the papers were more closely sorted for easier retrieval, so that there are now 83 folders. These folders have tentatively been placed in three series, each filling a Hollinger box: one pertaining chiefly to the overall history of the Indiana League of Woman Voters and its Elkhart branch, and a third to Mrs. Boss’s own work in these organizations as well as other personal papers.
In some cases it was difficult to draw the line, and some “splitting” of related items into different files has occurred. Therefore, anyone using this collection to research the history of woman suffrage and woman voter activities in Indiana should be sure to take the time to check all the inventory listings or folders covering a given time period.
An added difficulty presents itself in a host of items which have no dates. Using the League of Woman Voters history and other sources, it was possible to place a number of items into a time sequence. However, many other items still are “orphans” and are tentatively placed next to items with which they seem to belong, or in “undated” folders. Further research needs to be done to locate another set of these materials, perhaps in League of Women Voters repositories, not only to compare parts of the collection but also to find out more about the significance of this collection as a record of state activities.
Most soiled items have been cleaned, and as time permits, fragile items are being copied onto acid-free paper. At the same time, copies of some of the items pertaining to Mrs. Boss and the Elkhart organizations are being made for use by the Elkhart County Historical Society.

Martha Pickrell, IUSB Archives Worker 9/11/1992

There is 1 Scrapbook (16” X 10 1/2” X 4”), with Deed of Gift from the Elkhart County Public Library which was added to the collection in April 2015 with a description in this finding aid created by Sheila Smyth.      

Flat Box with 1 Scrapbook:

  1. Annie Belle Boss Papers (League of Women Voters), Scrapbook 1896-1906 (16” X 10 1/2” X 4”). With Deed of Gift from the Elkhart County Public Library in April 2015.

Newspaper articles from 1896 – May 12, 1906 pasted into this Scrapbook. There are articles about various members of the Boss Family. Articles on P. D. Armour (a rich Chicago Business Man) and his “Mission” and the Armour Technologies Institute built in Chicago. Articles about the Successes of other Great Business Men/Women (e.g., Iva E. Tutt who owned an Electric Plant in California, and Hetty Green) and Presidents. Articles on Emperor William II of Germany, the Assassination of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, Booker T Washington, and Dwight Lyman Moody an Evangelist etc. Topics of home life, female education (home study circle), and women doing office work are also featured in a number of the articles. 

IUSB ARCHIVES INVENTORY OF COLLECTIONS
Annie Belle Boss Papers (League of Women Voters) Addendum to Inventory June 29, 1995
Carrie Chapman Catt items (1 folder with letter and 4 photographs)
Apparently was give to the Archives along with the Boss Papers. Includes a letter to Mrs. Nettie A. Downey, South Bend, March 29, 1943, from Carrie Chapman Catt, sending her photo. Three small printed photos of Mrs. Catt also are enclosed with the studio portrait in folder. Carrie Chapman Catt served as president of the National Suffrage Association at the height of the battle for National female suffrage.
Placed in Box 2.

SOURCES
Flexner, Eleanor, Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United States, New York: Atheneum, 1968.
Catt, Carrie Chapman and Nettie Rogers Shuler. Woman Suffrage and Politics. The Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement. New York Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923.
Harper, Ida Husted. History of Woman Suffrage Volume 5, 1900-1920. New York: Arno Press and the New York Times, 1969. (reprint).
Greenough, Katherine Croan. History of the League of Women Voters of Indiana, 1920-1952. Indianapolis: League of Women Voters of Indiana, 1977.
Phillips, Clifton J. Indiana in Transition: The Emergence of an Industrial Commonwealth, 1880-1920. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau and Indiana Historical Society, 1968.
Madison, James, Indiana Through Tradition and Change: A History of the Hoosier State and Its People, 1920-1945. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1982.

CHRONOLOGY – NATIONAL
1907 Re-birth of Women’s Suffrage movement in New York State Carrie Chapman Catt – re-activated old Suffrage Association. Suffragette Harriet Stanton Blatch – inspired by English workers, forms the Women’s Political Union.
1909 The first suffrage parade in New York City is organized by the Women's Political Union.
1910 The state of Washington re-enacted Women’s Suffrage.
1911 Huge successful campaign for Women’s Suffrage in California Referendum. Theme common cause between women of all classes.
1912 Women’s Suffrage referenda failed in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin. Progressive Party platform included Women’s Suffrage.
1913 Full Women’s Suffrage in 9 states, including Kansas, Arizona, Oregon. Illinois Women’s Suffragists won presidential suffrage. Advocates question whether to return to national level action. Alice Paul & Lucy Burns began their work for a national suffrage amendment, first within the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA). March: 5,000 paraded in Washington D.C. before Wilson inauguration; street fight. April: NAWSA formed their Congressional Union for sole purpose of passage Women’s Suffrage Amendment.
1914 Split between NAWSA and the Congressional Union. Latter set up its own organizations in states which had NAWSA chapters. NAWSA weakened. Montana and Nevada adopted Women’s Suffrage. March 19th: Senate defeated Women’s Suffrage amendment. Election campaign: Congressional Union sent organizers into the nine western states that had Women’s Suffrage – to oppose Democrats.
1915 NAWSA weak, four of its member states lost state referendums: New York, Massachusetts (in November), Pennsylvania, New Jersey (in October). January 12: House of Representatives defeated Women’s Suffrage amendment Spring: Congressional Union started organizing in all 48 states, got ?million signatures on Women’s Suffrage petition. May 9th – Congressional Union presented petition to President Wilson. December – Carrie Chapman Catt took over NAWSA.
1916 January – sudden strengthening of NAWSA. NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt unveils her "winning plan" for suffrage victory at a convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Catt's plan required the coordination of activities by a vast cadre of suffrage workers in both state and local associations. Carrie Chapman Catt sent directives: more activity in Washington; conferences between state, national leaders; schools for organizers; ideas on fundraising; planning based on questionnaire sent to each state association. June – National Women’s Party (NWP) organized in twelve states where women could vote to lobby for federal woman suffrage amendment and oppose Democratic Party candidates. October 20th: NWP members attacked by mob while demonstrating against Woodrow Wilson outside a Chicago auditorium. Catt then began to persuade Wilson regarding Women’s Suffrage. Her strategy: win more state fights by 1920, get the national platform for Amendment by 1920, ratify it by 1921. December 5th: NWP members demonstrate silently with banner unfurled during President Wilson’s annual address to Congress.
1917 Wilson finally took position that Congress should act on Women’s Suffrage. Early in year: Congressional Union applied militant tactics: pickets, arrests; NAWSA did not endorse. January: North Dakota grants presidential suffrage. April: Jeanette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress. Presidential suffrage won in Ohio, North Dakota, Indiana, Nebraska, Michigan and Rhode Island. Arkansas grants primary suffrage. New York, South Dakota, and Oklahoma state constitutions grant suffrage. November: All Congressional Union pickets released. December 12th to15th: NAWSA convention.
1918 January 10: U.S. House of Representatives passed Women’s Suffrage amendment 274-136 (Wilson endorsed it on January 9th). January 10: House of Commons in the United Kingdom passed Women’s Suffrage into law. September 30 – Wilson appealed to the U.S. Senate for Women’s Suffrage as a war measure – this was resented by the Senate, it was generally felt to be a states’ rights issue, but almost won, 62-34. South feared black vote. NAWSA worked to defeat anti-Women’s Suffrage senators. South Dakota, Michigan, Oklahoma won Women’s Suffrage referendums. NAWSA pressured for Senate passage before adjournment so there would be ample opportunity for ratification before the 1920 election.
1919 February 10: U.S. Senate defeated Women’s Suffrage amendment. NAWSA set up a League of Women Voters division. 6 more states present amendments for women’s suffrage: Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, Maine. May: U.S. House of Representatives re-passed Women’s Suffrage amendment 304 to 89. June 4: Federal Suffrage Amendment passed by Senate. June: Women’s Suffrage Amendment ratified in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan (June 10th), New York, Kansas. July: Death of Anna Howard Shaw. August: Ratification in Montana. September: Ratification in Utah. November: Ratification in California. December: Ratification in Colorado.
1920 January: Wyoming & Indiana ratified. February: Annual Convention NAWSA Chicago – Annie Belle Boss attended. February 14th: Last meeting NAWSA, first of League of Women Voters Purposes: “foster education in citizenship,” “support improved legislation” Maud Wood Park first president. Mrs. Edwards treasurer. March: State of Washington ratified. June: U.S. Supreme Court ruled referendums on constitutional amendments invalid. August 26th: Tennessee supplied final ratification.
1921 Sheppard-Towner Act gave direct & matching funds to states to educate regarding maternal and infant hygiene. League of Women Voters fought for. This Act faced strong opposition from American Medical Association and the Indiana Medical Association. The Act was overturned in 1929. Ultimately it helped to save many infants’ lives. First concerns of national League of Women Voters: American citizenship, protection of women in industry, child welfare, food supply and demand, social hygiene, unification of laws concerning women, election laws and methods (these its first committees).

Last Reviewed: 12/2016