19th at 100: Commemorating the Suffrage Struggle and Its Legacies in Northeast Ohio

Belle Sherwin

Belle Sherwin, born March 20, 1869  in Cleveland, was a dedicated suffragist leader. The daughter of Henry Alden Sherwin, founder of the Sherwin-Williams Company, Sherwin attended schools in Cleveland and Connecticut. She earned her B.A. from Wellesley College and her MA from Oxford University. Before becoming involved in the suffrage movement, Sherwin worked as a teacher in Boston.

Throughout her life, Sherwin dedicated herself to promoting a variety of social and labor issues. In 1900, she became the first president of the Consumers League of Ohio, a women’s organization devoted to the rights and welfare of workers, a position she held until 1907. Sherwin also served as a member of other organizations, such as the Visiting Nurse Association of Cleveland and the Federation for Charity and Philanthropy. While already a supporter of women’s suffrage, she became more involved in the cause after meeting Maud Wood Park in 1910. Park inspired Sherwin to join the College Equal Suffrage League and introduced her to suffrage leaders such as Carrie Chapman Catt. Sherwin became active in the suffrage cause on the local level by helping organize efforts to achieve the vote in Ohio. Additionally, she put her family money towards billboards and other promotional material that advertised the right to vote.

Following the founding of the League of Women Voters in 1920, Sherwin became the first president of the Greater Cleveland chapter of the organization. In 1921, Sherwin became the vice president of the national chapter of the League before being elected to serve as president from 1924-1934. During her time, she helped form the League’s position of nonpartisanship. She continued serving in public service positions following the end of her tenure as league president, including as a member of the Consumer Advisory Board of the Nation Recovery Administration, until her death in 1955. She is buried in Lake View Cemetery.

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