La Follette, Belle Case, 1859-1931Alternative names
Belle Case La Follette (April 21, 1859 – August 18, 1931) was a women's suffrage, peace, and Civil Rights activist in Wisconsin, United States. La Follette worked with the women's peace party during World War I. At the time of her death in 1931, The New York Times called her "probably the least known yet most influential of all American women who have had to do with public affairs in this country."
A native of Summit, Wisconsin, Belle Case attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison from 1875 to 1879. While there, she excelled at her studies, finding a particular passion for literature and befriending her future husband, Robert La Follette. After graduation, she taught junior and senior high school students. She married Robert La Follette in 1881.
After her husband became District Attorney, La Follette "clerked" for him, researching legal precedents and helping to write briefs. In 1882 she gave birth to their first child, Flora Dodge. Her interest in law sparked, La Follette enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Law School and became the first female graduate in 1885. Although she never practiced law independently, La Follette continued to do legal work throughout her life, even earning the praise of a Wisconsin Chief Justice for a brief she wrote for one of her husband's cases.
During her husband’s three terms in Congress (1885-1891), La Follette acted as his secretary and administrative assistant. When they returned to Wisconsin after his defeat, she taught physical education classes and lectured on a variety of issues including woman suffrage, coeducation and dress reform. Between 1895 and 1899, La Follette had three more children — Bob Jr., Phil and Mary — while still working on her husband's campaigns, continuing her advocacy work and running the household.
After serving as governor's wife for five years, La Follette returned to Washington in 1906 when her husband became a U.S. Senator. She never shied away from direct participation in governmental affairs, exerting a tremendous influence over her husband's efforts at reform legislation both in Wisconsin as well as nationally.
In 1909, the La Follettes founded "La Follette's Weekly Magazine", which later became "The Progressive" under her role as editor in 1929. From 1909 until her death in 1931, La Follette wrote weekly columns that often took up political or legal positions, advocated for legislation, or critiqued political policies and administrations. She also used every opportunity to make the case for woman suffrage, railing against state and federal laws that limited the position of women. From 1911 to 1912 La Follette also wrote a column for the North American Press Syndicate.
A staunch pacifist, La Follette helped found the Women's Peace Party in 1918, which later became the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. After World War I, she was active in the Women's Committee for World Disarmament, the National Council for the Prevention of War, and helped convene the Naval Arms Limitations Conference in 1922.
After her husband’s death in 1925, La Follette was urged to fill his seat in the Senate but she declined in no uncertain terms, saying, "at no time in my life would I ever have chosen a public career for myself." Instead, her son Robert Jr. was elected. La Follette began work on a biography of her husband but died before it was finished. Her daughter Fola completed it. La Follette died on August 18, 1931.
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Town of Summit||WI||US|
|District of Columbia||DC||US|