CONTACT
C. Louise Boehringer  (b. 1878, d. 1956)
C. Louise Boehringer Yuma County Courthouse -
Boehringer worked here as
county superintendent of
schools.
Louise Boehringer was one of the most significant female educators in early Arizona history. Her many accomplishments included being the first woman elected to office in Arizona, becoming a leading authority on state education, homesteading land near Yuma, serving in the Arizona State Legislature, and being a founder of the Arizona Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs.

Region: West Coast
Theme: Women in Politics and Governement, Women and Education, Women and Community Building

Born in Illinois, Louise Boehringer graduated from DeKalb Normal School in 1902 and went on to train teachers at teacher colleges and universities in Illinois and Missouri. She received a B.S. in education and a professional's diploma for elementary supervision from Columbia University in 1911 and spent a year as superintendent of teacher training in Springfield, Illinois, before joining her parents and brother in Yuma in 1912. She had visited them periodically since they moved to Arizona in 1909, and she finally filed on a homestead claim for a 40-acre ranch near Yuma.

In November of 1912, Arizona women won the right to vote and hold elective office. The following spring, the Yuma County school superintendent was removed from office in a recall election orchestrated by the local woman's club. The recall petition alleged he had exhibited improper conduct toward a teacher who reported to him. Boehringer had already established herself in the local community, speaking and writing on education and joining local civic clubs. Local women's clubs supported her and she was elected county school superintendent in May of 1913, the first woman to hold elective office in the new state.

During her two terms in office, Boehringer worked to improve the 29 schools in her district. She purchased a lanternslide projector as audiovisual equipment for rural Boehringer schools. She expanded cooperative work among the schools, 4-H clubs, and farm and home extension agents. Boehringer also represented Yuma County at national conventions, attending educational conferences regarding rural education at the University of Missouri. In 1913 she spoke at the National Education Association convention in San Francisco. Reports regarding the status of the Yuma County schools were regularly published in Arizona Teacher, an educational journal, and the U.S. Department of Education noted the excellence of the Yuma County education system.

In the summer of 1917 Boehringer took journalism courses at the University of Illinois and then purchased Arizona Teacher. The Arizona Education Association designated the magazine its official publication, and for twenty-two years, Louise financed, wrote and edited this forum for teachers.

In 1916 she ran unsuccessfully for state superintendent of public instruction. Although well qualified and supported by local woman's clubs, Boehringer lost this and subsequent attempts in 1922 and 1940. Since the school superintendent also sat on the state Parole and Pardons Board, it appears that a majority of voters did not feel comfortable with women deciding the fate of criminals.

In 1919 Boehringer attended the initial organizational meeting of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women and returned to found Yuma's BPW club. Over the next two years, numerous other chapters were established in other towns, and when the statewide BPW was organized in 1921, Louise Boehringer was elected its first president; then she was reelected in 1924.

In 1920, Boehringer ran and was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives. Nellie Trent Bush of Parker was the other county representative that year, so two women represented Yuma that session. Boehringer focused on education bills during her two terms in the legislature. Her most significant bill successfully established the first per capita funding of schools and created a state school board. Other bills included legislation to legitimize children born out of wedlock and provided funding for children growing up in poverty.

Boehringer never married, instead focusing on her career. During her lifetime it was difficult for married women to continue in the field of education, so most women who reached positions of responsibility remained single. In 1930 she earned a master-of-arts degree in education from the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1933 she was appointed the director of curriculum for the Arizona Department of Education, serving until 1939. She taught summer classes at Northern Arizona University, wrote for the Arizona Historical Review and Women in the Southwest, was elected vice-president of the League of American Pen Women in Arizona, and served as president of the Arizona Parent Teacher Association in 1934. Her writings and teaching were instrumental in modernizing Arizona's educational system, and included standardized state curricula for school subjects, as well as instituting bilingual education techniques and the review of state adopted textbooks. She was inducted into the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame in 2008.

For more information see Heidi Osselaer, Winning Their Place; Jan LoVecchio, "C. Louise Boehringer: Arizona's First Lady of Education," Arizona History Convention paper.

Photo Credit:
Boehringer portrait, Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, #97-6236

 

1225 W. Main Street, Suite 101, Box #159, Mesa, AZ 85201 • 480-834-3833  •  © 2017 Arizona Women's Heritage Trail