La Follette, Belle Case

La Follette, Belle Case

(1859–1931) social reformer, journalist; born in Summit, Wis. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and after teaching and marrying her college classmate, Robert La Follette (1881), she became the first woman to graduate from that university's law school (1885). She never actually practiced law but used her legal training in her work with her husband. Until her husband's election as governor, she devoted herself to various social reforms, especially those involving women and children. She then became his close adviser and assistant. In 1909, they founded La Follette's Weekly Magazine (a monthly after 1914) to promote their progressive agenda; she edited the "Women and Education Department" and wrote many articles; in 1911–12, she wrote a nationally syndicated column. She took the lead in getting wives of Congressmen in Washington to undertake socially useful tasks and was herself in demand nationally as a speaker. She opposed war and was active in several women's peace and disarmament organizations during and after World War I. On her husband's death in 1925, she was urged by many to fill his seat but she declined, working instead to see her son elected. She continued to promote a progressive agenda as associate editor of La Follette's Magazine.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.