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Stevens, Rowena Edson

Published onOct 14, 2021
Stevens, Rowena Edson

(April 25, 1852—October 18, 1918)

Quick Facts

Alumnus Rowena Stevens was socially and politically active, founding and supporting charitable organizations as well as playing a prominent role in the woman’s suffrage movement.


Rowena Edson Stevens, was born near Columbus, WI, in 1852 and later lived with her family in Blairstown, IA. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) as a member of its second graduating class in 1873. She taught school in Iowa and Nebraska from 1873 through 1876, when she married John L. Stevens, a college classmate and graduate of Iowa State’s first class in 1872. The family lived in Ames, IA, from 1876 through 1893, when they moved to Boone, IA. They raised six children.

Stevens became socially and politically active, founding and supporting charitable organizations as well as playing a prominent role in the woman’s suffrage movement. She organized the Political Equality Club in Ames, serving as its president. She also served as president of the Boone Equality Club and organized chapters in other cities. Stevens was president of the Benevolent Society in Ames for twelve years, worthy matron of the Order of Eastern Star in Ames, state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and on the board of the first hospital in Boone.

Stevens held various offices in the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association, including president in 1894, in which capacity she addressed the Iowa Legislature on behalf of the suffrage movement. As president of the Boone Equality Club, she organized the first woman suffrage parade in the United States for the annual convention of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association in Boone in 1908. Her husband was the Progressive Party's candidate for Iowa governor in 1912.

Stevens died on April 8, 1918, and is buried in the Ames Municipal Cemetery. Her funeral was held in Boone with Edgar Stanton, a longtime Iowa State faculty member and administrator and classmate of her husband, giving the eulogy.

The League of Women Voters honored Stevens in 1931 as one of the twenty-four “women in Iowa whose courageous work opened the opportunities of complete citizenship to all women in the state.” A plaque with the names of all twenty-four women honored by the League of Women Voters in 1931 hangs on the wall of the third floor of Carrie Chapman Catt Hall on Iowa State’s central campus as part of its renovation prior to the building’s dedication in October 1995. Stevens was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1995.

Stevens’ granddaughter, Katherine Annin, established the Katherine Bruntlett Annin Legacy of Heroines scholarship at Iowa State’s Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics. Annin’s interest in Catt stems from her mother, Edith Stevens Bruntlett (class of 1904), telling her of Catt’s visit to their home in Boone. The Annin scholarship has been awarded annually by the Catt Center since 1996.

"She possessed an analytic mind that could dissect false argument and show up its inconsistencies. She saw, as if by intuition, where error had been given the semblance of truth and she knew how to hit it and hit it hard."
—Dean E. W. Stanton, Alumnus, May 1918 

Selected Sources

“Rowena Edson Stevens.” 2017. Ames Public Library.

“Rowena Edson Stevens.” 2017. Iowa Department of Human Rights.

Archives of Women’s Political Communication, Iowa State University.

Boone (IA) Suffragist Parade, Iowa PBS.
[The 1908 suffrage parade in Boone was one of the first suffrage parades in the nation and proved to be a turning point in the history of the Iowa suffrage movement.]

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