Biographical Sketch of Harriet Howell

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Harriet Howell, 1874-1944

By Marissa Morrison, Dr. Amy Forss, professor

Metropolitan Community College

Harriet Alice Howell was born in 1874 in Victoria, Nebraska to Samuel Howell and Anna Everett. She focused on her career instead of getting married. She died in 1944.

Harriet Alice Howell enrolled in the University of Washington, in Seattle, majoring in the "extended normal course," a teacher training program. She graduated in 1895 with a Bachelor's Degree in Pedagogy (teaching). She continued her education in Boston at Emerson College of Oratory graduating in 1898.

In 1900, she got a job as an Instructor of Elocution at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. She created a three-year curriculum that was based on voice culture, sixteen progressive and graded steps in evolution of expression and perfective laws. At the end of this course she focused on the dramatic sense of the information. Miss Howell was president of Dramatic club in 1901. She was asked by the Senior class to direct their Commencement production. She directed and performed in many plays throughout her life.

H. Alice Howell stopped focusing on the dramatics department once they were established in the University. She then allowed herself to devote more time and energy to the College Equal Suffrage League, in which she was the president. In 1914, Alice joined the campaign in support of amendment 306, granting suffrage to Nebraska's women. In November 1913, the 33rd Annual Convention of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association was held in a Lincoln's hotel. Alice was one of the speakers to deliver welcoming addresses to open the convention. She also led a pro- suffrage rally in Valley, Nebraska the day before the election. On Election Day in Lincoln, Alice Howell picketed in front of Precinct A as Chairman of the Fourth Ward. After the loss of the election she reduced her participation in the suffrage movement.

Alice Howell was among nineteen Nebraska suffragists who played a crucial legal role in securing women's right to vote. In particular, the State Legislature passed a limited suffrage bill in April 1917, granting women in Nebraska the right to vote in Presidential elections and for many local and county offices. Anti-suffragists mounted a campaign to put the bill before the state's voters. Howell was one of nineteen named suffragists who opposed the referendum petition and exposed so many instances of fraud and forgery in obtaining signatures that the State Supreme Court threw out the petition, refused to hold a referendum, and upheld the new suffrage law. Thus, Howell was part of the legal struggle that secured the right to vote for Nebraska women even before the passage on the Nineteenth Amendment.

On June 22, 1918, H. Alice Howell was assigned to a Red Cross dispensary at Neufchateau, in Lorraine. A new Medical Library and Research Bureau was in its last stages of construction when Alice was assigned to be the Librarian. She worked in the library cataloging material sent from Paris and assisting Dr. Finney and his staff with their research. On September 11, she was ordered to the front lines. She oversaw a Red Cross canteen at Froidos, where the severely injured were taken in by hundreds. Alice began to see war first-hand. She worked on the wounded before the doctors could get to them. During this time, she was also learning her lines for the Joan of Arc pageant. On September 15, Alice went make to Domremy to perform. She delivered the opening lines of the play to thousands of French and American soldiers. She was reassigned at Neufchateau on October 25. She was very popular with the boys in the war, especially with her donut and ice cream making skills. She continued to split her time in the hospital and in the canteen. She was released in 8 September 1919 to return to the U.S.

Sources:

Nebraska, H. Alice Howell, 1874-1952, at the FamilySearch website. Accessed online at https://familysearch.org/search/record/results?count=20&query=%2Bgivenname%3A%22H.%20Alice%22~%20%2Bsurname%3AHowell, 10 April 2017

Nielsen, Alan. "Greetings From the Queen: The Life and Work of H. Alice Howell" (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Nebraska, 1977).

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