Biographical Sketch of Evelyn Belden

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Evelyn Belden, 1848-1921

By Susan R. Cloud, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, Iowa State University

Evelyn Belden (October 31, 1848-November 17, 1921) of Sioux City, Iowa, served three terms at the president of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association, from 1898-1901.

Belden was born in Holland, New York. She married Winfield Scott Belden, an officer in the Iowa Cavalry during the Civil War, on October 30, 1873, in Jackson, Iowa. The 1900 Federal Manuscript Census listed the couple residing at 1107 Pierce St. in Sioux City, noting that their only child, Howard, then 24, and three boarders lived with them.

In 1898, Belden headed a legislative committee and lobbied at the Iowa state capital to secure a joint resolution for the submission of a suffrage amendment. The resolution lost in the House by 50 votes for and 47 votes against, one vote short of a constitutional majority (one vote more than half of the number of members). It did not come to a vote in the Senate. In 1900, she again campaigned for the amendment. In spite of strong support in both House and Senate committees, it again lost in the House, this time by 44 votes for and 55 votes against. It subsequently passed the "sifting committee," for the first time in the history of suffrage legislation in Iowa. It was then voted upon by the Senate and lost by 24 votes for and 23 votes against, lacking two votes for a constitutional majority. It was thought that the absence of some of the friends of the measure due to illness contributed to the loss.

Belden spoke on "Women and War" at the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention of 1899, after visiting the U.S. Army's Camp Thomas at Chickamauga, Georgia, home base of the 52nd Iowa Volunteers, in the fall of 1898. Noting that there were no women on the War Investigating Commission, Belden presented a scathing report of the conditions she saw there, saying, "It is said that suffragists do not know how to keep house. If so, the men who managed the war must all be suffragists." She spoke again at the 1904 NAWSA convention.

Belden and her husband are buried in Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Sources:

National American Woman Suffrage Association. The History of Woman Suffrage, 4:339 and 632; and 5:109.

Mullenbach, Cheryl. "Iowa History, Iowa Soldier's Mom Investigates." July 2, 2016. Accessed online at http://iowawatch.org/2016/07/02/iowa-soldiers-mom-investigates.

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