Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Stella Hostetler Stubbs, 1868-1954
By Kimberly A. Cashman, instructor, Cloud County Community College, Concordia, Kansas
First Vice-President, Kansas Equal Suffrage Association; Wife of the 12th governor of Kansas, Walter Roscoe Stubbs
Stella Hostetler was born on July 8, 1868 in Bedford, Lawrence County, Indiana to Jonathan and Martha Hostetler. She married Walter Roscoe Stubbs on September 21, 1887. Shortly after their marriage in Hesper (Douglas County), Kansas, Stella bore two daughters and four sons between 1888 and 1901; George (1888-1900), Lenora (1890-1977), Walter Jr. (1896-1974), Paul (1898-1960), an infant son who passed the day he was born in 1899, and Margaret (1901-1972). Stella supported Walter as he built his political career. In 1902, Walter was nominated by the Republican progressives in Douglas County to the state House of Representatives. He maintained his position for two terms and was elected as speaker of the house during his second term. It was during this time period that Stella found her place in their home and in her role as hostess to be her calling. While Stella advocated for the right for women to vote, she did not maintain her activity much past her husband's departure from the governor's office in 1913. Stella devoted her time and energy to her husband and family until her death in 1954.
It was through her husband's state work that Stella became aware of the biggest issue facing women during the early 1900s in America. Just after they moved to Topeka in 1903, Stella befriended two single sisters who owned land. These two women had agreed to sell some of the land to a man and his two sons with monthly payments. When the family became unable to afford the payments, the women did not have the heart to kick them out. They agreed that they could stay. However, the sisters remarked to Stella that the high rate of property taxes were draining their resources. Stella told the Chicago Tribune newspaper that "It struck me forcibly how unfair it was to ask women to support the government as well as the men and yet deny them the right to any voice in the government. Since that day I have been in favor of votes for women." Despite this revelation in 1903, it was not until 1911 that Stella signed her name to the "lobbyists" book in Kansas to register as a lobbyist on behalf of woman suffrage.
By 1912, Stella had become a vice president of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association. Within her position, Stella utilized her well-developed skill of hosting to encourage other men in political offices to attend events in which women's right to vote was a main topic. She was also able to utilize her position as the governor's wife to help elicit support for the cause through her letter writing campaign to other political figures. While her positions gave her great prominence within the movement in Kansas, Stella's own view on women voting was not in alignment with those around her. Stella believed that while women who were single, worked, and/or paid into the government should have a voice, she was of the opinion that her husband could mind her political affairs for her. This particular view of the situation hints as to why Stella stopped publicly aiding the national suffrage movement after 1913. Another reason could be that after her husband stepped down from the governor's office on January 13, 1913, Stella decided to return to life that centered on her husband and rearing children.
Even though there may not be a clear reason as to why Stella stepped back from the women's suffrage movement, her impact is clear enough. It was through her determination to convince enough male politicians to support a woman's cause that allowed her husband to officially sign into law the Equal Suffrage Amendment on November 5, 1912.
Find A Grave. "Walter Roscoe Stubbs." Find A Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6903208 (accessed September 5, 2017).
"Have New Name." Daily Gazette (Lawrence, Kansas), May 21, 1913. https://www.newspapers.com/image/194473076 (accessed September 15, 2017).
"Issue A Call for Suffrage Meet Here." Lawrence Daily Journal-World, April 22, 1913. https://www.newspapers.com/image/59475648 (accessed September 15, 2017).
Kansas Historical Society. "Walter R. Stubbs." Kansapedia. https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/walter-r-stubbs/17113 (accessed September 15, 2017).
"Kansas Suffragists Elect." Leavenworth Weekly Times (Leavenworth, Kansas), May 22, 1913. https://www.newspapers.com/image/63421556 (accessed September 15, 2017).
"Legislature Faces A Suffrage Fight." Topeka Daily Capital, December 10, 1910. https://www.newspapers.com/image/64100284 (accessed September 15, 2017).
"Mrs. Stubbs A Worker; Still Does Not Vote." Wichita Beacon, February 9, 1911. https://www.newspapers.com/image/76319890 (accessed September 15, 2017).
"Mrs. Stubbs Will Lobby." Evening Herald (Ottawa, Kansas), January 17, 1911. https://www.newspapers.com/image/92993474 (accessed September 15, 2017).
"Mrs. Walter R. Stubbs Dies." Kansas City Times, June 9, 1954. https://www.newspapers.com/image/56901928 (accessed September 15, 2017).
"Predict Suffrage Victory in Kansas." Topeka Daily Capital, May 8, 1912. https://www.newspapers.com/image/63418109 (accessed September 15, 2017).
"Suffrage Leaders Awaken Kansas Women: Warm Campaign Work Promises Victory." Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1912. http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1912/10/20/page/65/article/do-the-candidates-now-see-the-light (accessed September 15, 2017).
"Suffrage Notes." Topeka State Journal, December 16, 1911. https://www.newspapers.com/image/6323992936 (accessed September 15, 2017).
"Suffrage Workers Hope for Victory." Topeka Daily Capital, November 3, 1912. https://www.newspapers.com/image/63421556 (accessed September 15, 2017).
Vaughn, Don. "Infant Son Stubbs." Find A Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=31538072 (accessed September 5, 2017).
Vaughn, Don. "Stella Hostetler Stubbs." Find A Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=31538028 (accessed September 5, 2017).
"Wife of Former Governor Dies." Salina Journal (Salina, Kansas), June 9, 1954. https://www.newspapers.com/image/40697737 (accessed September 15, 2017).