Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Rene Elizabeth Hamilton Stevens, 1877-1951
By Marguerite Helmers, Professor emerita, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Due to incomplete vital records, the early life of Rene Elizabeth Hamilton Stevens is difficult to trace. According to Stuhler, Rene Stevens's commitment to the women's suffrage movement was shaped by her mother Louisa Doyle Hamilton (b. 1855). Born in Kentucky, prior to the Civil War, Louisa and other members of her family were committed abolitionists. When Louisa Doyle married William H. Hamilton (b. 1850), the family moved to land possibly near Fontanelle Township, Nebraska, northwest of Omaha. While various vital records cite Rene's birthday as August 30, 1863, that date is impossible given her parents' ages. It's more likely that the census from 1930 is correct, listing her age as 53 and her marital status as widowed. This would place her birth date in 1877.
In January 1916, Rene joined Clara Ueland in Minnesota as a suffrage organizer at a salary of $75 per month. She was in charge of organizing women at the local level, beginning her work in Nobles, Rock, and Lincoln counties. She tried to work with newspapers to print pro-suffrage editorials and gave speeches to the local communities (Sara Egge cites one at a farmer's club meeting and another at a Swedish Lutheran church). However, while women expressed their sympathy with the movement, family duties and work on the farms prevented their becoming actively involved in the movement. By April 1916, Stevens had been moved to Dubuque, Iowa to campaign for the state suffrage bill, which was defeated. Returning to Minnesota, she organized a convention in Pipestone for August 3 and 4, 1916, which Clara Ueland and a delegation from the Twin Cities attended, traveling in a motor caravan. The Minnesota report in History of Woman Suffrage, volume 6, records Stevens as one of three organizers o0perating across Minnesota in 1918.
In 1935, she is listed in the Omaha city directory as the Dean of Women at the Municipal University of Omaha (now the University of Nebraska Omaha). Her death is recorded as June 22, 1951 in Glendale, California.
Egge, Sara, ""When we get to voting": Rural Women, Community, Gender, and Woman Suffrage in the Midwest." Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Iowa State University, Paper 12319. 2012.
Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association records, 1894-1923. Minnesota Historical Society. Catalog ID number: 001732580.
Stuhler, Barbara. Gentle Warriors: Clara Ueland and the Minnesota Struggle for Woman Suffrage. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 [LINK].