Biographical Sketch of Phebe Stone Beeman

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Phebe Stone Beeman, 1849-1913

By Laura Koch, Undergraduate student, Simmons College

Suffragist Phebe Almeda Stone Beeman was born on May 26, 1849, to Phoebe Williams Stone and William Bowman Stone in Gardner, Massachusetts. Her father was the brother of prominent suffragist Lucy Stone. Phebe's own activism was likely influenced by the illustrious career of this aunt who, Beeman once stated, "[brought] about great change in the condition of women." Indeed, after Stone's death in 1893, Beeman often involved herself with family memorials and celebrations, even "presiding" at a 1903 "Lucy Stone Day" in Brookfield, Massachusetts. Beeman and her family rented Stone's old farm house in West Brookfield for a number of years, partly as a way to stay connected to the Stone family. In addition to letters exchanged with Lucy Stone, Beeman kept up a life-long correspondence with various other relatives, most notably her cousin Emma Stone Blackwell.

Beeman was a member of the first class at Wesleyan College to admit women. She graduated in 1876. She remained an advocate of women's education for the rest of her life, writing a piece published in The Woman's Journal in 1899 defending the college's decision to remain coeducational despite backlash from male students. "It is a pity," she wrote, "they do not take pride in having been the first New England college to admit women. I think the boys do not like to be beaten by a woman." In her letters to Emma Stone Blackwell, Beeman wrote with certainty that her daughter Leila would attend college as well, though there appears to be no evidence that this transpired. Beeman maintained her connection to Wesleyan for much of her life, attending reunions and keeping in touch with former classmates; one of her sons also went on to attend the college.

It was also at Wesleyan that she met her future husband, Reverend Leonard Lemon Beeman, who identified as a suffragist himself. The two were married on June 29, 1876 and their first child, also named Phebe, was born the following July. The child lived only four years. The couple had another daughter, Leila, and at least three sons, including Leonard Bowman and Francis. The Beemans divided their time between the family home of West Brookfield, Massachusetts, and Montpelier, Vermont, where Leonard was a Methodist minister and the Presiding Elder of the Montpelier District.

In addition to being a minister's wife, Beeman was an outspoken advocate for women's equality within the Methodist church. In 1908, she wrote an article for the Zion's Herald in which she argued that, "In view of the ability and success of women in the work they have undertaken, need the church of today fear to seek the help of godly, consecrated, educated womanhood in every field of church work?" Her ideas were met with scorn from some, but others, including fellow suffragists, supported her efforts to increase the number of women in positions of religious power.

Although it is unclear when she joined NAWSA, Beeman's suffrage activism had a clear foundation in religious work; she was elected secretary of the Vermont chapter of the WCTU (Woman's Christian Temperance Union) in 1888 and was president of the Springfield District branch of the WFMS (Women's Foreign Missionary Society). Beeman was often described by her contemporaries as a natural leader. One Woman's Journal writer called her a "cheerful expounder and exemplar of women's rights," and when she brought one of her children to a WCTU meeting, an admiring observer wrote of the moment, "Who fears that women who vote will cease to care for children?" Indeed, Beeman's prominence in the Methodist church seems to have made her a desirable candidate for leadership positions within the suffrage movement. In 1896 she was elected president of the Vermont Woman Suffrage Association, and as of 1903 Beeman was also president of the Equal Suffrage League of Warren, Massachusetts.

Beeman died on April 18, 1913 and is buried in West Brookfield, Massachusetts.

Sources:

A.S.B. "Lucy Stone's 89th Anniversary." The Woman's Journal (Boston, MA), Aug. 17, 1907.

Beeman, Phebe Stone. "Another General Conference Problem." Zion's Herald (Boston, MA), Mar. 18, 1908.

Beeman, Phebe Stone. "Co-education at Wesleyan." The Woman's Journal (Boston, MA), Jan. 14, 1899.

Blackwell Family Papers, Folders 149, 607, 608, and 610. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Cambridge, MA.

C.W. "Comers and Goers." The Woman's Journal (Boston, MA), Jul. 15, 1893.

The New York Times, Oct. 14, 1887.

"Personals." Zion's Herald (Boston, MA), Aug. 5, 1891.

"Phebe Almeda Stone Beeman." Find a Grave. Accessed June 20, 2017.
https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=57115603.

"Vermont Conference: Montpelier District." Zion's Herald (Boston, MA), Oct. 17, 1888.

"Vermont Notes." The Woman's Journal (Boston, MA), Aug. 22, 1896.

Wesleyan University. Alumni Record of Wesleyan University. Middletown, CT: Press of the Case, Lockwood, & Brainard Company, 1883.

Wharfield, Mrs. W. Fayette. "New England Conference: Springfield District." Zion's Herald (Boston, MA), Jul. 7, 1909.

"Woman's Work: Lucy Stone Day." In The American Cooperator: Devoted to the Ideals of a Cooperative Commonwealth, 26. 1903.

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