Biographical Sketch of Nora Hanes Lewis

Biographical Database of Montana Woman Suffragists

Biography of Nora Hanes Lewis, 1862-1939

By Ashlyn Nicholson and Izaak Castren, student researchers, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana

Bookkeeper, teacher, clubwoman

Nora Hanes Lewis was an active community member and a suffragist, who worked throughout western Montana to achieve the women's vote. Born in Illinois around 1862, she married in 1888. Her husband, James Madison Lewis, was an energetic school superintendent, farmer, horticulturist, and lawyer, who cared for his wife and supported her ambitions. The couple had two children, Dwane and Inez Lewis. The family moved all over the state, living in Dillon, Columbia Falls, Helena, and Great Falls. Regardless of their location, the Lewis family never wavered in their passion for education and equality.

Nora Lewis worked as an educator. She began her career as a second-grade teacher in Columbia Falls, Montana, leaving this job in 1894. She and her husband traveled to multiple meetings for teachers to further their professional development. In addition, Lewis was active in a variety of clubs and organizations. As the treasurer of the Women's Relief Corps in 1896, she helped to preserve the memory of the Grand Army of the Republic. She was also the president of the Senior Epworth Club, a group for women in the Methodist Church, in 1895, and was one of many members of the Polson Red Cross during World War I. In their spare time, Nora and James Lewis performed together, singing at many events and celebrations.

Among many social causes, Nora Lewis was dedicated to the suffrage movement. In 1905, along with two other suffragists, Mary O'Neill and Mrs. Walter Matheson, Lewis presented a women's suffrage bill, HB-77, to the Committee of Judiciary of the Montana legislature. The committee quickly passed the bill, but it failed in the House by four votes. Lewis renewed her suffrage work in 1914, when she was elected to the presidency of the Equal Suffrage Club in Helena, Montana. She worked tirelessly with other suffragists to achieve equal voting rights in the state of Montana. During her time as president, Lewis helped to put on a pageant to promote women's suffrage during the state fair, working side by side with Jeannette Rankin. Their goal for the pageant was for it to be "the most attractive ever seen in the Northwest."

Nora Lewis lived a full and community-centered life. She and her husband seemed to have a loving and supportive relationship with one another, allowing her to thrive in trying to achieve change. Her involvement in her clubs and in the suffrage movement proved her dedication to bettering her nation. She died in Great Falls, Montana, on March 7, 1939, and her remains were cremated.

SOURCES:

"Arbor Day Celebration." The Dillon Tribune, March 07, 1902, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053040/1902-03-07/ed-1/seq-2/.

"Epworth league elections," The Columbian, June 06, 1895, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053046/1895-06-06/ed-1/seq-2/.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed., "Montana," chapter XXV in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920 (New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), pp. 360-367. [LINK]

"The Literary Social," TheColumbian, December 22, 1892, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053046/1892-12-22/ed-1/seq-2/.

"May Hold Two Offices," KendallChronicle, April 21, 1903, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053338/1903-04-21/ed-1/seq-5/.

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services; Helena, Montana; Montana, Death Index, 1868-2015, Ancestry.com

National Educational Association of the United States, List of Corresponding Members of the National Educational Association of the United States: For the Year Beginning July 1, 1901, and ending June 30, 1902 (1901), p. 975. Google Books.

News of the Week," TheColumbian, January 11, 1894, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053046/1894-01-11/ed-1/seq-2/.

News of the Week," TheColumbian, June 21, 1894, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053046/1894-06-21/ed-1/seq-2/.

"Old Time Resident Dies in Great Falls," Independent-Record (Helena, Montana), March 8, 1939, p.5. Newspapers.com.

O'Neill, Mary E. "Equal Suffrage Department," Big Timber Pioneer, August 20, 1914, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn84036123/1914-08-20/ed-1/seq-2/.

"Polson Red Cross has Good Membership," The Flathead Courier, June 12, 1917, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn86075296/1917-06-12/ed-1/seq-5/.

"Programme," The Columbian, July 16, 1896, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053046/1896-07-16/ed-1/seq-2/.

"A Splendid Supper and a Wonderful Time, Officers Elected," The Columbian, April 02, 1896, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053046/1896-04-02/ed-1/seq-3/.

Schaffer, Ronald, "The Montana Woman Suffrage Campaign, 1911-1914," in Pacific Northwest Quarterly (January 1964), 9-15, https://arc.lib.montana.edu/ivan-doig/objects/2602-B048-F05.pdf.

"The Teachers Meet," The Columbian, May 24, 1894, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053046/1894-05-24/ed-1/seq-2/.

"Town and County," TheColumbian, April 23, 1896, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053046/1896-04-23/ed-1/seq-2/.

U.S. Census. Year: 1920; Census Place: Helena Ward 7, Lewis and Clark, Montana; Roll: T625_972; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 108. Ancestry.com.

Ward, Doris Buck, "The Winning of Woman Suffrage in Montana," master's thesis, Bozeman: Montana State University, June 1974, p.96, https://arc.lib.montana.edu/ivan-doig/objects/2602-B048-F05.pdf.

"Washington Day," TheColumbian, February 23, 1893, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053046/1893-02-23/ed-1/seq-4/.

"Weekly Bulletin," FlatheadCourier, August 20, 1914, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn86075296/1914-08-20/ed-1/seq-7/.

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