Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Alma M. Bielenberg Higgins, 1874-1962
By Shayne Utter, student researcher, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana
Alma Margaret Bielenberg was born on July 15, 1874, in Deer Lodge, Montana, to Nicholas J. Bielenberg and the former Anna Maria Bogk. Her father, a German immigrant, rose from being a local farmhand to a societal leader and prominent member of the middle class in western Montana as a successful mining entrepreneur. In the winter of 1899, at the age of 25, Bielenberg married her father's business partner, Irwin Warden Higgins, a mining engineer. Bielenberg made her mark in local branches of the General Federation of Women's Clubs as well in her local community through her passion for gardening and providing a more beautiful and self-sustaining world for the generations to come.
Like many Montana suffragists, Alma Bielenberg Higgins was active in women's clubs and other civic organizations. By the time that she married, she was a member of the Women's Club in Deer Lodge, Montana, holding office as treasurer in 1899. Her activism and dedication to the Montana's Federation of Women's Clubs remained a prominent aspect of her life, no matter the town in which she resided. For the entirety of her membership in women's clubs, Higgins held significant offices, including Director of the Federation of Women's Clubs in 1917. She also was the state organizer of the American Civic Association. The History of Woman Suffrage credited her with being "especially active" in Montana's successful 1914 campaign for state suffrage.
In addition to her passion regarding civic duties and women's rights, Higgins can be credited with making the state of Montana a more beautiful place for generations to come. Higgins proudly served as Chairman of Art in the Home and Garden Division of Montana, Chairman of the Forestry Committee, and multiple other local level environmental and educational clubs. During her time in these environmentally based positions, Higgins established landscaping in what were destitute wastelands and spread awareness of the importance of a healthy environment through community outreach and involving youth in decisions such as voting the ponderosa pine the state tree of Montana in 1908.
Through all of the offices held, some of which she kept until her death on March 16, 1962, Higgins made an impact on the state of Montana and the nation for generations to come by raising awareness of the importance of civic duty, women's rights and roles in society, and the significance of nature.
Credit: Crain, Ellen, and Janet Finn, eds. Motherlode: Legacies of Women's Lives and Labors in Butte, Montana. Livingston, Mont.: Clark City Press, 2006.
Crain, Ellen, and Janet Finn, eds. Motherlode: Legacies of Women's Lives and Labors in Butte, Montana. Livingston, Mont.: Clark City Press, 2006.
"Deer Lodge Notes," Butte Daily Inter Mountain, December 02, 1899, Chronicling America.
"Deer Lodge Notes," Butte Daily Inter Mountain¸ June 22, 1899, Chronicling America.
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. 360-67. [LINK]
Montana, County Births and Deaths, 1830-2011, Alma Margaret Bielenberg, Ancestry.com.
Montana, County Marriages, 1865-1987, Irwin Warden Higgins, Ancestry.com.
"News and Notes," Forestry and Irrigation and Conservation, Vol. 15 (1908), p. 127, Google Books.