Biographical Sketch of Harriet Belvel Evans

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Harriet Belvel Evans, 1871-1954

By Alicia Bump, student, Iowa State University

Faculty Sponsor: Sarah Chase Crosby
Subject Librarian: Susan A. Vega Garcia

President of Iowa State Suffrage Association, district secretary of the Women's Foreign Missionary Society, secretary of the Woman's Suffrage Society

As Brenda Beckner states in her 2014 Wayne County Historical Society Newsletter, Harriet Belvel “was born in Lineville, Iowa in 1871.” Belvel, according to The Law Student's Helper from 1893, was the only woman in her graduating class from Corydon High School in 1887, going on to work in a post office before getting married in 1891 to Hiram Kinsman Evans. Harriet Belvel Evans later became a mother to two daughters, Portia and Genevieve, leaving her job as a law practitioner to raise them, according to the Wayne County Historical Society Newsletter. Along with Evans's experience as a lawyer, she was also active in the suffrage movement.

As described in The Law Student's Helper from 1893, Evans later studied to become a lawyer, with the distinction of being “the only woman in a class of 31, and . . . fourth in her class.” This publication also includes her thoughts regarding her application to the Supreme Court of Iowa; as Evans describes, she was inspected by a group of law practitioners using a test on which, “there were one hundred questions to be answered in writing, and a very thorough oral examination before the committee, and afterwards before the full bench of the Supreme Court in open session.” She succeeded in this test, and, according to this same source, was greatly applauded throughout the court and “daily papers of Des Moines, Chicago and Omaha.” As additionally reported in the 1913 Evening Times-Republican, Evans “was admitted to the bar in 1894.”

In addition to her law expertise, Evans was a leader within suffrage movement organizations. The Law Student's Helper from 1893 states that Evans was involved as the “district secretary of the Women's Foreign Missionary Society, . . . [and] secretary of the local Woman's Suffrage Society.” Presumably through these organizations, according to this same source, she also served as “conductor of the lessons on legal rights of women and minors, . . . and . . . read several papers before the local woman's suffrage club and county convention of woman's clubs that were highly spoken of.” In particular, Harriet Evans wrote in a 1911 issue of The Leon Reporter, calling women in Iowa to attend a meeting for the fortieth Annual State Convention of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association. As written in a 1911 article, “Fortieth Annual State Convention,” in the Iowa State Bystander, this meeting happened on October 10-12 in Perry, Iowa, after she served as president of the State Suffrage Association. According to a 1913 article called “Suffragists to Meet” in the Evening Times-Republican, Harriet also led a discussion based on the question “should the state association employ a campaign manager?” at a suffrage convention two years later, which was further described in the 1911 Evening Times-Republican.

Harriet B. Evans started in a small town and worked her way up to a position of power (lawyer and president of the State Suffrage Association), where she voiced her opinions on matters that were important to her. Beckner's article states that Harriet died on July 11, 1954; however, based on her accomplishments, Evans continues to be an important figure in Iowan history.

Sources:

Beckner, Brenda. “Early Corydon Residents - Judge H.K. & Harriet Evans.” Newsletter of the Wayne County Historical Society. Prarietrailsmuseum.org. June 2014. Accessed September 21, 2017. http://prairietrailsmuseum.org/newsletters/2014.06.Newsletter.pdf.

Evans, Harriet B. “Call For State Suffrage Convention.” The Leon Reporter, September 14, 1911. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.

“Fortieth Annual State Convention.” Iowa State Bystander, October 6, 1911. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.

Sprague, William C., ed. The Law Student's Helper: A Monthly Magazine for the Student in and Out of Law School. Detroit, MI: The Collector Publishing Co, Jan. 1893. https://books.google.com/books?id=JWgvAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA127&lpg=RA1-PA127&dq=harriet+belvel+evans&source=bl&ots=8TkMYwNEyd&sig=5NAEOngPDDg7MsebbgOnB14f-ns&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiQ-dH9tbTWAhXjyVQKHXB6BMkQ6AEIMDAC#v=onepage&q&f=false.

“Southern Iowa Items: Des Moines.” Evening Times-Republican, January 11, 1911. http://books.google.com/books?id=JWgvAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA127&lpg=RA1PA127&dq=harriet+belvel+evans&source=bl&ots=8TkMYwNEyd&sig=5NAEOngPDDg7MsebbgOnB14fns&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiQdH9tbTWAhXjyVQKHXB6BMkQ6AEIMDAC#v=onepage&q&f=false.

“Suffragists to Meet.” Evening Times-Republican, September 30, 1913. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.

back to top