Biographical Sketch of Caroline Bayard Stevens Alexander Wittpenn

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Caroline Bayard Stevens Alexander Wittpenn, 1859-1932

By Holly Atkinson, Undergraduate Student, Rowan University

When advocate and suffragist Caroline B. Alexander Wittpenn died on December 4, 1932, she was described as “the best loved woman in New Jersey.” Those who mourned her death included Eleanor Roosevelt, President Herbert Hoover, and Mrs. Thomas A. Edison.

Caroline Stevens was born on November 21, 1859, to Edwin Augustus Stevens and Martha Bayard Stevens. Edwin Stevens helped found Stevens Institute but passed away in 1871. Stevens was head of the family and founded the Church of Holy Innocents in 1874. Because of her parents' activism and charity, it is unsurprising that Wittpenn dedicated her life to it as well.

On June 4, 1879, at the age of 19, Wittpenn married Archibald Alexander. They had one son named Alexander. In 1895, she divorced Alexander but was unsure for twenty years if he was still alive, holding off marriage for that very reason. The divorce spurred her interest in advocacy. On January 6, 1915, she married H. Otto Wittpenn, mayor of Jersey City and Naval Officer, after ten years of friendship and advocacy together.

One of Wittpenn's many interests was prison reform. As a probation officer in New Jersey, Wittpenn witnessed prison life and conditions for inmates, and she pushed for change. She urged for separate facilities for women in prison. Wittpenn believed those who committed crimes could be rehabilitated or saved, and she urged better treatment of first-time offenders. Wittpenn also worked to create the position of the probation officer and to establish the juvenile court system. Due to her experiences as a probation officer, she was appointed by President Hoover in 1929 as the Commissioner of International Prison Commission and wrote the book Lasting Reformation is the Aim of New Jersey State Penal and Correctional System: Mental Hygiene Activities Developed by the New Jersey State Department of Institutions and Agencies Aid in Solution of Crime Problem.

Among some of her other most notable contributions and accomplishments were: Manager of the NJ State Institution for Feeble Minded Women and Girls 1897; manager of the NJ State Village for Epileptics in 1902; aiding the formation and serving as Vice-President in 1910 and being an active member of the Equal Franchise Society of New Jersey; serving as a delegate for the Democratic National Committee; President of the New Jersey State Board of Children's Guardians; President of NJ Conference of Charities and Correction 1910-1911 and as a committee member from 1911-1912;aiding in the establishment of the NJ reformation for women; receiving an honorary doctorate degree in Law from The New Jersey College in 1922; and being appointed to the International Prison Commission by President Herbert Hoover in 1929.

Sources:

American Social Health Association. Report. N.p., 1914.

Dodyk, Delight Wing. Education and Agitation: The Woman Suffrage Movement in New Jersey.ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1997.

Hamilton, Stephen. Home of the Homeless: Related Genealogies. Sunriver, OR: N.p., 2003.

Lurie, Maxine N., Mappen, Marc. Encyclopedia of New Jersey. Rutgers University Press, 2004.

Medical Society of New Jersey. Journal of Medical Society of New Jersey. Medical Society of New Jersey, 1910.

New Jersey Legislature. Documents of the Legislature of the State of New Jersey. N.p., 1911.

New Jersey State Conference of Social Work. Proceedings of the New Jersey Conference of Charities and Corrections. N.p., 1911 Rafter, Nicole. Partial Justice: Women, Prisons, and Social Control. Routledge, 2017.

Scannell, J.J. Scannell's New Jersey's First Citizens and State Guide: Genealogies and Biographies of Citizens of New Jersey with Informing Glimpses into the State's History, Affairs, Officialism, and Institutions.” J.J. Scannell, 1918.

"Wittpenn, Caroline Stevens Alexander (1859–1932)." Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages.Encyclopedia.com.

Wittpenn, H. Otto, Mrs. Lasting Reformation is the Aim of New Jersey State Penal and Correctional System: Mental Hygiene Activities Developed by the New Jersey State Department of Institutions and Agencies Aid in Solution of Crime Problem. N.p., 1929

“Article 8 – No Title,” New York Times, Dec 6, 1932.

“Deals in New Jersey,” New York Times, July 9, 1930,

“H.O. Wittpenn Weds,” New York Times, Jan 7, 1915,

“Immigration Delegates from Jersey,” New York Times, November 2, 1905,

“Mrs. Alexander to Wed H.O. Wittpenn,” New York Times, Jan 6, 1915,

“Mrs. H. O. Wittpenn, Civic Leader, Dies,” New York Times, Dec 5, 1932,

“Mrs. H.O. Wittpenn to be Buried Today,” New York Times, Dec 6, 1932,

“Mrs. Wittpenn Gets Post,” New York Times, Apr 12, 1929,

“New Jersey College Graduates 42 Women,” New York Times. Jun 11, 1922,

“Obituary 1 – no Title,” New York Times, Dec 6, 1932,

“Office for Mrs. Cleveland,” The Washington Post, October 22, 1910,

“Orange Blossoms,” The Washington Post,June 4, 1879,

“Throng at Services for Mrs. Wittpenn,” New York Times, Dec 7, 1932,

“Wilson Captures Social Workers,” New York Times, January 27, 1913,

“Wittpenn Bequests Withdrawn in Will,” New York Times, Dec 16, 1932,

Other Online Sources

Caroline Bayard Stevens bedroom (later Mrs. Alexander Wittpenn) ca. 1899. Rutgers University Libraries. doi: https://doi.org/doi:10.7282/T36D5V5K

Hoboken Historical Museum, “Civic Engagement.” Stevens Family. Accessed April 2, 2018. https://www.hobokenmuseum.org/explore-hoboken/historic-highlights/stevens-family/civicengagement/

Hoboken Historical Museum, “The Family.” Stevens Family. Accessed April 2, 2018, https://www.hobokenmuseum.org/explore-hoboken/historic-highlights/stevens-family/thefamily/

Photograph of Caroline Bayard Stevens Alexander Wittpenn. Hoboken Museum. doi:https://www.hobokenmuseum.org/explore-hoboken/historic-highlights/stevensfamily/the-family/

Ancestry.com Sources

Alexander Birth Records, 1880, Hoboken, NJ – Ancestry.com https://search.ancestry.com/cgibin/sse.dll?indiv=try&db=FSNewJerseyBirth&h=430129

Caroline Wittpenn Find A Grave – Ancestry.com https://search.ancestry.com/cgibin/sse.dll?indiv=try&db=FindAGraveUS&h=76986979

Extracted Marriage Documentation, Jun 3 1879. Certificate #; 3190 – Ancestry.com

Marriage Index, 1879. – Ancestry.com https://search.ancestry.com/cgibin/sse.dll?indiv=try&db=NYCmarriages_ga&h=216694

Newspaper Extractions from Northeast, New York Evening Post. Jun 4, 1879. Call Number: 485767. – Ancestry.com

NJ State Census 1915, Hoboken, NJ – Ancestry.com https://search.ancestry.com/cgibin/sse.dll?indiv=try&db=NJCensus1915&h=208314

Olympic Passenger List 1923 – Ancestry.com https://search.ancestry.com/cgibin/sse.dll?indiv=try&db=nypl&h=2005856302

Passport Application, Jan 2 1898 – Ancestry.com https://search.ancestry.com/cgibin/sse.dll?indiv=try&db=USpassports&h=1189825

Passport Application, Jun 1 1923 – Ancestry.com https://search.ancestry.com/cgibin/sse.dll?indiv=try&db=USpassports&h=729982

Passport Application, Jun 3 1890 – Ancestry.com https://search.ancestry.com/cgibin/sse.dll?indiv=try&db=USpassports&h=1179311

U.S. Census 1880, Hoboken, Hudson, New Jersey, USA – Ancestry.com

U.S. City Directory 1891, Jersey City, NJ USA – Ancestry.com

U.S. City Directory 1892, Jersey City, NJ USA – Ancestry.com

U.S. City Directory 1918, Jersey City, NJ – Ancestry.com

Images

Caroline Bayard Stevens's bedroom, ca. 1899.
Rutgers University Libraries. doi:https://doi.org/doi:10.7282/T36D5V5K

 

Photograph of Caroline Bayard Stevens Alexander Wittpenn. Hoboken Museum.
doi:https://www.hobokenmuseum.org/explore-hoboken/historic-highlights/stevensfamily/the-family/

 

"Wittpenn, Caroline Stevens Alexander (1859–1932)." Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages. Encyclopedia.com. Hamilton, Stephen. 2003.

Wittpenn, H. Otto, Mrs. 1929. Lasting reformation is the aim of New Jersey state penal and correctional system; Mental hygiene activities developed by the New Jersey State Department of Institutions and Agencies aid in solution of crime problem. N.p.

New Jersey State Conference of Social Work. Proceedings of the New Jersey Conference of Charities and Corrections. [n.p., 1911]. 7,

Rafter, Nicole. Partial Justice: Women, Prisons, and Social Control. [Routledge, 2017]. Pg 59

Medical Society of New Jersey. Journal of Medical Society of New Jersey. [Medical Society of New Jersey, 1910]. 264, 529

Passport Application, Jan 2 1898 – Ancestry.com

Passport Application, Jun 3 1890 – Ancestry.com

Alexander Birth Records, 1880, Hoboken, NJ – Ancestry.com

U.S. City Directory 1891, Jersey City, NJ USA – Ancestry.com

U.S. City Directory 1892, Jersey City, NJ USA – Ancestry.com

Marriage Index, 1879. – Ancestry.com

U.S. City Directory 1918, Jersey City, NJ – Ancestry.com

Olympic Passenger List 1923 – Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com Passenger list 1929

NJ State Census 1915, Hoboken, NJ – Ancestry.com

Alexander Birth Records, 1880, Hoboken, NJ – Ancestry.com Caroline Wittpenn Find A Grave – Ancestry.com

Newspaper Extractions from Northeast, New York Evening Post. Jun 4, 1879. Call Number: 485767. – Ancestry.com

Passport Application, Jun 1 1923 – Ancestry.com

U.S. Census 1880, Hoboken, Hudson, New Jersey, USA – Ancestry.com

Extracted Marriage Documentation, Jun 3 1879. Certificate #; 3190 – Ancestry.com

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