Biographical Sketch of Helen N.B. Janes

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Helen N.B. Janes, 1854–1930

By Samuel Layton, Undergraduate Student, Rhode Island College

Treasurer, Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association; Community Activist

Helen Norton Bowen was born in Glocester, Rhode Island on November 21, 1854 to Clovis H. Bowen and Nancy W. Steere. She was one of six siblings and her father worked as a farmer and the long-time town clerk in Glocester. Both sides of Bowen's family were prominent in Rhode Island history. On her maternal side, the Steere family dates back to the 1660s and, on the paternal, the Bowens settled in Rhode Island in the early 1700s, having first arrived in Massachusetts in the 1640s, and there is a Bowen Street in the East Side Providence historical district. Her grandfather, Dr. Joseph Bowen, served as a surgeon in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Helen Bowen graduated from the Rhode Island Normal School (which later became Rhode Island College) in 1873 and worked as a teacher at the Candace Street Grammar School in Providence, Rhode Island. She married William F. Janes on May 10, 1895 and the couple did not have children. They lived in Providence, Rhode Island and William Janes worked as a civil engineer for the City of Providence.

Janes belonged to the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association (RIWSA), with the 1905 the earliest reported date of her membership. By 1908 she was the chair of RIWSA's nominating committee and was elected its treasurer in 1912. In addition to her suffrage work with RIWSA, Janes served on the legislation and franchise committee of the Providence Woman's Christian Temperance Union. In 1915, Janes signed a petition to the United States Congress advocating woman suffrage.

As was the case with many NAWSA suffragists, Janes was active in World War I voluntarism. In 1918, she was elected a ward chairman of the women's division of the National Council of Defence in Rhode Island. In this role, she helped organize a parade honoring American soldiers serving in the war and supervised a door-to-door fundraising effort for the Red Cross's war fund campaign. After passage of the woman suffrage amendment, Janes became a member of the Rhode Island League of Women Voters, which emerged out of the Rhode Island suffrage organizations. In 1927, she represented the Rhode Island branch at a New England regional conference of the League of Women Voters.

Beyond her activism with suffrage, Janes was involved with other community organizations. She was an active member and leader of the Providence Fortnightly Club, an organization that offered women social, intellectual, and philanthropic activities. In 1908, she was appointed the Fortnightly Club's delegate to the Rhode Island Council of Women and the delegate to the Rhode Island Federation of Women's Clubs in 1911. Janes belonged to the Union Settlement, a social welfare organization in Providence; the Rhode Island Women's Club; and the Rhode Island Federation of Women's Church Societies. She also served as corresponding secretary of the Providence Mothers' Club, an organization that advocated for better conditions for mothers and children. In 1922, Janes participated in a volunteer campaign organized by a number of Rhode Island churches to send assistance to Syrian and Armenian refugees and orphans following World War I.

William Janes died in 1922 and Helen N.B. Janes died in Providence on February 1, 1930 at the age of 75 and is buried at Acotes Hill Cemetery in Glocester, Rhode Island.

 

Helen N.B. Janes passport photograph (1924). Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.

Sources:

Ida Husted Harper, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6: 1900-1920 (New York: J.J. Little & Ives Company, 1922), 570. [LINK]

Thirty-Seventh Annual Report of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association, Year Ending October, f1905 (Providence, RI: The Franklin Press Co., 1906). s

Helen N.B. Janes passport photograph (1924). Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.

“Helen Norton Bowen Janes,” Find a Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119178802.

“Rhode Island Women Greet Mary Wooley,” The Woman's Journal 43, No. 43 (October 26, 1912), 339.

Thomas W. Bicknell, ed. The Rhode Island School Master (Providence, RI: Providence Press Company, Printers, 1873), 263.

William Richard Cutter, New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial. 3rd series, vol. 4 (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1915), 2186.

The Congressional Record Vol. 52, Part 2 (Washington, DC, 1915), 1381.

“The School Committee,” The Providence Journal, November 19, 1881.

“Married,” The Providence Journal, May 11, 1895.

“Women's Clubs Enjoying Season of Outings,” The Providence Sunday Journal, July 22, 1906.

“Women's Clubs,” The Providence Sunday Journal, March 31, 1907.

“Women's Clubs,” The Providence Sunday Journal, August 4, 1907.

“Women's Clubs,” The Providence Sunday Journal, April 26, 1908.

“Union Settlement Needs More Money,” The Providence Journal, January 20, 1909.

“Women's Clubs,” The Providence Sunday Journal, March 28, 1909.

“Woman Suffragists in Annual Session,” The Providence Sunday Journal, October 24, 1909.

“Woman Suffragists See Encouragement,” The Providence Journal, October 19, 1910.

“State's Clubwomen Work for Pure Food,” The Providence Journal, January 26, 1911.

“Women's Clubs,” The Providence Sunday Journal, April 30, 1911.

“Women's Clubs,” The Providence Sunday Journal, October 1, 1911.

“R.I. Women's Club Inaugurates 36th Season,” The Providence Journal, October 5, 1911.

“Church Societies Have Reception,” The Providence Journal, March 21, 1912.

“Annual Session of Federation Held in Beneficent Chapel,” The Providence Journal, April 13, 1912.

“City's W.C.T.U. Elects Officers,” The Providence Journal, April 17, 1912.

“Women's Clubs,” The Providence Sunday Journal, January 19, 1913.

“Woman Suffrage Clubs Affiliate,” The Providence Journal, June 11, 1915.

“Red Cross Seals are Freely Used,” The Providence Journal, December 11, 1915.

“Women's Clubs,” The Providence Sunday Journal, October 8, 1916.

“Rhode Island Honors Her 12,000 Sons Now in Service of Country,” The Providence Sunday Journal, April 7, 1918.

“Red Cross Workers Meet with Chairman Greene,” The Providence Journal, May 15, 1918.

“Red Cross Total is Now $729,609,” The Providence Journal, May 25, 1918.

“Women of Defence Council in Session,” The Providence Journal, June 8, 1918.

“Women Voters to Meet,” The Providence Sunday Journal, January 22, 1922.

“Christmas Appeal Made for Orphans,” The Providence Sunday Journal, December 17, 1922.

“Rhode Island Club Outlines Season's Work,” The Providence Sunday Journal, October 2, 1927.

“Personal and Social,” The Providence Journal, October 21, 1927.

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