Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Sara Ann Stebbins, 1846-1920
by Nicole Heaton, independent historian
Sara Ann Stubbs was born on February 14, 1846 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Amer and Martha Stubbs. Her parents were Quakers who lived out their lives in Lancaster. Sara was raised on a farm and she appears to have been her parents' only child.
Sara married Charles Sumner Stebbins on April 11, 1872. Charles was from Chester County, Pennsylvania, an area just outside of Philadelphia. They were married in Philadelphia, and moved to Omaha, Nebraska shortly thereafter. On December 24, 1872, they welcomed the first of three children: a daughter they named Eunice. They had a son, Joel, in 1878, and another daughter, Millicent, in 1883.
Charles worked as a ticket agent with the Union Pacific Railroad early in his marriage with Sara. He eventually moved on to be a railroad accountant, then took a position as a clerk. Sara remained at home, managing the household. Their daughters both worked as high school teachers in their adult years. Joel became a renowned astronomer.
Sara Stebbins seems to have been actively involved in the suffrage movement in Omaha, although there are few details about her life, and it is unknown when she first became active in women's organizations and in the women's rights movement.
An excerpt from the History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 6, Nebraska, provides a glimpse into the work Sara Stebbins engaged in in the mid-nineteen-teens:
"With a blizzard raging and the thermometer at 5 degrees below zero women stood in drug stores and groceries, and visited office buildings, factories and shops, wherever permission could be obtained, soliciting signatures for six consecutive days. Mrs. C. S. Stebbins, nearly seventy years of age, stood at the street car barns and filled several petitions and Mrs. Isaac Conner, a suffrage worker since 1868, made a similar record."
There is record that Sara Stebbins attended a luncheon for the Daughters of the American Revolution in June 1916. In a book titled, The Blue Book of Nebraska Women, published 1916, there is a section about Eunice Stebbins, Sara's oldest daughter. It is noted that Eunice is "one of the active suffrage workers in the state" and that both of her parents are "also much interested in the cause of suffrage for women."
Sara Stebbins was a member of the Equal Franchise Society, serving as auditor in 1917. The Equal Franchise Society was an organization focused on advocating for women's suffrage and made up primarily of upper-class women. It was founded in New York City in 1908 by socialite Katharine Duer Mackay, and eventually grew to have chapters in multiple states.
Sara helped campaign to raise money in 1918 in a fight against anti-suffrage organizations' efforts to overturn a Nebraska state law that allowed "municipal and presidential suffrage for women." She also spoke at a women's lunch in June 1919, held by the Equal Franchise Society at the Hotel Blackstone in honor of the Equal Suffrage Act.
Sara died in 1920 in her home at the age of 74, just prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Georges, J. (2017, November 21). "When the Suffrage Movement Got Its Makeover On." Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.gothamcenter.org/blog/when-the-suffrage-movement-got-its-makeover-on
Harper, I. H. (Ed.). (2009). The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI. [LINK to NE state report]
Nebraska and the 19th Amendment (U.S. National Park Service). (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.nps.gov/articles/nebraska-and-the-19th-amendment.htm
Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]), 14 June 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn99021999/1916-06-14/ed-1/seq-9/>
Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]), 24 Jan. 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn99021999/1917-01-24/ed-1/seq-2/>
Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]), 16 June 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn99021999/1918-06-16/ed-1/seq-20/>
Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]), 05 June 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn99021999/1919-06-05/ed-1/seq-3/>
Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]), 01 June 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn99021999/1920-06-01/ed-1/seq-2/>
"Pennsylvania Marriages, 1709-1940." Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 9 September 2020. Index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City.
Reeves, W. E. (1916). The blue book of Nebraska women: A history of contemporary women. Mexico, MO: Missouri Print. and Pub.
"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch
"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch
"United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch
"United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch
Whitford, A. (n.d.). Joel Stebbins 1878-1966: A Biographical Memoir. Retrieved from http: www.nasonline.org/publications/biographical-memoirs/memoir-pdfs/stebbins-joel.pdf