Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Harriet Muir Stewart, 1878-1953
By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University
Harriet Gilrye Muir was born in Racine, Wisconsin in 1878 to Daniel and Emma Muir. By 1880 the family had moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where her father established a medical practice. Six children were born in the family, four of whom survived their infancy. Harriet attended four years of college and the 1900 census recorded her as a 23-year-old student. She was a charter member of the Nebraska Art Association when it was established in 1900.
Her parents divorced in the 1900-1910 decade and Harriet and a younger sister, Sarah, lived with their mother in Lincoln. According to the 1910 census, Harriet was employed as an assistant librarian at the city library and sister Sarah was a public school teacher. In 1911, Harriet completed a nine-month course at the Wisconsin Library School and returned to Lincoln to take a position as the children's librarian in the Lincoln Public Library. She continued to work at the city library until July 1915, a month after her marriage.
Harriet married John M. Stewart, a lawyer, in June 1915, when she was 37. Theirs was a second marriage for her husband. We find Harriet and her husband in censuses for Lincoln in 1920, 1930 and 1940. In 1920, Harriet was 42 years old and John was 62. The couple employed a live-in servant that year. Censuses indicate that they did not have children, and no death record survives for Harriet. John died at 82 in Lancaster County (home to Lincoln) in Nebraska in 1940.
John worked as a lawyer and the couple prospered as they owned their home in Lincoln valued at $10,000 in 1930. We have no occupational information for Harriet in her census listings and it is likely that she did not have paid employment after her marriage. John operated out of the law firm of Stewart & Stewart and later of Stewart, Stewart, & Whitworth. Beginning in 1915, he partnered with a son from his first marriage, Donald Warner Stewart. He took Arthur A. Whitworth into the firm in 1928 and renamed the firm in 1929.
Harriet Stewart's first recorded suffrage activism came in 1914 when the Nebraska Woman's Suffrage Association published an "Equal Suffrage Program for the High Schools of Nebraska." The Program was prepared by the Education Committee of the Association with Harriet Muir as one of the committee's six members. Three years later, the state legislature passed a bill providing woman suffrage in municipal and presidential elections. Within months, anti-suffragists submitted a petition calling for a statewide referendum to repeal this partial suffrage law. Harriet was one of nineteen suffragist plaintiffs in the 1918 case and the group worked with lawyers and handwriting experts and proved conclusively that a very large share of the petition signatures was fraudulent and the petition was rejected by Nebraska courts.
Harriet was active in a number of women's organizations in Lincoln. In 1915 she attended an event sponsored by the Delta Delta Delta sorority; in 1917 her activity in a women's club was recorded. By 1925 she was president of the Thursday Morning Lecture circle that sponsored programs twice weekly.
Harriet's husband died in September 1940; Harriet died in Lincoln in May 1953. Her obituary indicated that she continued as a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, the Thursday Morning Lecture Circle, and the First Presbyterian Church.
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922) [LINK]
National Park Service, "Nebraska and the 19th Amendment," accessed online at https://www.nps.gov/articles/nebraska-and-the-19th-amendment.htm#:~:text=On%20August%202%2C%201919%2C%20the,or%20abridged%20based%20on%20sex.
Federal Manuscript Census for Harriet Muir, in Lincoln, 1880, 1900, and 1910. for John M. and Alice W. Stewart, Lincoln, 1900; for John M. and Harriet M. Stewart, 1920, 1930, and 1940. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.
"Nebraska Art Association Organizes," Lincoln (NE) Courier, 31 March 1900, p. 9.
Nebraska Woman's Suffrage Association, "Equal Suffrage Program for the High Schools of Nebraska," 1914, 32 pp. Accessed online at https://tile.loc.gov/storage-services/service/gdc/dcmsiabooks/eq/ua/ls/uf/fr/ag/ep/ro/00/ne/br/equalsuffragepro00nebr/equalsuffragepro00nebr.pdf
Obituary for Alice W. Stewart, Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, NE), 28 Oct. 1907, p. 6.
Death record, John M., Lancaster Co., Nebraska, 1940, accessed via Ancestry Library Edition.
"Mrs. Hasrriet Stewart Dies," Lincoln (NE) Journal Star, 27 May 1953, p. 32.
Find-a-Grave death for John Miner Stewart, 15 Sept. 1940, Lincoln, NE. Accessed at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/search?firstname=John&middlename=M&lastname=Stewart&birthyear=&birthyearfilter=&deathyear=1940&deathyearfilter=&location=Nebraska%2C+United+States+of+America&locationId=state_31&memorialid=&mcid=&linkedToName=&datefilter=&orderby=r
Untitled description of woman suffrage conference, Lincoln (NE) Star, 11 Feb. 1917, p. 17.
Articles in various Lincoln newspapers that mentioned Harriet Muir or Harriet M. Stewart, accessed through a search of Lincoln newspapers in Newspapers.com, 1900-1920.