A Tribute to Womanhood
Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.
Louise DeKoven Bowen
(Social reformer, philanthropist, and suffragist who was part of a generation of powerful women who affected the nation)
She was born into an elite family on February 26, 1859 in Chicago, Illinois, the only child of Helen and John DeKoven, a successful banker. As a child, she enjoyed all of the privileges that were accorded to Chicago's wealthy families. Louise attended the very prestigious Dearborn Seminary and graduated in 1875 at the age of 16. It was about that time that she took an interest in social work, and she approached her pastor and was offered a position teaching a Sunday school class to the so-called 'bad boys'. Louise dug in and quickly gained control of the class...establishing order and discipline. Eventually, she established the Huran Street Club, one of the first clubhouses for boys in Chicago.
In 1886, Louise married Joseph Bowen, a Chicago businessman. The couple had four children. Their Astor Street home was the setting of many social gatherings and political meetings, and it was at one of these, that Louise's long-time friendship with Jane Adams began. Louise became a major supporter of Hull House, and eventually she became president of the Women's Club; by 1896, Louise had become both a trustee and the treasurer of Hull House.
Louise also continued her involvement with social service activities, and the most important of these activities was her participation in the child-saving movement, a crusade to protect children from the physical and moral dangers of society. In 1899. she was one of the group of women who convinced Cook County to establish the first juvenile court system in the United States. A year later, she became president of the Juvenile Protective Association, a position she held for over 35 years. The committee investigated complaints and lobbied for new courts and measures to combat prostitution as well as improve working conditions for women.
Tragedy struck in 1911 when Joseph Bowen passed away. After his death, Louise, wanting to do something in Joseph's memory, volunteered to endow a camp in his memory. The purchase price of the 72 acres was $29,000, and every summer from 1912 to 1963, poor children from the steamy streets of Chicago had a place to go amidst the wildflowers and the trees at the Joseph T. Bowen Country Club.
During her lifetime, Louise also advocated suffrage for women and led a march of 5,000 women at the Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1916, and her writings were instrumental in helping women gain the right to vote. She remained active until her death at the age of 94. Although she had lived with all of the privileges of wealth, her life had been dedicated to social reform in Chicago. Her tireless efforts for the rights of women, children, and minorities, has made her one of the leading activists of her day.