Stearns, Lutie Eugenia 1866 - 1943 | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Stearns, Lutie Eugenia 1866 - 1943

Stearns, Lutie Eugenia 1866 - 1943 | Wisconsin Historical Society

librarian, lecturer, reformer, author, b. Stoughton, Mass. She moved to Milwaukee with her parents in 1871, and in 1886 graduated from the Milwaukee State Normal School. After teaching for two years in Milwaukee she joined the staff of the Milwaukee Public Library, where from 1888 to 1897 she served as superintendent of the circulation department. In 1894 she met Frank A. Hutchins (q.v.), one of the leaders in the Wisconsin free library movement, and in the same year was elected secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin Library Association which Hutchins had organized in 1891. Together, Hutchins and Miss Stearns determined to work for the establishment of a state free library commission, and with the aid of state senator and philanthropist, James H. Stout (q.v.) of Menomonie, secured the passage of such a law in 1895. In 1895 Miss Stearns was elected secretary of the Free Library Commission (an honorary position), and in 1897 resigned from the Milwaukee Public Library to become the first paid staff member of the new Commission. In this capacity from 1897 to 1914 she traveled throughout the state, lecturing and enlisting support for traveling libraries and for the eventual establishment of permanent libraries. In 1903 the department of traveling libraries was created within the Free Library Commission, and Miss Stearns was appointed its chief. She resigned this position in 1914 to devote her time to lecturing and writing, and became a leader in the women's suffrage movement and in the formation of women's clubs both in Wisconsin and throughout the nation. She was one of the founders of the Wisconsin Federation of Women's Clubs, and for a number of years was a regent of the state normal schools. From 1932 to 1935 she wrote a weekly column for the Sunday Milwaukee Journal, and from 1935 until her death continued to be active in lecture and reform work. Who's Who in Amer., 7 (1912); Wis. Mag. Hist., 39, 42, 43; Plymouth Review, Dec. 30, 1943.

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[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]