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National or State Registers Record

220 E. Union St.

National or State Register of Historic Places
220 E. Union St. | National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Bowen, Julia B. and Fred P., House
Reference Number:96000729
Location (Address):220 E. Union St.
City/Village:Richland Center
Julia B. and Fred P. Bowen House
220 East Union Street, Richland Center, Richland County
Date of Construction: 1869
Architect: unknown

In June 1882, Laura Briggs James formed the Richland Center Woman's Club with the public goal of aiding social, intellectual, and philanthropic interests. Certainly, the tenacious members of the Woman's Club did devote themselves to more typical philanthropic measures, such as caring for the impoverished and incarcerated, organizing a farmer's market, lobbying for a library, and campaigning for temperance, but the real goal of the Club was to legalize the right for women to vote. As one of the earliest women's suffrage clubs, the Woman's Club did not publicize its true ambitions for fear of open derision and scorn. In fact, the Club's first president, Julia Busby Bowen, articulated the Club's covert though unrelenting strategy when she said, "we must be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves if we are to make converts to our course." In all reality, Richland Center was the "cradle of the suffrage movement in Wisconsin" and Bowen remains the city's most important suffragist.

Born in 1840 in New York State, Bowen was educated at Alfred University, one of the first coeducational universities in the United States. She married S.N. Waite at the age of twenty. When the young couple moved to the South, the Confederate Army held them at a stockade during the Civil War. Waite escaped once, but later died in battle. Mourning her late husband, Bowen moved to Richland Center and became a schoolteacher. Here she met Frederick Bowen whom she married. Frederick built his new bride a sophisticated home that boasted modern conveniences, including stoves for heating.

A well-educated and wealthy woman who believed strongly in human rights, Bowen served as the president of the Richland Center's Woman's Club for its first 10 years. In this time, she escorted 14 members of the Woman's Club to Madison for the formation of the Wisconsin State Suffrage Association in September 1882, garnered praise from famous suffragist Lucy Stone, and became the first woman to serve on the Richland Center School Board. Bowen's leadership enabled Richland Center to host the first regular convention of the Wisconsin State Suffrage Association in June 1884. Early suffrage groups like the Richland Center Woman's Club inspired the second generation of suffragists that fought for the 1920 passage of the nineteenth amendment that allowed women to vote.

The Bowen House is a private residence. Please respect the privacy of the owners.

Period of Significance:1882-1905
Area of Significance:Social History
Applicable Criteria:Person
Historic Use:Domestic: Single Dwelling
Architectural Style:Classical Revival
Architectural Style:Italianate
Architectural Style:Second Empire
Resource Type:Building
Historic Status:Listed in the National Register
Historic Status:Listed in the State Register
National Register Listing Date:07/05/1996
State Register Listing Date:03/25/1996
Number of Contributing Buildings:1
Number of Contributing Sites:0
Number of Contributing Structures:0
Number of Contributing Objects:0
Number of Non-Contributing Sites:0
Number of Non-Contributing Structures:0
Number of Non-Contributing Objects:0
National Register and State Register of Historic Places, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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