Mrs. J. T. Bowen, January 1912

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CHICAGO, in spite of its size and somewhat world-weary aspect, is yet so absurdly young that inhabitants of old Fort Dearborn are still living and children and grandchildren recall spirited recitals of Indian forays repulsed from its first stockade. One of these, Mrs. Joseph T. Bowen, heard many stirring adventures from her grandfather Edward H. Hadduck, who in the early thirties drove a prairie schooner from Detroit containing $200,000 in gold which the United States Government sent to Fort Dearborn. The young government employee, much impressed with the shipping facilities at the foot of Lake Michigan and fascinated with the Chicago river, which, young and unpolluted, alternately flowed in and out of the lake with childish inconsequence, returned to Fort Dearborn the following year, and this time the prairie schooner carried his bride and the household equipment of a pioneer. Their only child, Mrs. Bowen's mother, was born within the fort and lived her entire life in Chicago. When she was twenty-one years old she married Mr. John deKoven, who had come in 1856 to the promising young city, and Louise Hadduck deKoven, the subject of this sketch, was their only child. The family lived for many years in a red brick house on the corner of Wabash Avenue and Monroe Street, past which "bunches" of [page 2]

[image] MRS. J. T. BOWEN

A Chicago woman of wealth and ability whose contribution toward the betterment of her city are described in these pages by Jane Addams

[page 3] cattle were continually driven on their way to the stockyards, while the little girl played in the gardens stretching to sandy Michigan Avenue on the lake one winter with "Tad" Lincoln when his mother lived at the Clifton House only a block away. Louise deKoven attended school at Dearborn Seminary, first one the site of Marshall Field & Company but later in a more fashionable neighborhood.

Young Chicago was in fact striving in many ways to be "more fashionable" and Miss deKoven at the age of fifteen assumed her obligation in this direction by appearing in the first high dogcart which the city had ever seen. Both she and the liveried man behind her were at times vigorously stoned as a demonstration of democracy, and on one occasion the groom, exasperated by these missiles and holding democratic principles of his own, jumped down from the cart as it was crossing Rush Street Bridge, flinging his despised coat and high hat into the back of it as he hotly announced, "You can take this livery over town if you want to, but you can't take me." The undaunted young girl drove on without looking back, sustained by the reflection that the incident only made clearer the necessity for metropolitan standards in Chicago. She was not however so totally absorbed in this perilous undertaking but that she expended much youthful energy and humanitarian enthusiasm upon a hundred boys and young men who formed a well remembered Sunday-school class in St. James' church, and when their increasing numbers finally overcrowded the billiard room in her father's house, she established a club house for them and for their friends, defraying its expenses from the goodly allowance given her by her grandfather. This club house, like the dogcart, was the first of its kind in Chicago. For ten years, in spite of much social gayety, she sustained many similar undertakings, until her marriage in 1886 to Mr. Joseph T. Bowen, a promising young business man from Providence, who represented an Eastern firm in Chicago. Even during the years when her four children were young Mrs. Bowen was president of a children's hospital and was closely identified with her husband's activities on the board of St. Luke's and in the Church Club. Her interest in Hull-House began sixteen years ago, when she became a member of its then new woman's club and later erected for its expanding needs the first woman's club building in Illinois. Mrs. Bowen is an active trustee of Hull-House, which embodies many of her earlier interests broadened by years of personal acquaintance with an industrial community. She has built a large club house for the Hull-House boys equipped with unusual facilities, for to the problem of the city boy as to the many other vexed social and industrial perplexities she constantly brings a vigorous mind combined with a remarkable executive ability.

For five years Mrs. Bowen served as chairman of the Juvenile Court Committee, which was organized in 1899 by Mrs. Flower, Miss Lathrop and other public spirited Chicago women, to increase the efficiency of the first juvenile court in America. When, however, in 1907, the county assumed the support of the probation officers and a detention home for children awaiting trial, the members of the committee were free to turn their attention toward remedying those demoralizing conditions which they had become convinced were responsible for the delinquency of many of the children brought into court. They therefore organized the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago, of which Mrs. Bowen has been the continuous president. Under her able leadership, the association has become a valuable factor in the life of the city, not only repressing the agencies which work havoc to juvenile morals, but in the more difficult undertaking of interpreting and supplying the needs of neglected neighborhoods. Mrs. Bowen spends part of every morning in the large and busy office of the association, where the superintendent, the attorney, the field officers, the investigators in reporting to the president, realize that she brings to the consideration of each new situation both a penetrating judgement and a courage which is undaunted by the apathy of city officials or by the indifference of public opinion. Mrs. Bowen is active in the United Charities of Chicago, the Visiting Nurse Association, the Immigrants' Protective League and in a dozen other organizations which not only endeavor to practice the charity of today but would as speedily as possible usher in that to-morrow when charity shall be justice. In fact, the keen sense of justice which Mrs. Bowen possesses expresses itself in many ways, quite recently in bringing the management of a huge corporation in which she is a large stockholder, to a fairer treatment of its employees.

Whether Mrs. Bowen receives in her charming house with her two daughters or presents the cause of school nurses before a committee of the Chicago common council, whether she applauds her sons as they win championships in tennis and golf or [page 4] addresses a large audience upon the wrongs of neglected childhood and the prerogative of all youth to wholesome recreation, she carries with her a reassuring sense of competence and power. She combines with cultivation and sympathetic understanding the acumen and hardihood of the pioneer men and women who built early Chicago.