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The Blue Book of Iowa Women A History of Contemporary Women

Compiled by Winona Evans Reeves, 1914.


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Mrs. James B. Howell

One of the splendid women of Iowa who in her day was known in Washington society and in many cities of Europe was Mrs. James B. Howell.  She was born in Iowa City, Oct. 29, 1829, daughter of General Jesse Bowen, who served as State Senator and as Adjutant General of Iowa.  At the beginning of the Civil War he was appointed paymaster in the regular army by President Lincoln.  After several years of service he resigned and passed the remainder of his life in retirement.  At her father's home in Iowa City, Mary A. Bowen was married, Oct. 3, 1850, to James B. Howell, of Keokuk.  Judge Howell was at that time the Whig leader of Iowa and was publisher of the Keokuk Gate City.  He had been publisher of the Des Moines Valley Whig at Keosauqua, from 1845 to 1849, when he moved the paper to Keokuk and changed its name.  He distinguished himself as a journalist, a statesman, and a scholar.  He became a U. S. Senator from Iowa and later Federal Judge of the Court of Claims by appointment of President Grant and President Hayes.  He was a man of wide influence in Iowa affairs from the time he came to the state in 1841, to the day of his death in 1880.  The Hon. Sam M. Clark, one of the most brilliant writers Iowa has produced, said of him:  "We have seen Judge Howell's life from the earth side of view where we stand with the general lookers on;  and then from the moonside of Browning's fine fancy --- that other side of a character which is its sacred own, and which those who look only at the public side can never know.  So we know him well enough to know that it takes no charity to judge him.  There is nothing to forgive and nothing to forget as to his character.  *   *   *   We are disposed to hold him the most sagacious man we have ever known;  the wisest in his judgment of men and events.  While a man of affairs, he was a man of books;  his reading was large and accurate  *   *   *   and finally James B. Howell was a supremely honest man."  Seven children were born to Judge and Mrs. Howell, three of whom died in infancy.  A son, Jesse B. Howell, died at the age of 45 years.  He succeeded his father in the management of the Keokuk Gate City and for twenty-five years was its able business manager.  Three children are still living:  Miss Lida Gordon Howell, in whom are embodied the traditions of her family, a scholarly woman of the highest culture.  Col Daniel Lane Howell, U. S. A., and Capt. James Fredrick Howell, U. S. A.  Mrs. Howell's life was a very full one.  From her childhood she was associated with people in public life, for in her father's home in the territorial days were gathered the men who made the early history of this state.  She had always a vital interest in her husband's career, and her fine tact and charming manners made her a helpmate indeed to her talented husband.  She had a knowledge of business and politics which would have done credit to a man, and yet she was always womanly, full of sentiment, and high ideals.  Her residence in official Washington society and in the capitals of other nations made her familiar with the usages of cosmopolitan society, and yet her heart was always in her home and its interests.  She was a strikingly handsome woman and a woman of great dignity.  She died June 17, 1903, in Keokuk, which had been her home for more than half a century.



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