Harriet Sophia (Brewer) Brooks, 1828-1888 [RG4054.AM]


RG4054.AM:  Harriet Sophia (Brewer) Brooks, 1828-1888

Papers:  1830s-1974; mostly 1852-1888
Omaha, Douglas County, Neb.; Chicago, Ill.:  Suffragist; newspaper columnist
Size:  0.25 cu.ft.; 1 box


Born on September 7, 1828 in Mt. Morris, Livingston County, New York, Harriet Sophia Brewer was the first of six children born to Mr. and Mrs. James Brewer. At the age of six she moved with her family to western Michigan where she received her public education. Brewer became a schoolteacher and taught in the common schools of Michigan for several years. Then, in 1850, she moved from Dundee to Albion, Michigan and enrolled in Albion’s Female College, which was associated at the time with the Albion Seminary. She graduated in 1854 as the valedictorian of her class and gave two addresses at the commencement exercises.

It was during her time at Albion that she met Datus C. Brooks. Brooks had attended college in Albion for two years then enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he graduated in 1856. After graduation, Brooks was hired on as an assistant professor of rhetoric and English literature and held that position until 1863 when he was appointed librarian. Datus Brooks and Harriet Brewer were married on September 7, 1858 in Tecumseh, Michigan. During their time in Ann Arbor, Harriet continued to teach, but she also became active in the suffrage movement in Michigan. She contributed articles to various newspapers and worked to get women admitted to the state University at Ann Arbor.

In 1864 Datus Brooks resigned his position and took a job as a literary and musical critic for the Times in Chicago, Illinois. Once settled in Chicago, Harriet continued her activities in the suffrage movement, serving as secretary for both the Cook County Woman’s Franchise Association and the Illinois Woman’s Suffrage Association. She also served as a delegate to the third annual National Women’s Suffrage Association convention in 1870. Harriet continued to promote women’s right to vote in Illinois until 1876 when Datus took the position of editor for the newspaper, the Republican, and moved to Omaha, Nebraska.

Harriet continued her suffrage activities in Nebraska, contributing numerous articles to the Republican. She was one of the founding members of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association, founded on May 30, 1880. On February 17, 1882, she made an address before the Nebraska Legislature entitled, “What Impartial Suffrage Means.” Harriet Brooks continued to lobby for women’s right to vote for the remainder of her life. Harriet Brooks was also an active member of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, serving as chairman of the Department of Botany and Vegetable Physiology. After a prolonged battle with cancer, Harriet Brooks died at St. Joseph Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska on June 22, 1888.


This collection consists of papers relating to suffragist, Harriet Sophia (Brewer) Brooks. The papers include correspondence, articles and newspaper clippings, suffrage association records, and biographical information. Of particular interest is the secretary’s book from the Cook County (Illinois) Woman’s Franchise Association dating from 1870-1871. Also included in this book are notes from the first meeting of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association held in Omaha, Nebraska on May 30, 1880.

A published account of Brooks’ 1882 suffrage address before the Nebraska Legislature is also included in the collection. One letter written by Susan B. Anthony to Datus C. Brooks acknowledging the death of Harriet Brooks is included with the correspondence. Note:  The original letter is restricted for preservation. Researchers are asked to use the photocopy provided in the collection. Another interesting aspect of the correspondence includes transcripts of letters by Harriet Brooks describing her observations of the “Great Chicago Fire” of 1871.

Related materials in the collections of the Nebraska State Historical Society include photographs of Harriet Brooks, Datus Brooks, and their daughter, Florence Brooks. These are located in the Portrait Collection [RG2411.PH]. For newspaper articles by Harriet Brooks, see the Omaha Republican newspaper on microfilm [071 Om1r] available in the Reference Room. The Nebraska State Historical Society also holds records of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association.


Box 1

  1. Correspondence, 1871-1888
  2. Original writings
  3. Cook County Woman’s Franchise Association, secretary’s book, 1870-1871 (includes notes from the first meeting of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association in Omaha, Nebraska, May 30, 1880)
  4. Typed transcript of Cook County Woman’s Franchise Association secretary’s book
  5. “What Impartial Suffrage Means,” address before the Nebraska Legislature, Feb. 17, 1882 (see oversize)
  6. Scrapbook, 1852-1888 (see oversize)
  7. Newspaper clippings
  8. Pamphlets, clippings, etc.
  9. Personal materials including an early journal (ca. 1830s-1840s), college commencement programs (1854, 1856), and marriage certificate (1858)
  10. Biographical information
  11. “Aunt Myra,” composition by Elton M. Langly


Subject headings:

Brooks, Harriet Sophia (Brewer), 1828-1888
Cook County Woman’s Franchise Association (Cook County, Illinois)
Law and legislation — Nebraska
Legislation — Nebraska
Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association (Neb.)
Women — Suffrage — Illinois
Women — Suffrage — Nebraska

Revised 12-18-2007 TMM/ew

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