“We cannot change the world but we can change the people in it.” The Eleanor Bumstead Stevenson Papers

Document 1: Diary Entry on Love and Marriage     |     Introduction to Documents 2 & 3
Document 2: 21 November 1924, Eleanor to Bill Stevenson     |     Document 3: 17 November 1925, Bumpy to Bill Stevenson
Document 4: Girl Trouble and Divorce     |     Document 5: “The Soldier Takes a Wife”
Document 6: Recreational Program     |     Document 7: Fair Employment Practices Council and Democracy
Document 8: Women’s Group Tea     |      Document 9: The Weaker Sex      |      Document 10: PAUW the Challenge to Education Today
Document 11: Making Use of Their Education     |      Document 12: Letter of Condolence      |     Bibliography

Document 12: Letter of Condolence  

Author: Louise A. Wood

Recipients: Priscilla and Richard Hunt

Date: 23 February 1987

Location: Subgroup II. Eleanor B. Stevenson papers, Series 4. Honors and Miscellaneous Personal Papers, Box 1. William and Eleanor Stevenson Papers, RG 30/219. O.C.A.

Document Type: Autograph Letter



On 22 February 1987, Eleanor Stevenson passed away following a severe bout of pneumonia; Bill had died two years earlier on 2 April 1985.[1] They left behind their two daughters: Helen and Priscilla.

The Stevensons’ daughter Helen had attended Colorado College and after her graduation in 1950 became a member of the Red Cross in Korea, where she served for two years.[2] In 1957 she married Robert Meyner, Governor of New Jersey, whom she met while serving on the campaign of Adlai Stevenson. In 1974 she was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where she remained until 1979.[3] While she was in office, Helen actively promoted women’s rights and involvement in politics, and she was not afraid to call out sexism when she saw it. Describing her shift from a politician’s wife to a politician in her own right, Helen said “‘I was always on the back stage like most every other politician’s wife. And I was always introduced as ‘Bob Meyner’s lovely wife, Helen,’ she admitted to reporters. ‘I am still waiting, incidentally, for someone to introduce my husband and me as ‘Helen Meyner and her lovely husband, Bob.’”[4] Helen died in 1997.

The Stevenson’s other daughter, Priscilla (often called “Peekie”) graduated from Oberlin College in 1951 and married Richard Hunt, a graduate of Yale and Columbia, in 1955. Later, Priscilla served as an Oberlin College trustee and along with her husband she founded a scholarship for international students in her parents’ honor.[5]

Upon the death of their mother, both Helen and Priscilla received numerous letters of condolence, recounting wonderful experiences the sender had had with Eleanor. The following document, addressed to Priscilla and her husband, is one such letter of condolence. It was sent by Louise A. Wood, who had served as Assistant to the Oberlin President during the Stevensons’ tenure, from 1954 to 1957.[6] This letter, though short, reveals a brief glimpse of both Bumpy’s kindness, and of the enduring impact she had on the people she encountered. Though her advocacy work was not always perfect, her thoughtfulness, compassion, and caring certainly brought her vision of utopia a little closer to reality.

Original                       Both                    Transcription





Feb 23, 1987

Dear Priscilla & Rick

Word reached me last evening that dear Bumpy had slipped away from us. I’m sure she was ready to go but fortunately she doesn’t take with her cherished memories for her many friends and admirers. My own go back to the day in 1942 when she walked into the office at the marble palace where I happened to be holding down a chair.[7] She was looking very glamorous compared to the rest of us wearing a big floppy hat. In later years [inserted with a carrot: at Oberlin] on special occasions she’d sport it for my benefit. My memories are too many to attempt to recount, but all full of fun, some [scaries?] and much adventure and comradeship.

My thoughts and sense of loss go out to you which I share in my own smaller way.

Devotedly – Louise A. Wood

[1] Finding Guide, William and Eleanor Stevenson Papers (1809-18, 1857, 1885-1987), Record Group 30/219, O.C.A. Source.

[2] “MEYNER, Helen Stevenson | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives.” Accessed 8 July 2016. Source.

[3] In 1979, the Supersisters Trading Card Company released trading card #28 featuring Congresswoman Meyner (“Helen Stevenson Meyner card number 28, 1979,” Mary Louise Smith Papers, 1914-1997, Iowa Women’s Archive Founders, University of Iowa Libraries Digital Collections.).

[4] “Meyner, Helen Stevenson | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives.” Accessed 8 July 2016. Source.

[5] Finding Guide, Stevenson Papers, Source.


[6] “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 – AncestryLibrary.com.” Accessed 5 July 2016. Source.

[7] From the dates and the context, it seems that Wood and Eleanor may initially have met while both overseas in the Red Cross during World War II.