Saturday Talk – “Helen Hamilton Gardener, Fallen Woman, Free Thinker”

April 17, 2021 @ 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Award-winning historian, speaker and writer Kimberly A. Hamlin, PhD will reveal the fascinating story of the “fallen woman” who reinvented herself and became the “most potent factor” in the Congressional passage of the 19th Amendment.  Hamlin will give her talk via Zoom from her home in Cincinnati, Ohio. This program is sponsored by @MassHumanities Bridge Street Fund.

Hamlin’s presentation is based on her book Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener.  Exposed in Ohio newspapers for an affair with a married man, Alice Chenoweth refused to cower in shame. Instead, she changed her name to Helen Hamilton Gardener, moved to New York, pretended to be married to her lover and became a wildly popular lecturer and author.

Called the “Harriet Beecher Stowe of Fallen Women,” Gardener campaigned to raise the age of sexual consent for girls, decried double standards of sexual morality, and debunked scientists’ claims that women’s brains were inferior.  Moving to Washington, D. C., she became the suffragists’ lead negotiator in the capital.  She persuaded Woodrow Wilson and other male politicians to support the Nineteenth Amendment.  In 1920, President Wilson appointed Gardener to the U.S. Civil Service Commission, making her the highest-ranking woman in the federal government.

Hamlin’ book Free Thinker received support from a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award and the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics.  A regular contributor to the Washington Post, Hamlin’s research has also been featured on NPR and CBC radio and other outlets, and she contributed to several PBS documentaries.  She also assisted in organizing commemorations of the 2020 suffrage centennial

The Hamlin talk is free as this program is supported by a grant from the Bridge Street Fund, a special initiative of Mass Humanities. The event will be offered via Zoom. To order please visit

Mass Humanities @masshumanities and Mass Cultural Council @masscultural