Iowa City’s Own Herstorian – Renée Sueppel.

Since I started writing posts for Our Iowa Heritage several years ago, it’s always been interesting to see how new connections and stories come my way. Such is the case with Iowa City’s herstorian – Renée Sueppel.

So, what is a herstorian? Sadly, in history circles, most stories focus on the men who have accomplished great things. All the while, we forget that there have been an equal number of women who have contributed immensely to all of who we are today. A herstorian is one who makes it their work to bring out those important stories for all of us to remember. Renée Sueppel is one such herstorian here in Iowa, and this page is a salute to Renée and her work.
The Wieneke Family: Circa 1880’s – Henry (HJ) and his wife, Caroline (seated), surrounded by their eight children (from oldest to youngest) Carrie, Henry Jr., Nellie (Rosa), Wilhelminia (Minnie), Charles, George, Laura, and Robert, and, of course, the family dog!

In 2021, I wrote up a big page on the H.J. Wieneke family of Iowa City. I like to call the Wieneke’s – Iowa City’s Penny Postcard People. It was Henry J. and Caroline Wieneke (see pic above) who arrived in Johnson County in 1844, and by 1865, H.J. had joined efforts with another set of German immigrants (1854) – John G. and Anna Fink – in opening, what would eventually become Fink’s Bazaar & Cigar Store – located in the ritzy St. James Hotel on South Clinton Street in Iowa City. Besides cigars and tobacco, the store had just about everything a person would need – from a morning newspaper to cough syrup to the city’s biggest selection of penny postcards. Read more here.

Speaking of Iowa City herstory – the Wieneke’s oldest daughter – Carrie L. Wieneke – became a cutting-edge business person at the turn-of-the century – one of our city’s earliest pioneer women to successfully operate her own retail shop – the Arcade Book and Stationery Store – opening around 1905, right next door to Fink’s Bazaar & Cigar Store. Read more here.
What is a tobacconist? A term rarely used today, a tobacconist is one who becomes an expert in the world of smoking.

As we mentioned, the Wieneke family – in 1865 – teamed with the Fink family – J. G. & Anna Fink – in forming the Fink’s Bazaar & Cigar Store – located where Iowa Book & Supply is located today, on the corner of Clinton Street & Iowa Avenue. On my Wieneke page, I mention both poppa Fink – John G., and his son – Otto H. – as being, along with H.J. Wieneke, the best known tobacconists in town.

Well, in April 2023, I received a wonderful email from Renée Sueppel (see above) offering me some additional family history on the Fink family of Iowa City. Well, one thing led to another, and soon, I’d uncovered enough history on the Iowa City pioneers – John G. & Anna Fink and their family of seven children – that I had a full page of stories to share with my readers. I call the post – Meet The Finks – Our Business Is Smokin’. You can check out that page here.

And so, as it often occurs, one email led to another, and now, I’ve gathered enough facts and figures about the extended Fink family and how it all fits together with Renée’s story, I must share this herstory with you here as well. So, let’s start in the beginning…

As I mentioned, John (Johann) George (J.G.) Fink (Finck) and Anna (Cunegunda) Weigle both arrived in Iowa City in the 1850’s, fell in love, married, and raised a family of seven children…

Henrietta (Hattie) (1857-1920), George (1860-1910), Katie (1863-1871), Otto (1865-1941), Clara (b.1867), Emma (1871-1944), and Nellie (1872-1934).

As we report on our other post, the youngest son – Otto Henry Fink – went on to become one of Iowa City’s best known tobacconists, while the older son, George John Fink, became a successful businessman as well. Renée tells me that George Street – on the west side of the Iowa River – is named for him! But since this page is about herstory, let’s turn our attention to Renée Sueppel’s side of the Fink family – which starts with Cundegunda (Anna) Fink…

Meet Renée’s great great grandmother (above left) – Cunegunda (Anna) Weigle Fink; her great grandmother (above right) – Henrietta “Hattie” Fink Stevens; her maternal grandmother (above center) – Anna Clara Stevens Williams; and Renée’s uncle – when he was a baby – Herbert S. Williams – the oldest brother to Renée’s mother – Carralee Ann Williams Sueppel.

As we mention on our other post, Cunegunda Weigle was born in 1835 – in Bavaria. When she was only four, her parents changed her name to Anna when arriving in Cumberland, Maryland in 1839. In 1850, the family moved westward to Iowa, and it was here in Iowa City where Anna met and married John G. Fink.

In all truthfulness, being a pioneer woman who successfully raised seven children, was not an easy task. Add to that, in 1871, her 8-year-old daughter, Katie, died, and then, two years later, her husband, John G., suddenly died as well, leaving Anna with six mouths to feed. And in those days, women had very little ability to support themselves outside of marriage, and all this, makes me think of the toughness that Anna Weigle Fink must have had – which brings me to her proper German name – Cunegunda

Cunegunda – as the Fink family spelled it – or Kunigunde is a German name derived from “kuni” – meaning clan or family, and “gund” – which means war or warring.

Hmm. As you read about Anna (Cunegunda)’s story – who, by the way, lived to the ripe old age of 99 years – and those generations who came after her, you’ll discover four additional brave women – Kunigunde’s – who carry their German heritage quite well. Ones who live from a rich family heritage that’s very familiar with having to fighting through adversity!

The 1880 U.S. Census shows farmer Elias “Mack” Stevens with Henrietta Fink Stevens – who were married in 1874 – and their two oldest sons – George & Clarence Albert. Today, Stevens Street – off of Gilbert Street – is named after the Stevens family which came to Johnson County prior to E.M.’s birth in 1853.

Here’s a rare postal cover (c.1880) addressed to Henrietta – Mrs. Mack Stevens in Iowa City.

Anna Clara Stevens married Carl E. Williams in October 1914 and had four children – Herbert (1916), Raymond (1917), Clyde (1920), and latecomer, Carralee in 1935.

Sadly, a terrible gas explosion in the kitchen of their rental home occurred on August 30, 1939, and in it, 47-year-old Anna died. Renée says this about the tragedy…

The gas stove was apparently left on, so when Anna went downstairs to light it, the kitchen blew up. There was a trial. My mom (Carralee) woke up my grandpa (Carl) and they escaped down the back stairs. He got burns on his arms trying to save grandma, but could not. There was a newspaper article (see below) about the fire and the trial. My mom was questioned on the stand (I think). Apparently, there were some troubles in the marriage and the investigators wanted to be sure my grandfather didn’t turn on the gas…or Anna wasn’t so depressed that she did it. (The investigation found nothing suspicious.) Gas leaks happened so frequently in those days, that is why, today, there’s an odor to it, so people can smell leaks, and avoid these tragedies.
Here’s Carralee A. Williams Sueppel with two of her brothers – Ray (1917-2012) and Herb (1916-2008) Williams. Sadly, her third brother, Clyde (1920-1982), died before this pic was taken. Read more about the Sueppel family here.

And now, for Renée Sueppel, who was born on September 23, 1962 in Iowa City – the daughter of James F. and Carralee A. Sueppel. Read more about the Sueppel family of Iowa City here.

Renée is a fifth-generation Iowan with three degrees from the University of Iowa – Bachelor in Studio Art (1987), Master of Arts in Performance and Video Art (1994), and Master of Fine Arts in Performance and Video Art with commendation (1997). An American art educator and member of The Indiana Film and Video Society and the College Art Association, Renée has also been listed as a noteworthy art educator by Marquis Who’s Who.

Renée’s great aunt – Maxine Maxson Waldron (1898-1982) was an artist as well, studying art at the Teacher’s College of Columbia University in New York. After graduation, Maxine worked on the staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Education, taught art in various private schools, and worked at the Greenwich House Pottery Shop – specializing in ceramics. Later in life, she collected many artistic pieces while still producing her own work, which she sold to people such as Toscanini and Eleanor Roosevelt!

Renée was a teaching assistant at the University Iowa School Art and Art History (1992-1994), an instructor (1994-1996), an artist & independent curator (since 1996), and the co-founder & director of the UI film, video and digital media festival (1995-1997).

Renée has been on staff with the University of Iowa since 1998, serving patients, students, professors and administrators with compassion and integrity. She was chair of the Council on the Status of Women (CSW) Herstory Committee from 2007-09 (see article below).

Read more about the University of Iowa’s Dr. Christine Grant.

The Women at Iowa Project was a group effort (2008) produced by the Council on the Status of Women and the University of Iowa cable network (UITV) and was designed to tell the stories of recent Iowa graduates. Over the years, many wonderful interviews have been recorded…

Renée initiated and co-produced the “Women at Iowa” interview with Dr. Christine Grant, which premiered on August 26, 2008 – Women’s Equality Day. Read more here.
Emeritus Professor Tisch Jones has very interesting history—she is a Iowa City High graduate!
Retired VP of Human Resources Sue Buckley tells the history about UI Women’s Resource and Action Center.
Discussing The Women of Iowa Project with founders Kelly Johnson, Diana Harris, and Renée Sueppel. The interviewer is Anna Bostwick Flaming and session is from the fourth season of Women at Iowa – recorded February 8, 2011.

Today, Renée Sueppel works as an administrative services coordinator with the University of Iowa and has served the Office of the Ombudsperson as the Office Manager since 2012.

The first three generations of Renée’s family rest in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City. Wow! What an amazing collection of five Kunigunde’s – making the first one – Cunegunda Fink – mighty proud!

Read more herstories from Iowa – checkout our theme index.

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Our special thanks to Renée Sueppel who supplied many of the photos and details for this page and our page on the Fink family of Iowa City.

John George Fink, Find-A-Grave

Anna Fink Hendrickson, Find-A-Grave

Kunigunde, Wikipedia

George John Fink, Find-A-Grave

Otto Henry Fink, Find-A-Grave

E.M. Stevens – 1880 U.S. Census,

Elias McPherson “Mack” Stevens, Find-A-Grave

Henrietta “Hattie” Fink Stevens Howell, Find-A-Grave

Iowa, U.S., Marriage Records, 1914 for Carl E Williams,

Carl Edward Williams, Find-A-Grave

Iowa City Woman Dies In Fire, Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 30, 1939, p 1

Hold Inquest In Fire Death, Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 5, 1939, p 2

Anna Clara Stevens Williams, Find-A-Grave

Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books & Paper Toys,

Guest Opinion – Iowa’s ‘herstory’ and the women who mattered, Kelly L. Johnson, Daily Iowan, March 10, 2009, p 7A

Opinion: Let’s take time to appreciate Christine Grant’s leadership in women’s sports at Iowa, Renée Sueppel, Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 20, 2022

Women at Iowa | Dr. Christine Grant, YouTube

Women at Iowa | Kelly Johnson, Diana Harris, and Renee Sueppel, YouTube

Renée Ann Sueppel, Prabook

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