Queer Places:
306 N 9th St, St Joseph, MO 64501
Mount Mora Cemetery Saint Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri, USA

Juliette Amelia Owen (November 3, 1859 – October 25, 1943) was a talented artist who painted images of birds and studied and wrote about ornithology. An ardent conservationist, Juliette was an animal advocate during the early days of the humane movement.

Mary Alicia, Luella Agnes, and Juliette Amelia Owen were all intelligent and accomplished authors in their own areas of interest – fields not typically thought suitable for women in 19th-century America. Between the trio, they explored African American and Native American cultures, went spelunking in undocumented caves, studied the environment’s flora and fauna around them, and recorded their discoveries in many articles, books and artwork. They were pioneers who pushed through boundaries, helped found organizations and forge new paths.

James Owen and Agnes Cargill built an Italianate house at the corner of Ninth and Jules Steets in St. Joseph in 1859. Three of the Owen’s daughters, Mary, Luella and Juliette never married and lived together in the home for their entire lives. The home no longer exists at this modern day downtown intersection.

While her older sisters were world-travelers and world-famous in their day, Juliette tended to stay closer to home and follow the social norms of her time. The delicate featured, dark-haired beauty was very involved in serving the community. In fact, if she had been born into any other family in 1858, she would have probably gained more attention throughout her long life for her accomplishments than she did as the youngest Owen sister. She was, however, just as accomplished as her older siblings.

Juliette’s early appreciation of birds and her active curiosity led her to devour books like “A Manual of Ornithology in the United States” and the works of John James Audubon. She wrote countless articles on ornithology and produced sketches and watercolors of the species she studied. A lifetime member of the Missouri Audubon Society, Juliette became more and more interested in conservation and protecting animals.

In 1914, she was a founding member of the Humane Society of St. Joseph and Buchanan County. Her reputation of having compassion for all living beings preceded her. Upon her death in 1943, the News-Press reported, “She never knew but one home … but her outlook was as broad as the wide world, and her love for her fellow beings extended to all who came to her in their need.”

The Owen sisters chose independence over matrimony. In their own unique ways, they each escaped expectations – one through the study of people and their stories, one through uncovering the secrets of the earth, and one through the preservation of birds and animals through art and conservation. While contemporary readers may not agree with the perspectives they shared through the words written from their common home, there is no denying that the Owen sisters were pioneers made with the uncommon character traits of grit and determination. Separately, but together, they forged a path for future female writers, scientists and artists.

Daring to Be Different: Missouri's Remarkable Owen Sisters by Doris Land Mueller tells the story of these exceptional sisters, whose contributions to their chosen fields are still noteworthy today.

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