Helen Stevenson (Meyner) at age 20, 1948

Helen Stevenson Meyner - Biographical Sketch

Helen Day Stevenson Meyner (1928- ) was born on March 5, 1928 in New York City to William Edwards and Eleanor Bumstead Stevenson. Both of her parents held high Red Cross posts during World War II and were awarded the Bronze Star Medal by the U.S. government. William E. Stevenson, a graduate of Princeton University in 1922, Rhodes Scholar, Olympic champion, and former president of Oberlin College (1946-1961), also served as ambassador to the Philippines (1962-1965). Eleanor Stevenson was graduated from Smith College in 1923. Helen Meyner's grandfather, J. Ross Stevenson, was president of Princeton Theological Seminary from 1914 to 1936. Helen Meyner has a younger sister, Priscilla Stevenson Hunt.

Helen Meyner was graduated from Rosemary Hall High School in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1946. She graduated from Colorado College with a B.A. in history in 1950. While at college she was a member of the Gamma Phi Beta social sorority. From 1950 to 1952 she served with American troops in Korea as a field worker for the American Red Cross. Between 1952 and 1953 she served as a guide for the United Nations in New York City. Meyner joined Trans World Airlines in September 1953, working out of New York, as the national Consumer Advisor, "Mary Gordon." Meyner resigned her position in 1955 in order to work as a full-time staffer on the presidential campaign of her distant cousin, Adlai Stevenson.

Helen Meyner met her husband, New Jersey Governor, Robert Baumle Meyner, when he was invited to give the keynote speech at a mock convention at Oberlin College in 1955. Helen and Robert were married in January 1957 and moved to Princeton, New Jersey. Meyner worked as a columnist for the New Jersey Star Ledger from 1962-1969, and as a talk-show host on a television interview program from 1965-1968, that aired on Newark UHF 47 and the New York Educational Television Channel 13. As first lady, Meyner also became very active in civic affairs, and was hostess to frequent guests and at official receptions at Morven. The couple experienced a tragic loss with the birth and death of their son on February 11, 1970.

In 1972, Meyner was drafted to replace New Jersey's 13th District Democratic candidate in the race for the U.S. House of Representatives, but she lost to Republican Joseph J. Maraziti. In 1974 she was elected to represent the 13th District in the 94th Congress by defeating Maraziti. Meyner was reelected in 1976, defeating former Senator William Schluter, but lost in 1978 to James A. Courter. During her two terms in the House, Meyner served on the Committee on District of Columbia, the International Relations Committee, and the Select Committee on Aging. Throughout her career Meyner was a champion for human rights, senior citizens, preserving New Jersey's environment, and she was active in promoting women's participation in government. During her first term she emerged as a chief spokesperson in a battle with the Defense Department over the proposed closure of New Jersey's Picatinny Arsenal, a facility vital to her district's economy. Not only did she succeed in keeping it open, but she also persuaded the department to locate its new Army Armament Research and Development Command at the site. In her second term she fought successfully to halt the Tocks Island Dam Project and supported modifications to several flood control projects along the Passaic and Wallkill River Basin.

Meyner became a member of the New Jersey State Rehabilitation Commission in 1971, and served on the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Newark Museum, New Jersey Chapter of the United Nations Association, Prudential Life Insurance Company, Allied Chemical Corporation, Gerard Bank, and the American Folk Art Museum. She also served on the board of trustees of Rider College. Meyner received numerous awards and citations. She was given honorary doctorates by Colorado College (1973), Lafayette College (1976), Kean College (1976), and Rider College (1980).

Following the death of her husband in 1990, Helen Meyner moved to Florida.

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© Lafayette College Libraries, Easton, PA
April 1996