By Rokia Hassanein & Joelle Lang
Undergraduates, University of Maryland
Miss Mary Gertrude Fendall was born in 1889 in Baltimore City, Maryland to Florence Mason Fendall and Benjamin Truman Fendall, secretary of the Public Service Commission and city engineer. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1912 with a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Physics.
Fendall traveled to France where she was active in the suffrage movement and in 1916 she campaigned in the West for the National Woman's Party (NWP). She was known as the NWP’s national organizer in Oregon. Her fight for women’s suffrage was considered radical for the time period, and her father disapproved of it. Nonetheless, she served as treasurer of the NWP from June 1917 to December 1919. She was re-elected for a second term as treasurer in December 1917 after showing $117,000 in contributions to the NWP in 11 months. During her term as treasurer, Fendall picketed outside the White House gates. She was a secretary to suffragist benefactor Alva Belmont and an NWP picket line organizer who was able to help enlist nearly a thousand picketers in a March 1917 protest. She was replaced in Belmont's office by Mary Young, who worked for Belmont from 1928 to 1933.
Fendall was known for her perseverance. While women protested for the constitutional suffrage amendment outside of the White House 1917, Vice President Thomas Marshall approached Fendall and invited her and her fellow picketers to come inside from the cold, windy weather for hot tea or coffee at the request of President Woodrow Wilson. Fendall refused this offer and continued picketing with other suffragists in the cold weather. On January 12, 1917, President Wilson smiled at her, of which she said “Perhaps we have succeeded in making the President take notice of us in such a way that he may help us get the Federal suffrage amendment through at this session of Congress.” While protesting Wilson at the statue of Lafayette, Fendall honored late suffragist Inez Milholland by holding a banner with Milholland’s last public words: “HOW LONG MUST WOMEN WAIT FOR LIBERTY?” In December of 1918, when many suffragists viewed Wilson’s lack of support for the suffrage movement as a betrayal, Fendall participated in “watch fires” with other suffragists in which they burned Wilson’s speeches. In January of 1919, Fendall was among 12 picketers who burned Wilson’s effigy and was arrested as a result. Fellow suffragist Doris Stevens also notes that in January of 1919, Fendall was sentenced to three days in jail for applauding in court.
Beyond the suffrage movement, Fendall broadened her activism on a global scale by joining the People's Mandate to Governments to End War international campaign, which was founded by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She traveled to France to lobby the U.S. Armistice Commission as a part of her pro-peace activism, and in addition, Fendall served as the Executive Secretary of the Joint Amnesty Committee in 1923. Fendall died at age 81 in 1971 in Baltimore. Sources indicate that she never married or had children.
The information about her parents was found in her father’s obituary: Baltimore Sun—Sept. 20, 1923, p.3.
Information about her education was found on the Bryn Mawr Library website--http://www.brynmawr.edu/library/exhibits/suffrage/pickets.html-- as well as from the college’s calendar and list of alumnae from 1917: https://books.google.com/books?id=P0kWAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
Information about her as a national NWP organizer in Oregon can be found at: https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000373/
Information about campaigning in the West as well as her role managing picket lines: https://suffragistmemorial.org/suffragist-month-2011
Information about her being a secretary for Belmont can be found at: http://image1.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=144857991
Information about the money she collected can be found in this Baltimore Sun: http://search.proquest.com/hnpbaltimoresun/docview/534796436/B46742AB24204547PQ/1?accountid=14696.
Fendall’s quote about Wilson can be found in the New York Times: Jan. 13, 1917, p.4.
Information on Fendall’s commemoration of Inez Milholland: Link
Information on Fendall’s arrest and watch fires can be found in Mary Ellen Snodgrass, Civil Disobedience: An Encyclopedic History of Dissidence in the United States (Armonk, N.Y. : Sharpe Reference, 2009), 1:338, 2:475.
Information about Fendall’s applause in court can be found in: Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), pp. 346, 358, and 374.
Information on Fendall’s time with the People’s Mandate to Governments to End War: https://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/DG100-150/dg109pm.htm.
On traveling to France to lobby, being the Executive Secretary of the Joint Amnesty Committee, her father’s feelings towards her suffrage work, and her rejection of the invitation to tea: http://image1.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=144857991.
Obituary information about Fendall can be found in the Washington Post, Jan. 20, 1971, p. B2.