Biographical Sketch of Jessie Belle Hardy Stubbs MacKaye

Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Jessie Belle Hardy Stubbs MacKaye 1876-1921

Link to NWP Database

By Marisa Feijoo and Lily-Gre Hitchen, undergraduates, Saint Anselm College

Jessie Belle “Betty” Hardy was born in 1876 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the daughter of Major A. L. Hardy of Pittsburgh, a notable newspaper reporter for the Chicago Times. There is little information on Hardy's mother; the only fact known is that she separated from her husband and moved to the western part of the United States.

Hardy was the head surgical nurse at St. Luke’s hospital in Chicago. It was there that she met her first husband, Dr. Gurney Stubbs. Her first husband passed away from pneumonia in 1910 at thirty-three. She moved to New York City after her husband’s death and attended Columbia University’s School of Philanthropy. From this time on, she focused her efforts on the Woman Suffrage movement. In 1912, she was one of the chief organizers and “war” correspondent for a walk from New York City to Albany, New York, to advocate for a bill in New York for woman’s suffrage. This walk attracted a lot of media attention, as Jessie Hardy Stubbs was one of four women who finished the walk to Albany to present a message to Governor Sulzer. Long-distance walking and hiking, which were favorite pastimes of Hardy Stubbs, were also evident through her suffrage tactics; in January 1914 it was announced there would be a hike from Baltimore to Annapolis to bring a petition of 100,000 signatures for women’s votes. There is no documentation of the event taking place.

Hardy Stubbs held many leadership positions in the Congressional Union, and later the National Woman’s Party. She was the Congressional Union Press Chairman from 1913 to 1915. She was the Business Manager for the CU’s The Suffragist in 1914; she was on the Union's National Advisory Council. In addition to holding positions in these suffrage organizations, she contributed through public actions for the movement. During the march, held on the day before President Wilson’s Inauguration in March 1913, she carried a banner that read, “We demand an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States Enfranchising Women.” In March 1914 she went to the Midwest to encourage women to participate in a demonstration that would be held on May 2, 1914. Additionally on May 9th of that year, she was part of largest gathering of suffragists in Washington D.C. to help present five hundred and thirty-one signatures on a petition in hopes to pass the Bristow-Mondell resolution, aimed at securing for women the right to vote. Later in the year, on September 14, 1914 she was one of many women to travel to organize a campaign against the Democratic Party candidates. She was sent to Portland, Oregon. She urged women to boycott marriage and having children to express the seriousness of female suffrage.

Hardy Stubbs’s suffrage activism continued after her marriage in 1915 to Benton MacKaye, whom she had met in D.C. while he was advocating for forest conservation. It appears that MacKaye’s participation with the NWP slackened in the year 1916, because there is little documentation of her actions or correspondence with the members of the movement. One document mentions MacKaye speaking in 1916 in Colorado and Illinois against the Democratic Party for the party’s stance against suffrage for women. After marriage, the Mackayes traveled together and advocated peace. They were active in anti-war efforts opposing the first World War. One source claims that while her husband advocated conservation in his travels, she spoke on woman's suffrage.

Jessie Hardy Stubbs MacKaye continued doing progressive work by organizing The Milwaukee Peace Society, becoming its first president in 1921. She later became the Legislative Chairman of the New York City Peace Society. According to her husband, MacKaye mentioned she felt overworked, and she also conveyed suicidal feelings to her nurse. She committed suicide by drowning in the East River in New York City in 1921. The death of his wife inspired Benton MacKaye to create the Appalachian Trail.


Information regarding Hardy’s mother and father can be found in the article, “Watching for Sultzer,” New York Times, 31 December 1912. Her early life in Chicago and her attendance at Columbia University, is covered in the article, “Mrs. MacKaye Gone; Threatened Suicide” New York Times. 19 April 1921. In the article, “Find Mrs. MacKaye in The East River,” New York Times. 20 April 1921, there is more of an overview about her life, mentioning her previous position of Head Surgical Nurse at St. Luke. Information regarding her first husband, Dr. Francis Gurney Stubbs, can be found at his memorial page at, Jessie Hardy Stubbs’s pilgrimage to Albany is discussed in “Suffrage Pilgrims Down to Four,” New York Times, 18 December 1912, “Hikers out of Fog, Battle with Wind,” New York Times, 20 December 1912, and “WATCHING FOR SULZER; He Cannot Slip Into Albany Without the Suffragists Knowing It,” New York Times, 30 December 1912. Jessie Stubbs organizing a hike from Baltimore to Annapolis to bring the petition of 100,000 signatures is mentioned in the Washington Times, 4 January 1914, p. 7. Information on Mrs. Benton MacKaye’s suffrage work can be found in, "The National Women’s Party Papers: The Suffrage Years 1913-1920," edited by Donald L. Haggerty. Further details of her suffrage actions can be found in Inez Haynes Gillmore, Story of the Woman’s Party (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1921) pp. 66, 77-79, 203, and 365 and in “Suffragists Ask Congress for Vote,” New York Times, 10 May 1914. Mrs. Benton MacKaye is also mentioned in the following issues of The Suffragist: 5:88 (1917) p. 2; 6: 36 (1918) p. 68; 2:4 (1914), p. 2; 5:89 (1917), p. 4; 4:47 (1916), p. 7; 4:49 (1916), p. 8; 5:78 (1917), p. 11; and 5:58 (1917), p. 12.

The details of Jessie MacKaye’s peace activism are noted in Hilda Satt Polacheck, I Came a Stranger: The Story of a Hull-House Girl (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989) and on the site, “Jessie Belle Hardy Stubbs MacKaye,” Project Gutenberg,

Information of the cooperative peace actions of Jessie and Benton MacKaye can be found in “Benton MacKaye: A Wilderness Visionary,”, accessed at This site also describes the effects that his wife’s death had on Benton Mackaye. There are also MacKaye family papers at Dartmouth College that reference Jessie Hardy Stubbs MacKaye.

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