Biographical Sketch of Mary Winsor by Olivia Shaffett

Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Mary Winsor, 1869-1956

Link to NWP Database

By Olivia Shaffett, undergraduate, Louisiana State University

Mary Winsor was born in Haverford, Pennsylvania in 1869 to James and Rebecca Winsor. She grew up in a devout Quaker family, where her mother and father believed that women were just as capable of speaking and sharing their religious testimonies as men. This idea of equality aided in shaping the views of Mary and two of her sisters (both also NWP picketers), Rebecca and Ellen [LINK to bio sketch for Ellen Winsor]. All three sisters actively participated in the women's suffrage movement for much of their lives. Mary attended both the Drexel Institute of Philadelphia and Bryn Mawr College, from which she graduated in 1918.

In 1909, she founded the Pennsylvania Limited Equal Suffrage League, and her position as both founder and president of the League allowed Mary to speak in public and publish her position on suffrage within her community. Also, under Mary's leadership, the League produced both suffrage pageants and plays for the public.

Upon request of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Mary traveled to London in 1913 and 1914. While abroad, her objective was to make a survey of the English Suffrage Movement; therefore, she participated in several English militant suffrage events including pilgrimage marches, militant meetings and appeals to Parliament. Mary also witnessed the brutality of policemen and government officials towards women, and she interviewed and conversed with many suffrage supporters and workers. Following her return, she both defended and explained the need for militant activism in an article in the Annals, "The Militant Suffrage Movement."

Mary became actively involved with the National Woman's Party, and eventually served as a council member for the Party. Along with other members, Mary picketed the White House. On September 4, 1917 she was arrested for "obstructing traffic," and sentenced to 60 days at the Occoquan Workhouse. While in prison, she noted the almost inedible types of food the inmates were served and subsequently wrote a prayer asking the Lord to deliver a good meal to the suffragist prisoners. Mary was arrested a second time on August 6, 1918 for her participation in the Lafayette Square meeting. At the trial, she refused to pay the fine for "holding a meeting on public grounds," stating she was not properly represented in the government. She was then held in the D.C. jail for 10 days and released after a hunger strike. Following these arrests, Mary participated in the February 1919 Prison Special, a 23-day train tour for formerly imprisoned suffragists.

After the passage of the 19th amendment, it is difficult to find much on Mary Winsor's activity. In 1930 she remained single, living with her 81-year-old mother, a brother, and her sister Ellen, as well as three lodgers and three servants. In 1940 she lived in New York City, residing in the Hotel Waldorf Astoria. In 1950 she purchased a set of original suffrage posters and donated them to Harvard's Schlesinger Library.

She never married and died in 1956. Upon request of her will, Bryn Mawr College created The Mary Winsor Scholarship in Archaeology in 1959.


The Bryn Mawr College website features "Bryn Mawr on the Picket Line," at and includes brief accounts of Bryn Mawr alumnae who picketed the White House from 1917 to 1919. The website offers information concerning Mary's activities with in the National Woman's Party and details surrounding her prison time. The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial website at features a "Suffragist of the Month" section, with Mary Winsor featured for July 2013. Her biographical sketch includes information on her early life and her experience with militant activism. Doris Stevens's first-hand account of the suffrage movement, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920) includes some biographical information on Winsor's work in the National Woman's Party. Mary Walton's chapter "Pardon to Prison" in her biography of Alice Paul, A Woman's Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2010), includes details on Winsor's experience in the Occoquan Workhouse. Winsor's account of "The Militant Suffrage Movement," can be found on pages 134-142 in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (1914), accessible online at In this document Winsor discusses her findings from participating in the women's suffrage movement in England. Additional information can be found on Bryn Mawr's college website in both the Academic Programs section and in the obituary of Mary Winsor's daughter, Hope T. Moore, in The Boston Globe, July 29, 2006.

Wikipedia sketch for Mary Winsor at

See also the Federal Manuscript Censuses for 1900, 1910, and 1930 in Pennsylvania and New York City for 1940 for entries for Mary Winsor.

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