Biographical Sketch of Mary Agnes Mahan

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary Agnes Mahan, active 1910-1920

By Jessica Jin, undergraduate student,
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

President, Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers, 1914; Member, Massachusetts Women Lawyers Club; and Member, Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association

Mary Agnes Mahan was a valuable member of the Legislative Committee of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association during the 1910s, along with the chair of the committee Mrs. Crowley, and other members Mrs. Leonard, Mrs. Park, Mrs. Page, and Miss Foley. The Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, established in 1870, was the major suffrage organization in Massachusetts, and worked alongside the National American Woman Suffrage Association to secure the constitutional federal amendment conferring full suffrage. As part of the Legislative Committee, Mary Agnes Mahan was involved with the new stratagy employed by the State Association in autumn of 1912, of targeting campaign efforts to defeat individual legislators who voted negatively against suffrage. In 1869, the Massachusetts legislature had granted hearings to women seeking enfranchisement, and these hearings began crowding the largest committee room at the State House. In this context of increased women's involvement, Mahan and the State Association successfully defeated Wolcott, an anti-suffragist Senate candidate. Her work with the committee marked a positive turning point for the Progressive party of MA, resulting in the incorporation of suffrage as a part of the platform as a result of the Legislative Committee's work.

In 1918, Mahan was also involved in reducing Senate opposition to the suffrage amendment. The committee, entailing Mrs. James, Miss Blackwell, Esther Andrews, Teresa Crowley, Mabel Gillespie, Grace Allen Johnson, Florence T. Perkins, and Wenona Osborne Pinkham, employed the strategy to secure two more votes in the 66th Congress to ensure that the federal suffrage amendment would be sure to pass in House and Senate. Their victory in attaining suffrage ratification in the Bay State was documented as a milestone in the press.

In addition to her work as a suffragist, Mary Agnes Mahan was also an accomplished and practicing lawyer. She served as presiding officer of the Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers in 1914. The Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers, founded on March 12, 1904, possessed a membership of 42 by 1914, and held the membership requirement of at least one year registry in the bar association. Through her time with the Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers, she joined the 1912 petition of the legislature for an amendment to the constitution allowing women to become notaries public, which was subsequently defeated. But the Association was not deterred, and still held victories in their hand, with a successful petition to give wives powers that were already available to husbands in matters of probate administration. Mary Agnes Mahan also had her own law practice in Boston devoted to conveyancing, or the law of preparing documents for property ownership and transfer.

Sources:

The History of Woman Suffrage, Edited by Ida Husted Harper, Volume VI, 1900-1920; [LINK to Mass. report in this vol].

The Woman Citizen, Volume 3 No. 1, June 1, 1918.

"Women Lawyers' Journal" Volumes 1-4
-Vol. 4 No. 3, Dec 1914.

The Boston Post, June 26, 1919.
"Suffrage Amendment Ratified by Bay State" Retrieved from https://newspaperarchive.com/us/massachusetts/boston/boston-post/1919/06-26/page-2/

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