Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mrs. Marion Booth Kelley, 1872-1946

By Rachel Star, undergraduate student
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Chairman of the Legislation Committee of the Women's City Club of New York, Editor Women and the City

Marion Booth Kelley was born in 1972 in Pennsylvania and died in 1946 in Los Gatos, California. She had a son named John Lambert in her first marriage and later married John Kelley. She attended Boston University at age 37 in 1909 as a "special student." Information about her personal life is scarce.

Mrs. Marion Booth Kelley strongly supported women's suffrage in Massachusetts. In 1915, a popular anti-suffrage magazine The Remonstrance calls her "one of the ablest suffragists in Massachusetts." In her rebuttal, she argues that "women need the ballot for their own moral awakening" and to vote as a representative for their husbands and sons who are overseas in war. In 1911, she served as Chair of the Women Suffrage Association which organized parades celebrating the vote and circulated suffrage literature. She traveled to Claremont, California at the request of Claremont Equal Suffrage Association to address male bible groups on the importance of the vote in 1914. She spoke to larger groups as well, including the Homeopathic Hospital Alumnae Association in 1916 at an annual luncheon in Copley Plaza Hotel.

Her focus and residence shifted to New York City in the late 19-teens. Marion Booth Kelley served on the Women's Municipal League (WML) and was the main editor for their magazine Women and the City. The 1921 edition of the magazine reminds readers to register to vote so they can "elect to the board men with an understanding of present day needs" on matters such as cleaning up city streets and ensuring children a proper education. She was an advocate of the WML for passing the Rosenman birth control Bill, which failed in Albany. A leader of the progressive era, Marion Booth Kelley voted for FDR because she liked his social reform program, but spent the majority of the mid-1920s on the right of the political spectrum.

An active Republican, Marion Booth Kelley led a campaign to register other Republican women to vote in the 1926 mid-term elections and for 1928 Republican presidential nominee Herbert Hoover. She participated in meetings of the Republican Neighborhood Association and the Women's National Republican Club. The Report of the Proceedings of the Women's National Republican Club's Mock Convention, in 1928 reportedly held to "poke fun at the men who refused to let women into the inner sanctums of real power," is available for viewing online. Marion Booth Kelley participated in the role of delegate from Georgia.

After Herbert Hoover's win, Marion Booth Kelley turned her attention to the efficacy of the 1920s Prohibition Act instituted 10 years prior. Unlike some of her contemporaries who continued to support prohibition, notably, Carrie Chapman Catt, Marion Booth Kelley called for legalizing alcohol and heavily monitoring its consumption and sale. Although she didn't like alcohol, she called Prohibition "the breeder of crime and corruption" for having increased crime, drunkenness, and temptation of alcohol to youth. As Chairman of the legislative committee of the New York State division of the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform, she was a prominent public advocate for new legislation and private supporter of Democrat FDR for his anti-prohibition stance.

Through her life, she held leadership positions in American Women's Association Women's City Club of New York City, and as one of two women The City Committee which sits on the Committee on Board of Alderman of New York.


Catalogue for the Year ...: Circular for the Year ...Boston: Boston U. College of Liberal Arts, 1909. Print. P. 15-18

Boston: Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women, The Remonstrance. (1911), pp. 58-152.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper, eds., History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. 6, pp. 279, 282, 405.

Hammond, Otis Grant. The Granite State Monthly, Volume 47 (1915), p. 77

"Nursing News and Announcements: Massachusetts." The American Journal of Nursing. 16.1 (1916): 360.

Women and the City's Work. Vol. 7. New York, N.Y.: Woman's Municipal League, 1921.

Sanger, Margaret. "The Birth Control Review." The Birth Control Review 6-7 (122): 109. 

"Mrs. Joseph F. Kelley; Leader in Anti-Prohibition Fight Had Been Active Clubwoman," New York Times, 28 February 1946.

"Republican Women to Wage Campaign; Committee Named With Mrs. Marion Booth Kelley as Chairman. Plans Registration Drive Club to Rally Women of the City for Party's Candidates at the Coming Election." New York Times, 2 October 1926.

"SAYS TAX DEBATES AID RADICAL GROUP; Eliot Wadsworth Sees Tendency to Use Federal Power to Further Personal Aims." The New York Times, 22 May 1924.

Goodier, Susan. No votes for women: the New York State anti-suffrage movement (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013). p.166

"Report of the Proceedings of the Mock Convention Held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, Tuesday, April 24, 1928." 46 pp, [LINK].

"Dry Law Assailed at Civic Forum." The New York Times, 18 Jan. 1930.

"BEER BOARD PLAN FOR LIQUOR BACKED." New York Times, 26 Aug 1933.

Kelley, Marion B. Can and Should the Eighteenth Amendment Be Enforced? New York: Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform, 1930.

Benedicta McCann, The A.W.A. Club House; The A.W.A. Bulletin, Vol. 1, Iss. 33 (1930), p. 2

"Proceedings of the Board of Aldermen New York (N.Y.). Board of Aldermen - Municipal government publications`." Google Books, Proc. of Proceedings of the Board of Aldermen 1919, New York, p. 502.

"The Searchlight, Volumes 1-13." Citizens Union of New York 1-13 (1911): 125,126,142. 

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