Biographical Sketch of Mary Grace Webb Canfield

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary Grace Webb Canfield (Mrs. Harry Canfield), 1864-1946

By Leela Actis, student, and Melanie Gustafson, professor, University of Vermont

Vermont Woman Suffrage Association: Entertainment Committee; Local Committee for Woodstock; Business Committee

Vermont Equal Suffrage Association: Vice-President; Recording Secretary; Superintendent of Fair Work

Mary Grace Webb was born in 1864, in Springfield, Ohio, to Marion and Joel F. Webb, a farmer. After graduating from Buchtel College (now the University of Akron), she taught in Kent, Ohio, and became involved in the Universalist Church. In 1889, she attended the first annual convention of the Young People's Christian Union of the Universalist Church in Rochester, New York. A year later, she spoke from the pulpit of the Universalist Church in Ravenna, Ohio.

In 1891 Mary Grace Webb married Harry Lee Canfield (1862-1942), an 1888 graduate of Tufts College Divinity School, and son of Lepha Johnson Canfield (1837-1913), a suffragist who attended the third National Women's Rights Convention in Cleveland and subscribed to The Revolution. In 1894, Harry became the National Secretary of the Young People's Christian Union of the Universalist Church (YPCU) and both Canfields edited the YPCU's newspaper Onward: The Journal of the Universalist Young People.

Mary Grace Webb Canfield and Harry Lee Canfield had three children. Their son Hubert was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1892 and a second son Murray was born in Summit, Ohio in 1896. A daughter, Vivian, born in Maine in 1898, was adopted. Murray died in 1903, one year after the Canfields moved to Woodstock, Vermont, where Harry became the minister of the North Chapel Universalist Church. The home the Canfields purchased in Woodstock remained their primary residence despite moves to Minnesota (1906-1908) and to North Carolina (1922-1936).

Beginning in 1904, both Canfields became involved in the Vermont Woman Suffrage Association (VWSA), opening the doors of the Woodstock Universalist Church for the VWSA's annual meeting. [The VWSA changed its name to the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association (VESA) in 1907.] Grace Canfield was in charge of the Entertainment Committee and Harry Canfield directed the music for the meeting. Grace Canfield served on the VWSA's Local Committee for Woodstock (1904, 1905) and the Business Committee (1905). Harry Canfield was on the Committee on Resolutions (1904) and Credentials Committee (1905). In the List of Officers for the VESA of 1909-1910, "Rev. Grace Canfield" of Woodstock is listed as a Vice-President and in 1913 and 1914 she was the Recording Secretary. Her report focused on the joint Vermont-New Hampshire suffrage tent at the Vermont State Fair in White River Junction. In 1915, Mary Grace Canfield was Superintendent of Fair Work for the VESA. Mary Grace Canfield often led the devotional service at the annual VESA meetings (1905, 1912). She also gave speeches around the state on her "1700-mile drive" from Minnesota to Vermont with a horse and buggy, telling her audiences that the horse and a dog were her only companions until she arrived in Ohio and thereafter her sole additional companion was another woman friend.

In the 1930s, Mary Grace Canfield turned her attentions to writing and preserving history. She is the author of Lafayette in Vermont (1934); "Dr. Marenda Briggs Randall," Vermont Standard (1935); and The Valley of Kedron: The Story of the South Parish, Woodstock, Vermont (1940). In 1940, Canfield unsuccessfully ran for town representative in Woodstock on both the Democratic and Independent tickets.

Mary Grace Canfield died at the Brattleboro Retreat, Brattleboro, Vermont, on July 26, 1946. She had been admitted to this hospital twenty days earlier but for two years has been suffering from what her death certificate identified as "cerebral arterial sclerosis" and "psychosis with cerebral arteriosclerosis."

Sources:

Mary Grace Canfield (1864-1946) Papers, 1888-1937, Leahy Library, Vermont History Center, Barre, Vermont

Vermont Equal Suffrage Association Papers, 1883-1927, MSC 144-146, Leahy Library, Vermont History Center, Barre, Vermont

Mary Grace Canfield Papers, c. 1941, bMS 372, Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University [contains photocopies of typed manuscripts of "Early Universalism in Vermont and the Connecticut Valley," (1941) and "Universalism in North Carolina," with notes by John Enoch Williams (undated).]

Papers of Mary Grace Canfield, 1870-1946, Woodstock Historical Society, Woodstock, Vermont

Mary Grace Photographic Collection (P0041), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Harry L. Canfield Papers, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

1880, 1900, 1920 U.S. Census, Ancestry.com

Vermont, Death Records, 1909-2008, Ancestry.com

Montana, County Births and Deaths, 1830-2011, Ancestry.com

Mary Grace Canfield, Lafayette in Vermont (Rochester, Ny: Canfield and Tack, 1934)

Mary Grace Canfield, "Dr. Marenda Briggs Randall," Vermont Standard (Woodstock, Vt.), August 15, 1935

Albert Nelson Marquis, ed., The Book of Minnesotans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Men of Minnesota (Chicago: A. N. Marquis, 1907), 76

Frederick A. Bisbee, A Miniature History of the Young People's Christian Union of the Universalist Church (Boston: National Board of the Young People's Christian Union, 1914)

John Blythe, "Mary Grace Canfield Takes a Drive with Her Camera," North Carolina Miscellany, July 28, 2011, at http://blogs.lib.unc.edu/ncm/index.php/2011/07/28/mary-grace-canfield-takes-a-drive-with-her-camera/

Democratic Press (Ravenna, Ohio), January 8, 1890, p. 3.

"Graphic Narrative of 1700-mile drive," Brattleboro Daily Reformer, November 20, 1913, p. 1

"State Suffragists Plan Big Meeting," Brattleboro Daily Reformer, November 3, 1914, p. 3

Onward: The Journal of the Universalist Young People (Boston), 1895.

Twentieth Annual Report of Vermont Woman's Suffrage Association and Minutes of the Convention held at Woodstock, Vermont, June 22 and 23, 1904 (Jericho, Vt: Roscoe Printing House, 1904).

Twentieth Annual Meeting of the Vermont Woman's Suffrage Association to be Held at the Universalist Church, Woodstock, Vermont, Wednesday Evening and Thursday, June 22 and 23, 1904 (Lyndonville, Vt: H. B. Davis & Co., 1904)

The Report of the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association and Minutes of the 25th Annual Convention Held at Barre, Vt., June 4th and 5th, 1909 (Bethel, Vt: Bethel Printing Company, 1909)

Vermont Equal Suffrage Association Year Book, 1912-1913 (Woodstock, Vt: Elm Tree Press, 1913)

ECS/SBA Papers, 2:400, fn. 1 on Lepha Johnson Canfield.

back to top