Biographical Sketch of Mary O'Toole

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary O'Toole, 1874-?

By Ryan Linthicum, Smithsonian Institution

Mary O'Toole was born in Ireland in 1874 and immigrated to the United States when she was sixteen years old.

She attended the Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. and graduated in 1908. Despite being one of the youngest women admitted to the bar of the District Supreme Court, she won her first court case in 1913, which involved a breach of contract suit. In 1919, she was elected director of the Citizens Saving Bank of Washington, D.C. She was the first woman awarded such a position in the National Capital. That same year she became the president and founder of the Women's City Club of Washington. She then went on to be the first woman appointed official stenographer in the United States, and the first woman elected director of the Washington Chamber of Commerce. She served in this position for three years. Additionally, she was the Vice-President of the Woman's Bar Association of Washington, D.C. Her crowning achievement, however, was her appointment as Municipal Judge for the District of Columbia by President Harding. Her accomplishments also included being the first judge in the District of Columbia to perform a marriage ceremony. Judge O'Toole performed the ceremony in August 1921 to Miss Ruth Letitia Halpenny and Mr. Ralph Watts Wardwell.

From 1915 to 1920, she also served as President of the District of Columbia Equal Suffrage Association and was a member of the Executive Council of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. As a Municipal Judge she spoke at many local Women's clubs and civic meetings encouraging people to support suffrage and other similar causes. At a Civic Section of City Club meeting in 1921, she pressed members to "get behind the bill for District suffrage and push it through," as well as support for women on juries, and compulsory school attendance bills.

Sources:

"Wins her First Case: Youngest of Women Lawyers Pleads Rental Suit," The Washington Post (Washington D.C.), November 30, 1913, p, 14.

"Elects Two Women Directors of Bank," The Washington Post (Washington D.C.), April 23, 1919, p. 11.

"Likes to Take the Lead," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 5, 1919, p. 27.

"World News About Women," The Woman Citizen, 6 no. 2 (August 13, 1921): 20.

"Miss Marry O'Toole Will Join Couple," The Washington Post (Washington D.C.), Aug 17, 1921, p. 16.

Ida H. Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage (New York: NAWSA, 1922) [LINK to DC report]

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