Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Marie B. Ames (Coleman), 1889-1976
By Mary Clare Agnew, undergraduate student, University of Missouri
Marie Benson Ames was born in December 1889 in Tisbury, Massachusetts, the daughter of Robert and Mary Ames. In 1916 she married Thomas Coleman. The couple is likely to have been later divorced for she appears as Marie B. Ames and is recorded as single in the 1930 US census for St. Louis and in her Florida death certificate in December 1976.
Marie B. Ames of St. Louis, Missouri was a very busy and highly involved woman throughout the battle for women's suffrage. In January of 1919, a Missouri newspaper reported that Marie was the only woman among twelve men who entered her name "as legislative lobbyists in the record book kept...by the secretary of state" with equal suffrage legislation as her concern. Later that same year, Marie would play a crucial role in the passing of the Missouri Presidential Suffrage Bill which was the first bill passed by the 50th General Assembly in the new state capitol. Marie declared this bill would give women "a supreme voice in the making of the laws." Being the National Field Director of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the necessity of her presence was obvious, and fortunately, effective. At that time, she was also Regional Citizenship Director for Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Texas, and had organized and conducted citizenship schools in Missouri since March of 1919. It is a wonder she had the time it took to work on lobbying the Presidential Suffrage Bill.
With the help of Miss Alma Sasse, Marie visited senatorial districts to conduct interviews with senators in the hope of forming allies whose influence could be of use in the inevitably tumultuous future. In her own sketch regarding the Presidential Suffrage Bill, Marie attributed the success of the bill to four women: Mrs. Walter McNab Miller, Mrs. David O'Neil, Mrs. Wm. R. Haight, and herself. Upon the victory of the bill, President Crossley of the Senate gifted Marie the pen with which he signed the bill.
Later in October of 1919, Marie held a citizenship school in Keytesville, which the Chariton Courier referred to, saying, "if you wish to learn to vote intelligently come out to hear this gifted Missouri woman." The newspaper even cited Marie as a descendent of Ann Hutchinson, "the first woman in the United States to speak in public," attributing Marie's oratory talents to this connection. The Chariton Courier noted the successful consummation of Marie's citizenship school later that month, describing the school as an excellent opportunity for women to "learn to use the privileges of Citizenship." The newspaper went so far as to say, "those who failed to attend have lost an opportunity."
By 1922, Marie had lectured throughout the U.S. for women's suffrage, been the director of citizenship schools with the League of Women Voters for two years, served as a member of the minimum wage committee, and served as the legislative secretary of the "Missouri, MO. men's Legislative committee" in 1921. In addition, Marie discovered the clause in Missouri's constitution that "makes it possible for women to qualify as delegates to the constitutional convention." In fact, Marie attempted to become a delegate to the constitutional convention at the 32nd district Republican meeting in January of 1922. Marie was unsuccessful, however, as Benjamin H. Bowles, a black man, won the spot. The St. Joseph Observer described Marie as "a strong candidate" nonetheless, saying that she "had the back of practically every women's organization in the state." Thus, it was evident that the extent of Marie's capabilities and influence had not been met at the passing of the Presidential Suffrage Bill. Indeed, Marie remained influential and dynamic in the realm of politics and was not forgotten by the women of Missouri.
1922 Press Photo, Miss Marie B. Ames, Missouri's Leading Women's Rights Lobbyist (historicimages.com)
Marie wrote her own sketch regarding the passage of the Presidential Suffrage Bill which can be found at: https://law.wustl.edu/Staff/Taylor/women/v6n2/suffrage.htm
Marie's work to secure woman suffrage, as well as her work on citizenship schools, is documented in several newspapers found on the Library of Congress Chronicling America site including the Chariton Courier, Mexico Weekly Ledger, Marble Hill Press, and The St. JosephObserver. In addition, her work as National Field Director for the National American Woman Suffrage Association to assist in passing the Missouri Presidential Suffrage Bill is documented in "History of Woman Suffrage in Missouri," edited by Mary Semple Scott found in The Missouri Historical Review, Volume 14, Issue 3-4 (April-July 1920).