Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Margaret Smythe Clark
By Allison Duvall, independent historian
Activist for Woman Suffrage, Co-education, and Equal Pay
Margaret Smythe Clark was active in the suffrage movement well before the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920 (and subsequently by Maryland in 1941). The earliest record found shows her as having served with the Baltimore City Suffrage Club as recording secretary, starting her term at their founding.
The Baltimore City Suffrage Club, part of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, was organized in 1894 with the slogan, "Convert the public school teachers." It formed as an auxiliary club out of the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association, located in Silver Spring. The original club renamed itself the Montgomery County Suffrage Association, and the two groups then formed a state association. The Maryland WSA, in addition to working toward access to voting rights, also fought for co-education and equal pay for equal work.
Clark also served as a state officer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) from at least 1898 through the founding of the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association in 1904, where she maintained service as recording secretary. (She disappears from the state officer roster sometime before 1909). Clarke is noted as being recording secretary for the Maryland WSA in the records of the 28th and 30th annual conventions of NAWSA, held in 1896 and 1898, respectively. According to records, she was a state officer for ten years or more. Noted as co-signer on a petition placed before the Maryland House of Delegates in 1898, she made news when The Baltimore Sun printed the Maryland WSA's request that the word "male" be stricken from the state constitution. As the dispatch states, "The object of the amendment is to give women the right to vote."
In addition to holding office, she served on various committees for suffrage events in and around the Baltimore area—the battleground of Maryland's suffrage movement. Per the event program for NAWSA's conference held in Baltimore in 1900, which was presided over by Susan B. Anthony, Clark served on the Arrangements Committee and the Reception and Entertainment Committee. She may have been involved with recuperation efforts when records of the Maryland WSA's entire enrollment of 600 were wiped out by the Baltimore fire of February 1904.
As was not uncommon at the time, Clark was also active in the temperance movement. She is listed in The Baltimore Sun as corresponding secretary for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in 1898 through 1901. In 1900, she attended the Fifth Biennial Convention of the World's WCTU in Edinburgh, Scotland, as one of several delegates representing the United States, and upon returning home, presented a report titled "Echoes From the World's Convention." According to the resolutions presented at the world convention, the WCTU believed in living the golden rule, and governed their daily lives on the principles of total abstinence, purity, and prohibition.
There is not much to be found regarding Margaret Smythe Clark's personal life, but as recording secretary of Maryland's suffrage movement for over a decade, she was part of and had the responsibility of keeping account of discussions and decisions that led to one of the most historic moments in our nation's history.
Mrs. Clark's name appears in several variations:
Margaret Smythe Clark
Margaret Smyth Clarke
Margaret Smythe Clarke
Margaret S. Clarke
M. S. Clarke
"Curfew Law Wanted." The Baltimore Sun, September 28, 1899. Newspapers.com.
"Foes of Strong Drink." The Baltimore Sun, September 28, 1898. Newspapers.com.
Lantz, Emily Emerson. "Demand the Right to Vote: National Convention of the Woman's Suffrage Association to Be Held In Baltimore—Leading Local Representatives." The Baltimore Sun, January 7, 1906. Newspapers.com.
Maryland State Suffrage Association. Fourth Annual Convention of the Maryland State Suffrage Association. n.p. 1898. DigitalMaryland.org.
"Mayor Makes a Hit." The Baltimore Sun, October 4, 1900. Newspapers.com.
National American Woman Suffrage Association. National American Woman Suffrage Association announcement of conference. n.p. 1900. DigitalMaryland.org.
Proceedings of the Thirtieth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Rachel Foster Avery, ed. 1898.
Proceedings of the Twenty-Eighth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Rachel Foster Avery, ed. 1896.
Report of the Fifth Biennial Convention of the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union. 1900.
"W.C.T.U. Convention Closes." The Baltimore Sun, September 26, 1901. Newspapers.com.
"W.C.T.U. Delegates to Scotland." The Baltimore Sun, June 12, 1900. Newspapers.com.
"Women Want to Vote." The Baltimore Sun, February 8, 1898. Newspapers.com.