Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary D. McFadden, 1876 - 1944

By Kaitlyn Kane, student, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, Green Bay, WI

Chair, Legislative Committee for the Woman Suffrage Association

Mary D. McFadden was born in 1876 in New Brunswick, Canada to pro-suffrage parents of Irish heritage. In 1880, the family relocated to Big Stone County, Minnesota. When Mary was 17, her mother died giving birth to her sister, who also died. Mary was left to care for her younger siblings until she enrolled in the University of Minnesota one year later. There is no record of her graduation. She did not marry or have children. She enjoyed an extensive writing and journalism career. In the spring of 1944, while visiting her sister in Grangeville, Idaho, she died of a heart attack.

Mary was a member of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association. In 1909 or 1910 (sources vary), she secured the unanimous endorsement of woman suffrage by the State Editorial Association, an organization of journalists. On February 15, 1911, as the chairman of the Legislative Committee for the Woman Suffrage Association, she carried out a demonstration on Susan B. Anthony's birthday. During this period, she spent much of her time touring and giving speeches regarding suffrage. In 1912, she organized a suffrage club in Duluth. She made it clear in her writing that she only supported peaceful, civil activism, as opposed to the more radical and often violent activism of the British suffragettes. Soon after organizing the suffrage club, Mary began working as the manager and editor of The Courant, a suffrage magazine representing the Northwest Women's Club. She turned it into an arm of the region's suffrage movement, and included her poetry and opinion pieces. In the editorial pages, she wrote about her political beliefs: advocating for a living wage for women, criticizing the notion that black men were given the right to vote while women still had to wait, and promoting the then-mainstream idea of eugenics. In particular, she supported sterilizing the "mentally unfit" as well as miscegenation laws, feeling that they were good for "both races." As editor, she refused advertisements from businesses that did not pay women a living wage.

When she joined the suffrage movement, Mary was already an experienced journalist and writer, having worked as a reporter for the Minneapolis Times, and a reporter, columnist, and editor for the Duluth News-Tribune. In May of 1915, Mary left The Courant and travelled to Europe, where she worked as an independent war correspondent, focusing on women's lives in Belgium and Germany. She informed her sister in December that she would be home for Christmas, but instead stayed another seven weeks. During that period, she was widely believed to have died. However, she arrived back in New York City on February 9, 1916, and then went back home to St. Paul. Sometime between 1916 and 1919, Mary moved to New York City, and lived in the bohemian Greenwich Village. In 1919 she was working at The Sun in New York as an editorial writer. She worked the remainder of her life as a freelance writer and poet.


Arnzen, Brian Frances, Geni, 26 Nov. 2014; []

Bakk-Hansen, Heidi, "Mary McFadden," Zenith City Online (2012-2017) []

Brown, Curt, So Terrible a Storm: a Tale of Fury on Lake Superior (2008), p. 269. LINK:

"Duluth Girl Owns Magazine," Duluth News Tribune, November 19, 1912, p. 6.

Editors' Association Favors Woman Suffrage, Duluth News Tribune, February 19, 1910, p. 4.

Flier Folk Hear Mary McFadden Not Killed, Idaho Daily Statesman (Boise), June 16,1916, p. 7.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed., History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6 []

Mary McFadden Wires She's Homeward Bound, Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 26, 1916, p. 1. LINK:

Newsy Notes, Bemidji Daily Pioneer (Bemidji, Minnesota), May 10, 1919, p. 5. LINK:

North Dakota Special Day Manual (Bismark, ND, 1912), p. 42. LINK:;view=1up;seq=44

Will Organize a Suffrage Club, Duluth Herald, February 3, 1912, p. 14. LINK:


Mary McFadden full-body portrait, The Duluth Herald, published October 10th, 1914


Miss Mary McFadden, The Duluth News Tribune, November 19, 1912


Portrait of Mary D. McFadden, The Duluth News Tribune, February 19, 1910


Mary McFadden in 1907, originally published in the Duluth News Tribune

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