Biographical Sketch of Mary Stewart

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary Stewart, 1877-?

By Kelly Kirk, Instructor of History, Black Hills State University, Spearfish, South Dakota

Educator, suffragist

Mary Stewart was born in Ohio in 1877, moving west to earn her A.B. (Bachelor of Arts) from the University of Colorado in 1900. Upon graduation, she remained in Colorado, where she launched her career as an educator. After a year at the State Preparatory School, she became the principal at Longmont High School for several years before taking a teaching position at the East Denver High School. She then moved to Montana to become the first Dean of Women at the University of Montana in Missoula. She remained there until 1915. In addition to her administrative position, she also taught languages.

During her tenure at the University of Montana, Stewart became active in the Montana suffrage movement. In 1913 and 1914, she was active in the National American Woman Suffrage Association as the chair of the Missoula County division of the Montana Equal Suffrage Association, also known as the Equal Suffrage Central Committee. She traveled extensively throughout the state to speak on behalf of equal suffrage to a variety of women's clubs and organizations, including the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Newspaper accounts frequently mentioned her skill as an orator; one described Stewart as one of the "keenest observers and cleverest speakers in the state." She also utilized her role as Dean of Women to host suffrage speakers, such as Jeanette Rankin, and begin female student organizations on campus. One of her noted accomplishments as Dean was to create a "Bulletin of Vocational Courses for Women at the University of Montana," which listed every subject or course that female students could take for professional training. The Bulletin listed courses in everything from languages to forestry.

In addition to her prowess as a public speaker, Stewart was also a published author. Assuming the pen name "Mary Stuart," she developed "A Collect for Club Women," a popular collect used by various women's clubs throughout the nation. The Collect states:

Keep us, O God, from pettiness; let us be large in thought, in word, in deed. Let us be done with faultfinding and leave off self-seeking. May we put away all pretense and meet each other, face to face—without self-pity and without prejudice. May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous. Let us take time for all things; make us to grow calm, serene, gentle. Teach us to put into action our better impulses, straightforward and unafraid. Grant that we may realize it is the little things that create differences; that in the big things of life we are at one. And may we strive to touch and know the great, common woman's-heart of us all, and, O Lord God, let us not forget to be kind!

Recognized as a "cultivated and efficient woman" with a "grace and charm peculiar to herself," Stewart served as a Montana delegate to the national suffrage convention in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1914, where Montana's recent equal suffrage success was celebrated.

Stewart evidently suffered a nervous breakdown in 1916. She became a patient at a sanitarium in California, although she continued to correspond with women's organizations in Montana. Her health had improved by 1918, and she was able to attend New York University. Her later activities remain a mystery. However, during her time in Montana, Stewart contributed to the woman suffrage movement both on the University of Montana campus and around the state.

Sources:

"A Sacajawea in Modernism." The Montana Kaimin, February 6, 1913, 178, p. 3. https://scholarworks.umt.edu/studentnewspaper/178.

"Big Crowd Hears Talks by Women." The Daily Missoulian, (Missoula, Mont.), May 3, 1914, p. 6. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/.

"Dean Stewart Due Home Soon." The Montana Kaimin, November 24, 1914, 226, p. 2. https://scholarworks.umt.edu/studentnewspaper/226.

"Equal Rights for Us Co-Eds." The Montana Kaimin, February 12, 1914, 202, p. 5. https://scholarworks.umt.edu/studentnewspaper/202.

"Mary Stewart Describes Sensations Experienced Taking First Tank Ride." The Daily Missoulian, (Missoula, Mont.), April 28, 1918, p. 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/.

"Meeting is Called to Plan Big Rally." The Daily Missoulian, (Missoula, Mont.), January 28, 1913, p. 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/.

"Montana Women in the Week's News." The Enterprise, (Harlem, Mont.), September 21, 1916, p. 11. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/.

"Montana Suffrage Parade a Great Success." Suffrage Daily News, (Helena, Mont.), September 26, 1914, p. 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/.

"University Dean Writes Collect for Club Women" TheMontana Kaimin, November 5, 1914, 223, p. 5. https://scholarworks.umt.edu/studentnewspaper/223.

"University Society." The Montana Kaimin, September 24, 1914, 217, p. 3. https://scholarworks.umt.edu/studentnewspaper/217.

University of Montana--Missoula. Office of the Registrar, "1912-1913 Course Catalog" (1912). University of Montana Course Catalogs, 1895-2017. 66. https://scholarworks.umt.edu/coursecatalogs_asc/66.

U.S. Census. Year: 1910; Census Place: Missoula Ward 3, Missoula, Montana; Roll: T624_834; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0068; FHL microfilm: 1374847. Found at https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.

 

Credit: "Montana Suffrage Parade a Great Success." Suffrage Daily News, (Helena, Mont.), September 26, 1914, p. 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

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