Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Maria McMahon, 1871-1958

By Kiara Krogh, student, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Permanent Organizer, Minnesota Woman Suffrage Movement

Maria Saunders McMahon was born on October 1, 1871 in Jersey City, New Jersey to William S. Saunders and Mariana Fitchet. She married Albert McMahon on January 10, 1893 in Onancock, Virginia. Together they had four children: Dennis McMahon (1893), Mariana McMahon (1898-?), Percy Hamilton McMahon (1899-1918), and William Saunders McMahon (1901-1988). In the 1910 census, she was living in Hamilton, Ohio with her family. She died on June 23, 1958 from a hemorrhage caused by an accident in New Bern, North Carolina, and was buried in Newport News, Virginia.

Maria McMahon traveled a tremendous amount during her time as an activist for the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association. In the 1910s, she was quoted and discussed in multiple newspapers across the Midwest about her work for the movement. The majority of her work was done between 1915 and 1916. Before her activism in Minnesota, she had been an active member of the movement in Ohio. In 1915, she became the permanent organizer for the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Movement. As the permanent organizer, she traveled all over Minnesota for the organization, and they sent her to other states around the country as well. She often campaigned for the cause in advance of state votes on suffrage referenda. For example, she traveled to Syracuse, New York to speak in September and October 1915. There, she was able to change the minds of many audience members with her words and powerful activism. Newspapers reported that she persuaded a man who had just told her he was against suffrage. Her efforts in New York drew the attention of Mrs. Elise Benedict, leader of the Iowa campaign. After New York she traveled to Iowa, touring there until the state's vote on suffrage on June 5, 1916. In 1918, McMahon campaigned in South Dakota; in 1919 she worked in Florida; finally in 1919-20 she was campaigning in Delaware.

Throughout her work as an activist, Maria gave interviews and talked to audiences large and small, from state fairs to sewing groups, to discuss what suffrage meant for women. Everywhere she traveled she seemed to have found success. In 1929, she was a business manager for the Woman's Benefit Association Club in Washington, D.C.


City Directory, Washington, District of Columbia, 1929, p. 1082.

North Carolina State Board, Certificate of Death, July 7, 1958,

"State Suffrage Worker to Give Noon-Hour Talks," Duluth News Tribune, January 30, 1916, p. 2.

"Suffrage is Beneficial, He Says," Duluth News Tribune, February 2, 1916, p. 7.

"Southern Minnesota Women Take Up Suffrage with Vim," Minneapolis Morning Tribune, May 16, 1915, p. 1.

"State Organizer to Meet Here Friday," Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, ND), February 18, 1917, p. 9.

Stuhler, Barbara, Gentle Warriors: Clara Ueland and the Minnesota Struggle for Woman Suffrage, (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995), p. 87 .
Accessed online at:

"Suffrage Association Formed at Luncheon: 50 Members," Duluth News Tribune, February 12, 1916, p. 7.

United States Federal Census, 1910

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