Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mary Lydia Thompson Doe, 1836-1913
By Afsana S. Rinky and Liette Gidlow, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Suffragist, Business Woman, and Author
Mary Lydia Thompson was born in Conneaut, Ohio, on July 27, 1836. Her parents were Rev. Volney Thompson, a preacher in the Methodist Church and born in Ohio, and Lovina Thompson, born in New York. The family's Puritan ancestors traveled to the United States aboard the third ship after the Mayflower, migrating from Vermont to settle in a portion of Ohio called the Western Reserve.
Mary Thompson supported temperance from an early age. At eight, she attended a temperance meeting sponsored by "The Washingtonians." Named after George Washington, the Washingtonians' main purpose was to deter people from alcohol consumption. Thompson signed their pledge to abstain from alcohol. In addition to her reform activities, she received an education. In 1845, she was sent to Conneaut Academy. At about fifteen, she taught at a country school for one dollar a week. Later, she attended the Pennsylvania State Normal School, now Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.
In 1853, Thompson began her journey to fight for political rights for women. She joined the Good Templars, an international prohibition organization that was "one of the first to embody the principles of equal rights for women and prohibition of liquor by the government." She also joined the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and other local temperance organizations in the towns where she lived.
Thompson met and married her husband, and they had one child. In 1877, they moved to Saginaw, Michigan, following her husband's career. In 1886, she become the proprietor of Bazarette Stamping Embroidery and Painting Materials for Fancy Work in nearby Bay City. By the 1900 census, Doe was widowed.
In 1878, Doe became a member of the Michigan Grand Lodge of Good Templars. There, she held the office of grand vice-templar for two years and then grand assistant secretary for nine years. She became active in the woman suffrage movement through work in the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association, which she served as chair of the legislative committee and as a member of the advisory committee. In 1884, Doe took on the presidency of the state association, an office she held for six years. Doe used her position to advocate for municipal suffrage for the women of Michigan. In 1888, she enlisted the support of the Association for the Advancement of Women for municipal suffrage, and in June 1892, she testified in support of woman suffrage before the state Republican Party convention. In the meantime, Doe also served as secretary of the Bay City Equal Suffrage Association. In 1905, Doe was elected to the executive board of the state association.
As the Bay-Journal notes, Doe adopted many positions that advocated the advancement of women. In her work with the Commissions of Labor Organizations, she campaigned for "more women professors to be appointed at Michigan University," for women to "be appointed to boards of control of the State penal, reformatory and charitable institutions," and for the elimination of the word "male" from the State constitution. Doe ran the Michigan woman suffrage headquarters in Detroit during the suffrage amendment campaign of 1912, her last big contribution to the fight for woman suffrage.
Beyond her work as an activist, Doe was also a writer. In Bay City, she published a book on parliamentary procedure, Rules for the Conduct of Public and PrivateMeetings, and she also wrote papers on temperance, labor, and woman suffrage. Doe served as a member of Bay City's Board of Education in 1890. She was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church where she taught Bible classes and held the offices of trustee, steward, and Sabbath-school superintendent.
Mary Lydia Thompson Doe died from a cerebral hemorrhage in Detroit, Michigan, on March 9, 1913. She is buried in Oakhill Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. [Researcher's note: Mary Doe's death records list her birth year as 1837, whereas all other census records show 1836.]
Caption: Mary Lydia (Thompson) Doe.
Source: Willard, Frances and Mary Livermore, ed. "Doe, Mrs. Mary L." In American Women - Fifteen Hundred Biographies with over 1,400 Portraits: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women During the Nineteenth Century, Vol. I, p. 250. New York: Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick, 1897. [LINK]
"Certificate of Death for Mary Thompson Doe." Wayne. Michigan Department of Community Health. Death Records, 1897-1920. Seeking Michigan. Michigan Historical Center. Accessed August 31, 2018. seekingmichigan.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p129401coll7/id/48763/rec/35.
Harper, Ida Husted and Susan B. Anthony, ed. "Michigan." Chapter XLVI in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4: 1883-1900, pp. 932-948. Rochester, NY: Privately Published, 1902. [LINK]
Leonard, John William, ed. "Doe, Mary Lydia." In Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, Volume A-D, p. 234. New York: American Commonwealth Company, 1914. [LINK]
"Mary Lydia ‘Thompson' Doe (1936-?)." Bay-Journal. Last updated July 2009. Accessed August 31, 2018. http://bay-journal.com/bay/1he/writings/doe-mary-lydia.html.
"Mary S. Doe." FindAGrave. Last updated June 2, 2016. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/163764556/mary-s-doe.
"Michigan State News: Old Officers Are Re-Elected." Lowell Ledger (Lowell, Mich.), vol. 13, no. 21, November 9, 1905, p.2. http://lowellledger.kdl.org/The%20Lowell%20Ledger/1905/11_November/11-09-1905.pdf.
"Michigan Women's Suffrage Association." Bay-Journal. Last updated April 2010. Accessed August 31, 2018. http://bay-journal.com/bay/1he/writings/mi-womens-suffrage-assoc.html.
Szelogowski, Carol and Donna Hoff-Grambau. "1890-1891 Bay County Directory, Bay City: Di-Do." Michigan Family History Network. Accessed August 31, 2018. www.mifamilyhistory.org/bay/1890di.htm.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States 1900-Population. Ancestry.com.
Willard, Frances and Mary Livermore, ed. "Doe, Mrs. Mary L." In American Women - Fifteen Hundred Biographies with over 1,400 Portraits: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women During the Nineteenth Century, Vol. I, p. 250. New York: Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick, 1897. [LINK]