Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Emma Lenore MacAlarney, 1871-1925
By Joshua Slater, Rosemont College, Rosemont, Penn.
Emma Lenore MacAlarney was born in 1871 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to Joseph MacAlarney, a lawyer, and Ellen Hoffman MacAlarney. MacAlarney attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, graduating in 1892. She taught both in Harrisburg and at the Horace Mann School of Columbia University and published a textbook, Readings from American Literature. She also edited a newspaper column.
MacAlarney began her involvement in the suffrage movement during the fall 1914, working as a public speaker to promote awareness of the movement. She credited the origins of her interest in suffrage to her trips to Europe and the influence of her father. Her family’s affluence—in addition to her father’s law career, her uncle, Mathias MacAlarney, was the editor and publisher of the Harrisburg Telegraph—made these early trips possible.
One of MacAlarney’s main contributions to the suffrage movement was the founding of suffrage leagues in several different Pennsylvania towns, including New Bloomfield and Williamsport. In addition to organizing for the suffrage movement, MacAlarney spent much of the 1914-1917 period campaigning through the state, giving speeches to assemblies, and engaging in debates for the general public. MacAlarney drew on her education to craft nuanced and passionate arguments, citing the political rights and patriotic need to grant women the right to vote. MacAlarney toured with the Justice Bell in eastern Pennsylvania and served as the general secretary of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association at the end of 1915.
Following the culmination of the suffrage movement, she continued touring, speaking to educate women on their newfound civic rights and duties. She also served as principal for the Washington School of New York. She died in 1925 in upstate New York and was buried in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Researchers can find information on MacAlarney in Mary Edward Calhoun and Emma Lenore MacAlarney, Readings from American Literature (New York: Ginn and Company, 1915); and newspapers including the Allentown (PA) Leader, Shippensburg (PA) Chronicle, Pittsburgh Daily Post, Harrisburg (PA) Telegraph, Williamsport (PA) Sun-Gazette, and Harrisburg (PA) Evening News. See also, Ida Husted Harper, ed., "Pennsylvania," chapter XXXVII in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920 (New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), pp. 550-64. [LINK]