Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Mattie Hardy Lott, 1861–1958
By Kathelene McCarty Smith, Instruction and Outreach Archivist, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Woman Suffrage Activist
Mattie Hardy Lott was born on December 17, 1861, in Raleigh, Mississippi, to Judge William Harris Hardy and Sallie Ann Johnson. The Hardys had six children; Mattie was the eldest. Sallie Ann died young and William Hardy, a Civil War veteran and attorney, moved with his children to Meridian, Mississippi, where there were growing opportunities. He continued to practice law and became a well-respected businessman, establishing railroads across the state. He also founded the Meridian Gas and Light Company, a bank, and a school.
Mattie graduated from Meridian Female College at sixteen and then took post-graduate courses at Judson College, in Marion, Alabama. It was there that she met and married William Swain Lott of Mobile in 1882. The couple settled in Meridian, where they raised five daughters and one son. William built a career in the cotton business and became the Chairman of the Information and Statistics Committee of the Meridian Board of Trade. They were a very social couple, who were known for their hospitality and their involvement in many local clubs and organizations. The Lott’s "artistically appointed" residence was the site of many parties and events.
Mattie held prominent positions in a variety of women’s clubs. She was regent of the Pushmataha Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, president of the "Fortnightly Club," president of the Missionary Society at First Baptist Church of Meridian, and superintendent of the Woman’s Department of the Mississippi-Alabama Fair. Perhaps most importantly, in 1903 she was elected president of the Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs (M.F.W.C.). At that time, the Club had three Departments: Child Labor, Traveling Libraries, and Free Scholarship. She chaired Free Scholarship and added Music, Art, and Civic Improvement departments. It was during her presidency that the State M.F.W.C. became part of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs at the Convention held in Oxford, Mississippi in 1904.
Ever socially conscious, Mattie was interested in improvements for "women’s work," presenting a paper called "Domestic Science and the Household Economies," at the State Federation Conference, and promoting fireless cookers and a dishwashing apparatus at a local Woman’s Day at the fair. She also worked to improve conditions in her town and was integral in establishing the Carnegie Library in Meridian. Mattie personally wrote to industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, asking to build a library and subsequently raised money for the project. She later became one of the Directors of the Public Library and the president of the Library Association.
Mattie also became involved in the suffrage movement. The M.F.W.C. and the State Suffrage Association had overlapping members. It had been the hope that women’s suffrage would gain the endorsement of the Federation of Women’s Clubs, but there was strong opposition from some of the members. During the 1916 annual meeting held at the Meridian City Hall, the president of the State Suffrage Association introduced a resolution to support women’s rights, and Mattie was one of the Mississippi women who "led the fight" for suffrage, but the question was tabled to the following year. After the United States ratified the 19th Amendment in August 1920, there was still work to be done for women’s rights. That year, Mattie attended a suffrage meeting at the First Baptist Church, during which members reported with enthusiasm on the status of the pending amendment and the need for the instruction of women in the duties of citizenship. There continued to be strong opposition from anti-suffrage groups, and emotions ran high on both sides of the question. This can be seen when Mattie was cited in an incident where her name "had been falsely used on anti-suffrage stationery" to her "great indignation."
After a life of social and political service, Mattie died on April 11, 1953, at her daughter’s home in Greenwood, Mississippi. She was remembered for her "sweet graciousness, her charm, and her radiant personality." She and her husband are buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Lauderdale County, Mississippi.
Image courtesy of the Hardy (William H. and Sally J.) Papers, M380, The University of Southern Mississippi - McCain Library and Archives.
"An Enthusiastic Public Meeting," Hardy (William H. and Sallie J.) Papers, M380, The University of Southern Mississippi—McCain Library and Archives.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Women’s Suffrage, Vol. VI, 1900 – 1920. New York: J. J. Little & Ives, 1922, p. 334. [LINK]
Harrell, Laura S. "What’s Your Name?" Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, August 27, 1950, p. 41. Available through newspapers.com.
"History of Woman’s Club is Recalled," Scott County Times, Forest, Mississippi, October 9, 1968, p. 9. Available through newspapers.com.
"Jubilee Greetings from Past M.F.W.C. Presidents," Hardy (William H. and Sallie J.) Papers, M380, The University of Southern Mississippi—McCain Library and Archives.
"Mrs. Mattie Lott Claimed by Death." The Greenwood Commonwealth, April 11, 1953, p.1. Available through newspapers.com.