Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Marion May, 1879-?
By Melissa Brosnan, student, Binghamton University, State University of New York and Ally Carey, student, Hobart and William Smith College, Geneva, New York.
Corresponding secretary for the Empire State Campaign Committee
Marian McClinntock was born in 1879 in Pennsylvania to Espy D. and Mary McClintock. After her biological father died, her mother Mary remarried George May. Her family was very affluent and lived in Atlanta in the early years of May's life. Marion May was considered a southern belle, and often featured in the society section of the newspaper. On August 26, 1900, her family left Atlanta and eventually moved to New York City. May lived with her sister and her sister's husband, Ethel and Robert Adamson, at 215 West 103 Street. Marion was an active participant in the National Woman's Party, founded to lobby Congress to pass a federal woman suffrage amendment.
The first reference to May's suffrage activism is noted in the New York State report in volume 6 of The History of Woman Suffrage. She was recorded there as being elected Corresponding Secretary of the New York Woman Suffrage Association in October 1914. In February 1915 Marion wrote to the editor of the New York Times, commenting on the current lack of political equality.
A few years hence, when men and women are enjoying equal political rights in this country, wonderment will be expressed not only on account of the agitation which preceded that happy state of affairs. But the means by which it was attained. It will seem ridiculous to our immediate posterity that women should have submitted their right to vote to the only body—men--enabled to refuse it.
She was also the corresponding secretary for the Empire State Campaign Committee, which included a number of suffrage organizations such as The Woman's Suffrage Party and the Woman's Suffrage Association.
Marion May played a crucial role in financing the woman suffrage movement. Due to a generous contribution in 1921, Miss May was named a founder of to the National Woman's Party along with twenty-seven other women who donated $100 or more. Most of the published references to May related directly to the money that she was able to donate during these years.
On July 5, 1923, a delegation of New York women gathered together to memorialize women suffrage leaders. On July 26, 1923, Marion attended the Convention of National Woman's Party which drew hundreds of women to Seneca Falls, the site of the first woman's rights convention. A year later, the Finance Committee was formed. This committee sent out appeals for funds. May's starting contribution was $500 and eventually she donated around $3,000 to the National Woman's Party.
Besides donating money, Miss May was on the National Advisory Council for the National Woman's Party whose goal was to get well-known or wealthy women to support the National Woman's Party. She served as the secretary of the Council in 1918. May was also a member of the Circulation Committee of the NWP. The Circulation Committee aimed at increasing the circulation of The Suffragist, the NWP's official periodical.
In addition to being a Party member and Advisory Council secretary, Marion May also wrote to John E. Raker, a member of the House of Representatives, regarding support for the passage of the 19th amendment. She wrote on behalf of the National Council of Women in New York City from the Committee on Woman Suffrage. In addition to the letter to Mr. Raker, Miss May was quoted in an article in the Suffragist regarding the Democratic Party's support for women's suffrage, and how said support would lead to a quicker passage of the Federal Suffrage Amendment. Miss May traveled to Washington with the National Woman's Party to attend a conference about woman's suffrage. She was one of the few woman, along with Mrs. O.H.P. Belmont to travel to Washington for this conference.
Marion May was a valuable asset to the suffrage movement; she contributed a large amount of money to help the movement stay afloat, she held many positions and was a member of many of the committees and organizations that were dominant during the 1910's and ‘20s. Marion May must have been well known because her name was mentioned at times when only a few names were mentioned, indicating that she was of some importance. What Marion May was able to help accomplish during this time was amazing, and she did so alongside some of the more well-known people of the suffrage movement in this period such as Miss. Alice Paul and Mrs. O.H.P. Belmont.
She remained unmarried until at least 1933, when she attended the funeral for fellow suffragist, Mrs. O.H.P. Belmont. It is likely that she never married, but we do not have a surviving death record to confirm that conclusion.
"Belmont Service Sunday." New York Times, February 10, 1933.
"BELMONT SERVICE SUNDAY: Body to Arrive Today and Will Lie in State at St. Thomas Church." New York Times, 17 Feb. 1933.
"Call to conference of national advisory council." The Suffragist 6, no. 44 (1918).
"Circulation of Suffragist." The Suffragist 5, no. 62 (1917).
"Circulation of Suffragist." The Suffragist 5, no. 67 (1917).
"Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage." The Suffragist 4, no. 33 (1916).
U.S. Cong. House. The Committee on Women's Suffrage. Extending the Right of Suffrage to Women. 65th Cong., 2d sess. Res. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1918. 296.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. "Chapter XXXI: New York." History of Woman Suffrage 6:470. [LINK]
Hoffert, Sylvia, How Did the National Woman's Party Fund Its Activities, 1913-1940?, a WASM document project [LINK]
May, Marion. "Posterity Will Wonder." New York Times, 14 Feb. 1915, p. XX6.
"New York delegation will support federal suffrage." The Suffragist 5, no. 96 (1917).
"SUFFS OFF TO WASHINGTON." The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 4, 1917.
"The Woman Voter." The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 25, 1921.
National Woman's Party. "Treasurer's Report." The Suffragist 4, no. 10 (1916).
I found articles from the same location and time period that Marion May was active regarding a contralto (singer) named Marion May and was unsure if it was referring to the same Marion May, so I did not include any information on that in the biographical sketch. In the last source in which I found her name (1933), she was referred to as Miss Marion May indicating that she remained single at 53 or 54.
Below is the clip of what she had to say regarding the Democratic Party supporting suffrage:
National Woman's Party. "New York delegation will support federal suffrage." The Suffragist 5, no. 96 (1917).