Biographical Sketch of Mabel Fontron Rewman Frary

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Mabel Fontron Rewman Frary, 1875-1969

By Jennifer Eltringham, librarian, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and Ally Schubert, University of South Dakota

Businesswoman; Politician; Organizer

Mabel Fontron was born on June 12, 1875 in Henry, Illinois, to Joseph and Annie Fontron, the oldest of five siblings. In 1877 the Fronton family moved to Hutchinson, Kansas. From a young age, Mabel was deeply interested in both business and politics, stating in a newspaper interview that she was “born a Republican and brought up with business and political training.” Prior to getting involved in the suffrage movement she worked as a secretary and office manager for Fontron Realty, the company owned by her father and brother. In 1908 she established the Devore & Fontron grocery in Chickasha, Oklahoma as a half partner.

Mabel moved to Seattle in 1910 to assist with the suffrage campaign of that year, serving as headquarters secretary of the state association under Emma Smith Devoe. Before the election, however, she became full owner of the grocery, taking over the business from her previous partner. In 1911 she was married to Paul Rewman, a German immigrant and gold rush pioneer in Deadwood, SD, where the couple lived until Paul retired in 1928.

Mabel Rewman's most important work for the South Dakota woman suffrage movement, came with the 1918 campaign. Mabel worked closely with Mary “Mamie” Shields Pyle, president of the South Dakota Universal Franchise League since 1911. She served as the Finance Chairman of the South Dakota Universal Franchise League. She also wrote to members of congress asking them to support woman suffrage. She also served as the Chairman of Lawrence County for the suffrage campaign. Rewman held woman suffrage meetings to gain support. She also spent time serving as the President of the Woman's Auxiliary to the Deadwood Business Club.

Mabel Rewman remained politically active after the granting of woman suffrage. In 1922 she represented South Dakota at the Pan-American Conference of Women, held in Baltimore, MD. The next year, she was appointed South Dakota committeewoman for the Republican National Committee, serving in this capacity for many years. Mabel was also involved locally, serving on the Board of Charities and Corrections as an advocate for issues concerning women and girls. She spoke regularly at political events about the importance of men supporting women in politics.

After Paul retired they moved to Washington, D.C. where Mabel worked for four years for the Labor Department under President Hoover. Mabel moved back to South Dakota in 1936 following the death of her husband and worked for the Department of Agriculture. She married state chemist Guy Frary in Pierre, SD in December 1943. Guy and Mabel settled in Vermillion, SD, where Mabel was involved with Faculty Wives circles, and the Women's Association of the Congregational Church.

Mabel Rewman's activism also extended into the 1950s when she helped ensure the preservation of the voices of South Dakota's 1910s “Pyle-Era” suffrage movement at a time when even women in formal politics had difficulty making it into master history narratives. Apparently, historian Herbert S. Schell at the University of South Dakota “promised” Rewman, by then living in Vermillion and named Mabel Frary, “he would endeavor to find a woman in the Graduate School who would write the South Dakota woman suffrage story.” Dorinda Riessen Reed wrote a master's thesis with Schell on the subject in 1958. Reed interviewed Frary (Rewman) and other women involved in later suffrage campaigns and Frary also guided Reed to photographs, papers, and personal interviews with surviving women, who remembered the suffrage movement in South Dakota. Activist Mabel Rewman not only promoted the right for women to vote, she helped create a historical record the suffrage movement in South Dakota. Mabel Frary passed away on September 22, 1969 and was buried with her first husband in Hutchinson, KS.

See also Kelly Kirk, ”Suffrage Snapshot: Black Hills Suffragist Mabel Rewman,” a second sketch in this database.

Sources:

“A Hutchinson Girl.” The Hutchinson daily news. (Hutchinson, KS), 04 Feb. 1910. Newspaper Archive, Heritage Archives, Ltd.

“Advertisement of Dissolution.” The Chickasha daily express. (Chickasha, Indian Territory [Okla.]), 05 Nov. 1910. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86090528/1910-11-05/ed-1/seq-5/>

“Appoints Mrs. Rewman Head of S.D. Women.” The Evening Huronite. (Huron, SD), 04 Dec. 1923. Newspaper Archive, Heritage Archives, Ltd.

“Bulow failed to keep faith with Jones charges.” The Mitchell evening republican. (Mitchell, SD), 19 Sep. 1928. Newspaper Archive, Heritage Archives, Ltd.

“Charity board may be cut to three members.” The Mitchell evening republican. (Mitchell, SD), 12 Dec 1924. Newspaper Archive, Heritage Archives, Ltd.

“Dakota pioneer is dead today.” The Hutchinson daily news. (Hutchinson, KS). 24 Apr. 1936. Newspaper Archive, Heritage Archives, Ltd.

“Jones criticizes Bulow expenses.” The Mitchell evening republican. (Mitchell, SD), 18 Sep. 1928. Newspaper Archive, Heritage Archives, Ltd.

Mabel Rewman Frary (1875 – 1969), Find A Grave Memorial no. 55679344 (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 2 July 2018).

“Miss Fontron Buys Interest of Partner.” The Chickasha daily express. (Chickasha, Indian Territory [Okla.]), 31 Oct. 1910. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86090528/1910-10-31/ed-1/seq-1/>

“Mrs. Mabel Frary.” The Rapid City Journal. (Rapid City, SD), 22 Sept 1969. Courtesy of Rapid City Genealogical Society.

“Mrs. Mabel Rewman and Guy Frary wed.” The Evening Huronite. (Huron, SD), 24 Dec 1943. Newspaper Archive, Heritage Archives, Ltd.

“Represents South Dakota at Meeting.” The Hutchinson daily news. (Hutchinson, KS), 22 Apr. 1922. Newspaper Archive, Heritage Archives, Ltd.

“Rite held for Guy G. Frary.” The Daily plainsman. (Huron, SD), 4 Oct. 1968. Newspaper Archive, Heritage Archives, Ltd.

"South Dakota State Census, 1915," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMHR-6MF : 5 August 2017), Paul Rewman; citing State Historical Society, Pierre; FHL microfilm 2,368,004.

"Washington." History of Woman Suffrage. Edited by Ida H. Harper. vol. 6, Arno Press, New York, 1881. [LINK] See also South Dakota state report for Rewman. LINK

“Obituaries,” The Vermillion Plain Talk, September 30, 1969, Weekly Edition.

Patricia O'Keefe Easton, “Woman Suffrage in South Dakota: The Final Decade, 1911-1920,” South Dakota History, 13, no. 3 (Fall 1983): 208-09.

Mamie Shields Pyle to My dear Chairman, 4 October 1918; Mabel Rewman to Mrs. Pyle, 4 October 1918, and Mabel Rewman to Mrs. Pyle, 17 October 1918, letter box 4, Mamie Shields Pyle Papers, University of South Dakota Achieves and Special Collections, Vermillion, SD.

Dorinda Riessen Reed, “Woman Suffrage Movement in South Dakota” (M.A. Thesis, University of South Dakota, 1958).

back to top