Biographical Database of Montana Woman Suffragists
Biography of Mary E. McKay, 1867-1937
By Alexi Corbett, student researcher, University of Montana, Missoula
Mary E. Derby was likely born in 1867 in Massachusetts to John Derby of Connecticut and Nora Sullivan, an Irish immigrant. She married three times.
While living in Montana, she married William C. Mahurin, the publisher of a local newspaper, Mountaineer(Marysville, Montana). They had a son, Merton Milo Manhurin, on August 25, 1892, in Marysville, Montana. Becoming a widow in 1895, she next married H.C. Wilson. Later, after her second husband's death, she moved to White Sulphur Springs, Montana, along with a man named Daniel E. McKay, a Canadian immigrant, and her son from her first marriage. Daniel and Mary were married on June 12, 1907.
Although Mary McKay had no or little formal education, she had been taught to read and write. In Montana, she utilized this education, first with the Mountaineer, continuing the publication upon William's death, and then with the Meagher County Republican, published with her second husband, Daniel. Mary McKay had the opportunity to run a printing office with Daniel and her son, Merton. The McKay family held strong Republican values and were active members of the Republican Party. They used the Meagher County Republican to hold their fellow Montanans accountable. This is illustrated by an article published in the Dillion Examiner in 1919: “Lewistown, Nov. 19.- District Judge John A. Matthews of Townsend has brought an action libel against M. M. Mahurin, Mrs. M. E. McKay and Mark Hunt, all of the Meagher County Republican published at White Sulphur Springs, for the paper's sweeping criticism of him because of his action in dismissing a case against a man named Collins, who had been charged with statutory assault.” Mary McKay and her family were unafraid to speak their minds and stand up for what they believed in.
Using her publishing skills, Mary E. McKay joined the Montana suffrage movement as a publisher of the Suffrage Daily News in 1914. First created in Helena by the Montana Equal Suffrage State Central Committee, the Suffrage Daily News highlighted the happenings of the suffrage movement not only in Montana but all over the nation. The Suffrage Daily News debuted at the woman suffrage booth of the Montana State Fair in 1914. The fair, and consequently the Montana State Fair Edition of the Suffrage Daily News, lasted from September 24 to September 26, 1914. Upon McKay's arrival in Helena on September 24, the Suffrage Daily News announced: “The last of the editorial staff of The Suffrage News arrived yesterday. Now we may expect the editorial matter to take on a Republican tinge, for Mrs. McKay is one of the editors of the Meagher County Republican. Mrs. McKay heads quite a delegation from that thriving county.” McKay stayed in Helena for the remainder of the fair. The Suffrage Daily News also published a special Election Day Edition in Butte, Montana, on November 2, 1914, sponsored by the Butte Equal Suffrage Association. With article titles such as “The American Flag Stands for Progress” and “An Ode to American Women,” the Suffrage Daily News played an important role in helping gain statewide support for woman suffrage in Montana, which was narrowly passed by Montana voters on November 3, 1914.
In 1934, Mary McKay left Montana and parted ways with her husband, Daniel. She died on December 28, 1937, in Tupelo, Mississippi, while living with her son and his wife.
“About the Suffrage Daily News (Helena, MT) 1914-?,” Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053121/.
“Election Edition,” Suffrage Daily News (Helena, MT), November 2, 1914, pp. 1-4, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053121/1914-11-02/ed-1/seq-1/.
Ida Husted Harper, ed., “Montana,” chapter XXV in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920 (New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), pp. 360-367. [LINK]
“Former Resident Taken by Death,” Montana Standard (Butte, Montana), January 9, 1938, Section Treasure State News, p.13, Newspapers.com.
Montana Marriage Records, U.S. Marriage Records, 1865-1993 [database on-line]. Ancestry.com.
“Montana State Fair Edition,” Suffrage Daily News (Helena, MT), September 24, 1914, pp.1-4, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053121/1914-09-24/ed-1/seq-1/.
“Montana State Fair Edition,” Suffrage Daily News (Helena, MT), September 25, 1914, pp.1-4, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053121/1914-09-25/ed-1/seq-1/.
“Montana State Fair Edition” Suffrage Daily News. (Helena, MT), September 26, 1914, pp.1-4, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053121/1914-09-26/ed-1/seq-1/.
“News From All Over the State,” Dillion Examiner(Dillion, MT), November 26, 1919, p.5, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053034/1919-11-26/ed-1/seq-5/.
“Open Some Counties for the Killing of Game Birds,” Mineral Independent(Superior, MT), September 14, 1922, p. 6, Montana Newspapers, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn86075304/1922-09-14/ed-1/seq-6/.
Rankin, Jeannette. Handbook of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, vol. 46 (New York: N. W. S. Publishing Co., Inc., 1914), p.135, Google Books.
U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1920; Census Place: White Sulphur Springs, Meagher, Montana; Roll: T625_973; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 62. HeritageQuest.
U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1930; Census Place: White Sulphur Springs, Meagher, Montana; Roll: 1259; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0007; FHL microfilm: 2340994. HeritageQuest.
U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1910; Census Place: White Sulphur Springs Ward 2, Meagher, Montana; Roll: T624_833; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0190; FHL microfilm: 1374846, Ancestry.com.
“W.C. Mahurin,” Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana), September 11, 1895, p.3, Newspapers.com.