Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary Newton Gibb, 1866-1949

By Lisa Floryshak, Instructor of Art, Arkansas State University--Beebe

Mary Newton was born on August 31, 1866 in Pulaski County to Arkansas General Assembly member General Robert Crittenden Newton and his wife, Cassie Reider Newton, who was a member of a prominent Little Rock family. Mary had one younger brother named Robert. The family resided in her maternal grandmother Anne McHenry's home, which was located at 1406 Lincoln Avenue in Little Rock. They lived there until her father passed away in June of 1887. The family were active members of St. Andrews Parish, of which her grandparents were founding members. Mary attended St. Mary's Academy, where she showed promise as an articulate member of the community. Her family was involved in the Confederate cause and were ardently against Reconstruction, though her father advocated participating in it as a means to securing the state's post war representation in Congress. The family helped organize post-war memorials, including hosting receptions honoring Confederate veterans.

Growing up, Mary had a busy social schedule that consisted of theater, music and dance, as evidenced by the society pages of the Daily Arkansas Gazette, the local newspaper. She was also a skilled Euchre player, often winning matches. As a young woman, she shared the company of Mary W. Loughborough's daughters, Jean and Hope, at times traveling together. On September 16, 1887 she married Frank Wooster Gibb, who worked as a chemist at the time, though he eventually became a well-known Arkansas architect. The couple built a modest home at 1609 Arch Street, where they raised three children, Fred, Cassie-Belle, and Edward.

As a member of Little Rock society, Mary left her mark on the city. A feature in the August 9, 1920 Arkansas Democrat lauded her as "one of the most prominent suffrage and social workers of Pulaski County." Mary was quite active and involved in various community improvement efforts by 1907; that year, she was elected as an officer of the School Improvement Association. In 1911, she filed a petition in chancery court over a right to property issue when diamonds that belonged to her were seized without her knowledge in order to settle a debt of her husband's. It was about this time that she also became involved in the suffrage movement in Little Rock. The Little Rock Political Equity League, formed in February 1911, chose Mrs Gibb to represent them in their Pulaski County Fair Parade float in 1916. In 1917, as Pulaski County Equal Suffrage Committee Chair, she attended a reception that welcomed President Wilson's daughter to Little Rock. She was charged with the presentation of flowers on behalf of all of the area's suffrage associations to Jeanette Rankin, a congresswoman from Montana, who came to Little Rock to speak at a function of the Women's Teacher Association. In that same year, Mary was one of the first women to pay her poll tax when women were granted the right to vote in primary elections. She was also a speaker at a suffrage event and rally held in Hot Springs in March of 1918.

After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Mary continued to be involved in local politics. She wrote reports of state legislative sessions for local newspapers, including the Batesville Daily Guard. She was particularly interested in educating women about proposed bills and amendments and urged them to contact their representatives. She was selected as a delegate to the Congressional Convention in both 1918 and 1920. In 1922, she was elected chair the Arkansas League of Women Voters. As a member of the League of Women Voters, she organized political barbecues, at which candidates for election campaigned and gave speeches. She also involved in the State Federation of Women's Clubs, Arkansas Democratic Women's Club, and the M. M. Eberts Post Ladies Auxiliary, often serving as an officer or on committees for all three organizations.

Mary died on August 17, 1949 and was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Little Rock.


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