Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Marie Stuart Edwards, 1880-1970
By Eric LoPresti, Lisle, IL
Marie Stuart was born to Thomas and Ada Stuart in Lafayette, Indiana on September 11, 1880. One of two children, she was well educated, graduating from Smith College in 1901. She would marry Richard E. Edwards on October 11, 1904 and would play a regular role in helping run his business, the Peru Chair Company. They had one son, Richard Arthur.
Marie's first foray into activism came when she was living in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, when she was unable to find safe, pure milk for her infant son. Discovering that unsanitary conditions in dairies were leading to bad milk, she successfully organized a campaign for clean milk and reformed city regulations. Mr. and Mrs. Edwards returned to Indiana in 1914, moving into the historic Shirk Edwards House in Peru, Indiana, and Marie quickly became a leader in the campaign for women's suffrage. She was elected as president of the Woman's Franchise League of Indiana in 1917, a post she would leave in 1919 to work more closely with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) for the passage of the 19th Amendment. In 1920, Edwards helped organize Social Justice Day Marion Ohio, an event where 13,000 newly enfranchised gathered to present their political platform to then-Presidential candidate Warren Harding on October 1. Earlier that same year, she helped found the League of Women Voters, serving as the League's first treasurer, and then first vice-president until 1923.
Described by the Lafayette Journal and Courier as being “possessed of so many striking capabilities, such inexhaustible energy and such unselfish readiness to give herself for the betterment of all,” Edwards would continue to play a large role in civic affairs following the ratification of the 19th Amendment. She was the first woman to sit on the Peru Board of Education, and was appointed to the Indiana State Board of Education in 1922. Edwards would go on to lead the local Works Progress Administration Board during the Depression, serve as vice-president of the Indiana Board of Public Welfare in 1937, as a member of the Miami County Board of Public Welfare in the late 1940's and 50's, and as a member of the state women's prison parole board in the 50's.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. History of Woman Suffrage Vol. IV (1900-1920). National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, “Shirk-Edwards House,” Discover Indiana, February 13, 2018. https://publichistory.iupui.edu/items/show/350
Lineage Book: Daughters of the American Revolution. Washington D.C.: Judd & Detweiler, Inc, 1918. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=i79RrLgIkRsC&hl=en&pg=GBS.PP8
“Marie Stuart Edwards: Suffragist and Social Reformer.” Indiana State Library (blog), June 1, 2017. https://blog.library.in.gov/marie-stuart-edwards-suffragist-and-social-reformer/
Morgan, Anita. “‘An Act of Tardy Justice': The Story of Women's Suffrage in Indiana.” Indiana Women's Suffrage Centennial, 2019. http://indianasuffrage100.org/indiana-womens-suffrage-history/
“Mrs. Edwards' Climb to Fame has Been Rapid.” Lafayette Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN), April 27, 1921. Accessed from: https://www.newspapers.com/image/261871553
“Social Justice Day Brought Women, Issues to Forefront.” Friends of the Harding Home News 5, Issue 3. Sept-November 2018. www.hardinghome.org/media/2018/09/Friends-Newsletter-Fall-2018-PDF.pdf
Tippecanoe County, Indiana; Index to Marriage Record 1850 - 1920 Inclusive Vol, W. P. A. Original Record Located: County Clerk's O; Book: C-25; Page: 3. Accessed from: https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=5059&h=2805837&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=NHs7&_phstart=successSource