Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Maryland Woman Suffrage Association, 1867–1920(?)
By Kate Murphy Schaefer, Independent Historian
The Maryland Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA) was founded in 1867 to advance the cause of woman suffrage and encourage state and national legislatures to grant women the right to vote. The Association built on several smaller local organizations, including the Baltimore City Association and Montgomery County Association.
MWSA leaders believed that creating opportunities for women and men to connect and share ideas was crucial to unifying the movement and ensuring that everyone worked towards the same goals. Most meetings were held in the homes of individual members, but the group also planned 25 state conventions and two state conferences. These conferences and conventions inspired suffragists to keep up the fight, allowed them to connect with and learn from each other, and gave them an opportunity to celebrate the movement's small victories with like-minded men and women. The inaugural conference was held in 1900 with Susan B. Anthony as guest of honor. The 1902 conference drew speakers and participants from the Mid-Atlantic (Washington, D.C., North Carolina) to the Midwest (Minneapolis, Chicago). Sarah Richmond, the first woman president of the Maryland State Teacher's Association, spoke at the 1910 convention, highlighting the positive changes made possible by the fight for women's equality.
The MWSA worked locally and nationally, carrying out many initiatives of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1906, NAWSA accepted the Maryland group's invitation and held its annual convention in Baltimore in February. This became a somewhat bittersweet honor for the group because it was the last convention attended by Susan B. Anthony. The suffragist leader died a ater. Maryland suffragists embraced Anthony's mission to “convert the public school teachers” in 1908, delivering histories of the suffrage movement and NWSA leaflets to school libraries and speaking at teachers' meetings. The MWSA also sponsored debates encouraging students to formulate their own educated opinions about the issue.
The MWSA was also instrumental in keeping the suffrage debate alive in the Maryland legislature. Emma Maddox Funck (18-year MWSA president and 25-year Baltimore Suffrage Club president) spearheaded efforts in 1910 to draft resolutions that would amend the state constitution to allow woman suffrage. They presented draft resolutions for adoption in 1912, 1914, and 1916; each failed. The United States ratified the nineteenth amendment granting universal female suffrage in 1920, but Maryland would not ratify the amendment until 1941. The vote was not officially certified until 1958.
The Maryland Woman Suffrage Association and local subgroups produced several leaders who became the faces of the local and national suffrage movements. More still were foot soldiers who did the behind-the-scenes work required to conduct successful conventions and conferences and organized work supporting movement goals. These women are not household names, but their contributions should not be relegated to the footnotes of history. Names recorded in Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper's History of Woman Suffrage, volume 6, include Florence E. Barnes, Annette Beveridge, Margaret Smythe Clark, Nellie C. Cromwell, Emma Maddox Funck, Pauline W. Holme, Mary Badders Holton, Anna H. Hoskins, Anne Webb Janney, Etta H. Maddox, Mary E. Moore, Mary Young Taylor, and Evelyn Albaugh Timanus. Still, the authors acknowledged “(s)pace will not permit the names of the many women who were loyal and helpful during these years.”
Anthony, Susan B. and Ida Husted Harper, eds., The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol IV. (1883-1900), Rochester, New York, 1902. [LINK]
“Maryland and the 19th Amendment,” U.S. National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/articles/maryland-and-the-19th-amendment.htm.
“Maryland Woman Suffrage Association,” History Engine: Tools for Collaborative Education and Research, University of Richmond Digital Scholarship Lab, https://historyengine.richmond.edu/episodes/view/6259.
McCannon, Holly J. “‘Out of the Parlors and Into the Streets:' The Changing Tactical Repertoire of the U.S. Women's Suffrage Movements.” Social Forces 81, No. 3 (March 1, 2013);787-818.
Ibid., “Stirring up Suffrage Sentiment: The Formation of the State Woman Suffrage Associations, 1886-1914.” Social Forces 80, no. 2 (December 1, 2001): 449-80.
Murphy, Jane C. “The Role of Political and Social Movements on Women's Entry into the Legal Profession in Maryland (1902-1918), in FINDING JUSTICE: A HISTORY OF WOMEN LAWYERS IN MARYLAND SINCE 1642. (Lynne A. Battaglia, ed., 2015).
Woman Suffrage of Maryland Collection, Special Collections, Enoch Pratt Free Library/Maryland's State Library Resource Center.
“WOMEN LOOK TO MARYLAND: Suffragists Expect Session Today to Ratify Suffrage,” New York Times (September 20, 1920).
“Women Well Pleased, Suffragists Declare Baltimore Convention Greatest,” The Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, (February 14, 1906).