Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mary Fletcher Drennan, 1890-1982
By Ronna Pennington, College of the Ouachitas, Malvern, AR
Mary Fletcher Drennan was born Feb. 7, 1890 in Little Rock, Arkansas, the daughter of John Gould Fletcher and Adolphine Krause Fletcher. She was the youngest of three siblings. Her eldest sibling, Adolphine (1882-1976), was also a suffragist and community activist. Her brother, John Gould Fletcher, Jr. (1886-1950), became a famous poet. Mr. Fletcher was a cotton broker and Mayor of Little Rock from 1875 to 1881, so all three children had the means to attend college. Adolphine graduated from Vassar. John attended Harvard but left to pursue writing after his father's death in 1906. Mary, like her sister, attended Vassar. She returned to Little Rock without graduating. With her she brought her love of activism that she experienced while attending college in New York.
Back in Little Rock, Mary joined her sister in the suffrage movement and was elected president of the Political Equality League (PEL) in October 1911. The PEL was not the state's first suffrage organization. That was the Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), formed in Eureka Springs in 1881 but was inactive by the end of 1885. Another organization was started in Little Rock in 1888 with a focus also on temperance, but ceased when its organizer died just a year later. With inconsistent organization of the women's suffrage movement in the state, the PEL's 75 charter members had a lot of ground to cover.
One of the first steps Fletcher took in her role as president of the PEL was separating the organization from the more militant suffrage supporters. By her definition suffragettes getting attention at the national level were militant and demanding. Her suffragists maintained the decorum of a Southern lady. “In the South, women do not find it necessary to fight for what we want,” she stated.
Mary remained an advocate for the PEL after marrying Leonard. H. Drennan in New Orleans in January 1914. She declined leadership roles after her marriage other than accepting nomination as a delegate to the Southern States Conference for Woman's Suffrage in 1915.
Mary gave birth to Leonard Drennan Jr. in 1919. The family moved to Washington, D.C. where their daughter Frances Drennan was born in 1921. The family purchased Verdant Valley Farms, which Mary later kept and operated after she and her husband legally separated.
Mary died on May 31, 1982. She is buried in St. James of My Lady's Manor Cemetery in Monkton, Baltimore County, Maryland.
Butler, Danielle. “Mary Fletcher Drennan (1890-1982).” UALR Exhibits: Arkansas Women's Suffrage Centennial. <https://ualrexhibits.org/suffrage/mary-fletcher-drennan-1890-1982/>
Drennan, Mary Fletcher. Findagrave.com. <https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/78306093/mary-drennan>
Carter, Scott Whiteley. “Little Rock Look Back: John Gould Fletcher, Patriarch of Little Rock Civic and Cultural Leaders.” Little Rock Culture Vulture Online. <https://lrculturevulture.com/tag/mary-fletcher-drennan/>
Poets.org. “John Gould Fletcher.” < https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/john-gould-fletcher>
Rollberg, Jeanne Norton. “Political Equality League.” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture Online. <http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=7834>