Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mary House, 1888-1981
By Amanda Ritter-Maggio, English instructor, University of Arkansas Community College at Hope-Texarkana
Mary House was born to Thomas J. Menefee House and Mary Lewis House on February 5, 1888. She had one brother, Menefee, born in 1877. The family was called “one of the oldest and best-known ... in this state” by the Arkansas Democrat newspaper in 1913. After her father died in 1894, her mother took over managing the family's property and estate. The 1900 Census lists Mary's mother as head-of-household with the occupation of “Planter.” Mary's uncle, Col. Joseph W. House, was a prominent attorney and later served as a judge in Little Rock.
Mary grew up in Menefee (now Minefee), a town named for her grandfather, near Conway, Arkansas, but was “well-known” and “a social favorite” in Little Rock, attending numerous balls, dinners, and socials. She regularly took trips throughout the United States and abroad with her mother and with other Little Rock socialites. In 1904, the mayor of Little Rock appointed Mary to represent Arkansas at the World's Fair, which was held in Oklahoma City. From around 1905-1907, she attended a girls' boarding school in New York and then Smith's College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She and her mother were visiting Paris, France when they received word that Mary's brother, Menefee, who had become a well-known attorney, had fallen ill in Little Rock. He died on December 10, 1910.
The next year, while spending the winter in New York with her mother, Mary met and married Thomas Lennon Reynolds, a forty-five-year-old widower, in Manhattan on November 25, 1911. The marriage was shocking to Little Rock society, both for the age difference between the bride and groom, and also because Mary had known Thomas, called “a well-known politician” in the newspapers, only a short time before the wedding. By early January of 1912, Mary had returned to Little Rock and filed for legal separation from Thomas, on grounds of cruelty and that he had deserted her. She was required to wait a year in order to meet residency requirements in Arkansas before she could be granted a divorce. In the meantime, Thomas came to Little Rock in an attempt to reconcile, but Mary rebuffed him. Thomas lashed out by speaking to newspaper reporters about the separation, calling his honeymoon a “nightmare” and blaming his mother-in-law for alienating his wife's affections; he brought personal suit against Mrs. House for damages in the amount of $250,000. The next month, he filed a motion demanding Mary clarify her accusations of cruelty and abandonment, all while adamantly denying the charges. In January of 1913, Mary was granted an uncontested divorce; one of the stipulations in the settlement was that she be allowed to return her to her maiden name of Miss Mary House.
It was during this time that Mary joined the Political Equality League in Little Rock. She became quite active in the League's activities and served as a member of the State Organization Committee in 1913-1914. The committee's goal was to create a statewide suffrage organization in Arkansas. Sometime around 1915, she and her mother, along with some friends, left for an extended trip to New York City and Atlantic City.
Mary and her mother lived together in Conway until her mother died in 1940. Mary continued living in Conway and died there on March 16, 1981. She was buried next to her mother in Roselawn Memorial Park in Little Rock.
“Adjourn for Summer.” Daily Arkansas Gazette, 1 June 1913. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/138385133.
“Arkansas.” History of Woman Suffrage Vol. VI: 1900-1920. Ed. Ida Husted Harper, pp. 17-18. https://chswg.binghamton.edu/docs/historyofwomansuffrage_vol6.pdf.
“Asks Specific Cruelty Charges.” Daily Arkansas Gazette, 6 Feb. 1912. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/138366878.
“Decree of Divorce Granted Mrs. Reynolds.” Arkansas Democrat, 23 January 1913. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/166628691.
Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 24 June 2019), memorial page for Mary House (5 Feb 1888–16 Mar 1981), Find A Grave Memorial no. 187360443, citing Roselawn Memorial Park, Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, USA ; Maintained by Whitney McLaughlin (contributor 48577592).
Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 24 June 2019), memorial page for Menefee House (10 Dec 1877–10 Dec 1910), Find A Grave Memorial no. 84050616, citing Mount Holly Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, USA ; Maintained by CJ (contributor 46972275).
“Menefee House Dies at Capital.” Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, 11 Dec. 1910. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/276118737.
“Miss House Will Represent Little Rock.” The Monticellonian, 1 Sept. 1904. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/288827342.
“Mrs. Reynolds Sues for Temporary Separation.” Arkansas Democrat 22 January 1912. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/166402752.
“Reynolds Says He Will Bring Suit.” Daily Arkansas Gazette, 25 Jan. 1912. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/138365479.
“Social and Personal.” Arkansas Democrat, 26 May 1906. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/149175059.
“Social and Personal.” Daily Arkansas Gazette, 26 Sept. 1906. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/132667825.
“Social and Personal.” Arkansas Democrat, 11 Oct. 1906. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/151428635.
“Social and Personal.” Daily Arkansas Gazette, 28 Nov. 1911. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/138364329.
“Social and Personal.” Daily Arkansas Gazette, 21 August 1915. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/138390931.
"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M3X1-RDG : accessed 20 June 2019), Mary House in household of M L House, Cadron Township (incl. Central Baptist College) Conway town, Faulkner, Arkansas, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 24, sheet 3A, family 27, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,058.
"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XM2L-6R8 : accessed 20 June 2019), Mary House in household of Mary L House, Howard, Conway, Arkansas, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 10, sheet 6A, line 22, family 101, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 69; FHL microfilm 2,339,804.
"United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KQV2-CPC : 15 March 2018), Mary House, Ward 3, Conway, Cadron Township, Faulkner, Arkansas, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 23-7B, sheet 10B, line 75, family 243, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 135.
“Wants $250,000 for Wife's Affections.” Arkansas Democrat, 26 April 1912. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/166415522.
“Wife Is Granted Divorce.” Daily Arkansas Gazette, 24 January 1913. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/140548781.