Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Emma Maddox Funck, 1853–1940
By Kate Murphy Schaefer, Independent Historian
Emma Maddox was born on November 19, 1853 in Baltimore, Maryland. After graduating from Eastern High School, Emma went on to study music at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Emma did not pursue music as a career, instead devoting her work and life to equal rights for women. Two years after marrying Dr. J. William Funck in 1892, she became an even more vocal activist in her city and state. She joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and Baltimore Suffrage Club in 1894, serving as president of the latter from 1897 to 1920.
Though NAWSA's goal was achieving a constitutional amendment securing universal female suffrage, Funck also worked for equal rights closer to home. In 1901, Emma's sister, Etta, became one of the first female graduates from Baltimore Law School. At the time, women were not allowed take the bar exam. Emma campaigned on her sister's (and other graduates') behalf, petitioning Senator Jacob Moses to champion a bill reversing this rule. Thanks to these efforts, Etta Maddox was the first woman admitted to the Maryland Bar Association in 1907.
Susan B. Anthony used local efforts to the national movement's advantage. In 1908, Maryland suffragists adopted Anthony's call to “convert the public school teachers.” Funck attended teacher's meetings, gave speeches, and handed out NAWSA leaflets, and distributed suffrage histories to school libraries. Taking her cue from activities already used in the classroom, she coordinated and participated in debates on suffrage.
The most critical debates took place in the Maryland legislature. Writing in 1920, Funck recalled the women's struggle to be taken seriously by legislators, saying their bills ran into difficulties not “so much against the measure but against the noble army of women who had been sponsoring the bill.” The key to being heard was winning the vote. In 1910, Funck drafted a resolution introducing an amendment allowing woman suffrage in Maryland. It was brought to the floor by Delegate William Henry Paire, but did not make it out of the Senate. Amendments to the Maryland Constitution were introduced and voted down in 1912, 1914, and 1916. The United States Congress approved the 19th amendment in June 1919 and the states followed by August 1920, giving women the vote in time for the November 1920 election. Maryland voted against the amendment at that time and did not ratify the amendment until March 29, 1941.
The 19th amendment was a huge achievement for the national suffrage movement, but activists continued to struggle locally. Funck ran for office in the Maryland legislature and for Clerk of Court of Common Pleas, losing both elections. She continued working with women's groups, including the Maryland Federation of Republican Women and the Women's City Club, formed in 1921 and 1928, respectively. Funck died on March 21, 1940, leaving behind a legacy as one of the leading social justice activists in Maryland. “In her own way,” wrote historian Mal Wallace, Emma Maddox Funck “helped to make some of the gains upon which feminists who followed her based their actions and moved ahead to make additional gains for all women.”
Anthony, Susan B. and Ida Husted Harper, 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).
Wallace, Mal Hee Son. "Emma J. Maddox Funck, 1853-1940: Maryland Suffrage Leader," Notable Maryland Women, edited by Winifred G. Helmes. Cambridge: Tidewater Publishers, 1977.
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).