Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Grace Alexander Mutell Jones, 1876-1942
By Christopher Childs, author, The Spirit's Terrain: Creativity, Activism, and Transformation (Beacon Press. Boston); National Speaker emeritus, Greenpeace USA
Grace Alexander Mutell was born in January of 1876 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the younger of two daughters of bookkeeper Charles Wesley Mutell and his wife Lucy C. Pease. As a young woman, Grace became a favored model for Boston artist Laura Coombs Hills; Hills's miniature “Fire Opal”, given by the artist to the Museum of Fine Arts in 1951, is a striking portrait of the young Mutell (its title inspired by her vivid red hair). The 1892 wedding of Grace's elder sister Annie May to Howes Norris, Jr., on Martha's Vineyard is likely where she first met Norris's cousin, Ralph Kneeland Jones, Jr., her future husband; Jones, the son of a Bangor physician, shortly thereafter became librarian for the University of Maine, and he and Grace were married near Orono at the end of August, 1900.
Grace herself became a skilled artist; she was enrolled as a special student at the University during at least two periods, 1900-01 and 1915. A portrait she painted of the university's second president, Merritt Caldwell Fernald, was hung among those in the president's office. In 1922, she both wrote and directed a pageant that celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the university's first commencement.
In 1915, Grace became a spokesperson for the cause of woman suffrage. That year, she penned a series of newsletter columns promoting the movement, for the Bangor Daily News. The centennial of the series was marked in a 2015 piece written for the News by retired columnist Wayne E. Reilly; while her columns were strongly optimistic about the coming success of the movement, Jones, said Reilly, had also pointed out that
The Maine Woman Suffrage Association had offered lawmakers a variety of bills for the past 25 years, asking for “municipal suffrage” for women and “municipal suffrage for taxpaying women,” among other compromise schemes.
The bill before the Maine legislature that year for a referendum – for which she had had high hopes – failed in the house despite significant, widespread support. Jones evidently remained active in the cause; the letterhead on which she wrote a moving March, 1917, note from Boston – to University of Maine president Robert Judson Aley, concerning her husband's seriously failing health – records her as the 4th District Congressional Counsellor of the Maine Woman Suffrage Association. Ralph Kneeland Jones, Jr., died near Boston of heart disease just three months later, at or near the home of his physician brother in Wellesley Hills; Grace returned alone to Orono and lived there for a number of years, moving eventually south to Marblehead, Massachusetts, where she died on March 20, 1942. She was laid to rest near her Springfield birthplace, in, it is believed, a Mutell family plot in Chicopee.
Birth: Massachusetts: Vital Records, 1841-1910. (From original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004), https://www.americanancestors.org/DB191/i/9187/399/23098398; as artist's model: "Laura Coombs Hills: A Retrospective" by Sandra Lepore, http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/6aa/6aa186a.htm; miniature “Fire Opal” as gift of artist to Museum of Fine Arts, https://www.mfa.org/collections/object/fire-opal-grace-mutell-33454; marriage: Maine Marriages, 1771-1907, database, FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F48T-LHV; marriage also recorded in Massachusetts, Massachusetts: Vital Records, 1841-1910, database, FamilySearch, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N4Z3-36K (w. image); marriage of sister to husband's cousin: "Massachusetts Town Records, ca. 1638-1961," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FHW7-R98 : 17 October 2017), Lucy C. Pease Mutell in entry for Howes Jr. Norris and Annie May Mutell, 19 Oct 1892; citing Cottage City, Dukes, Massachusetts, United States, Town clerks and local churches; student career: Catalogue of the University of Maine, 1900-1901, University of Maine Publications 1901, https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1004&context=univ_publications ; Catalogue of the University of Maine, University of Maine Publications 1914, https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1011&context=univ_publications; writer on behalf of woman suffrage: “Bangor club women battled for rights a century ago”, by Wayne E. Reilly, Special to the Bangor Daily News, June 7, 2015, https://bangordailynews.com/2015/06/07/living/blogs-and-columns-living/bangor-club-women-battled-for-rights-a-century-ago/; letterhead of Maine Woman Suffrage Association: letter from Grace Mutell Jones to University Pres. Robert Judson Aley, March, 1917, furnished courtesy of Special Collections Dept., Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine in Orono; death and burial; creative career: obituary of 22 March 1942, newspaper (ME) unknown, clipping furnished courtesy of Special Collections Dept., Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine in Orono; miscellaneous biographical: personal knowledge of grandnephew Christopher Childs.
The WikiTree website also has a sketch of Jones at https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Mutell-1.