Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mary Shuford Davis, 1890-1970
By Linda Jacobson, Librarian and Keeper of the North Carolina Collection Gallery#x200eWilson Special Collections Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Secretary and finance committee member, Equal Suffrage League of North Carolina; Vice President, Vance County League of Women Voters
Mary Shuford was born in Hickory, North Carolina, on May 23, 1890 to Alda Virginia Campbell and Abel Alexander Shuford, a cotton mill owner and banker. She graduated in 1910 from St. Mary's School, a college preparatory school in Raleigh. In 1915, she married Robert Green Singleton Davis of E.G. Davis and Sons, a Henderson, North Carolina, department store. The couple resided in Henderson and raised three sons: Robert, John, and Alexander. After her husband's death in 1941, Davis became acting general manager of E.G. Davis and Sons. At the time of her death on September 15, 1970, she was serving as the company's secretary.
The women's suffrage movement in North Carolina began in 1894 with the founding of the North Carolina Equal Suffrage Association in Asheville. Pro-suffrage activism in the state languished until the creation in 1913 of several local equal suffrage groups formed in Morganton, Charlotte, Asheville, Hickory, and High Point. A statewide association, the Equal Suffrage League of North Carolina, Inc., followed in November 1913 with 200 members.
The Raleigh News and Observer reported that Miss Mary Shuford attended the first state convention of the North Carolina Equal Suffrage Association in Charlotte on November 9-10, 1914 and was elected corresponding secretary. In 1915, and listed as Mrs. R.G.S. Davis, her name appears as an attendee and member of the finance committee in the Proceedings of the Second Annual Convention of the Equal Suffrage Association of North Carolina. No convention was held in 1916, and her name does not appear in convention proceedings of 1917-1919. In 1920, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina replaced the Equal Suffrage League of North Carolina. Davis served as vice president of the Vance County division of the LWVNC. She is listed as one of North Carolina's “Prominent Women's Right Pioneers” in Doris Weatherford's Women in American Politics: History and Milestones.
In addition to her work as a suffragist, Davis volunteered in local and statewide community groups and supported other causes. Her obituary highlights her involvement in the Henderson Garden Club, the North Carolina Federation of Garden Clubs, the Vance County Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Church of the Holy Innocents, rolling bandages during WWI, and U.S.O. center work in WWII. She served for many years as a board member of the H. Leslie Perry Memorial Library.
Newspapers.com: “Society: Hickory,” News and Observer [Raleigh], November 15, 1914; “Local and Personal,” Hickory Democrat, November 4, 1915; “Society News of Surrounding Towns: Hickory,” Citizen-Times [Asheville], October 31, 1915; “Committee Named: Leaders of Suffrage Work in North Carolina,” Charlotte Observer, October 31, 1915
In the Beginning: Notes for a History of the North Carolina League of Women Voters, 1920-1950, by Annelle Houk (Raleigh: League of Women Voters of North Carolina, 1995)
Perry Memorial Library: “Mrs. Davis, 80, Prominent City Resident, Dies,” Henderson Daily Dispatch, September 16, 1970.
Proceedings of the Second Annual Convention of the Equal Suffrage Association of North Carolina, accessible at https://search.lib.unc.edu/search?R=UNCb4166214
Weatherford, Doris. Women in American Politics: History and Milestones, accessed January 28, 2019 at https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/lib/unc/detail.action?docID=1037263
The History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6, 1900-1920, accessed at http://chswg.binghamton.edu/docs/historyofwomansuffrage_vol6.pdf
Find a Grave memorial marker and death certificate: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/29374379/mary-catherine-davis
Mary Shuford, 1910
Internet Archive: Photograph from The Muse, St. Mary's School 1910 yearbook, accessed at https://archive.org/details/muse1910sain