Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Sarah Mulrooney Ruhlin, 1879-1954

By Tara Nelson and Brianna Blackmon, students, University of Michigan-Dearborn

Sarah Mulrooney was born in Ireland, probably in 1879. She had been a servant girl in her home country, then sailed to New York from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in 1898. When she arrived to New York, she stayed with a relative in Brooklyn and found work as a nurse at the Manhattan State Hospital. ( Mulrooney joined the Women's Suffrage Movement and became more and more notable as she made her mark.

In the early 1900s, she met a famous boxer by the name of Gustav (Gus) Ruhlin. They married in 1911. After the couple married, Sarah Mulrooney became known mostly as Mrs. Sarah Ruhlin and took advantage of her husband's fame and used it to spread knowledge about the Suffrage movement. Around June of that year, it was documented that she led a suffrage campaign in the 20th Assembly District in Brooklyn. Mrs. Ruhlin would even hold open air meetings on Saturdays at the saloon that she and her husband owned, which was called the Brooklyn Cafe. (Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

During that same year, she managed to raise the number of group members into the hundreds. (Brooklyn Daily Eagle) According to a newspaper article, her goal was to "stir things up and let the people know what woman suffrage means", which she did. Her hard work was recognized by Mrs. Robert Elder, who was the chairman of the Borough of Brooklyn for Women's Suffrage. She continued to complete Suffrage work over the course of the summer. In July, she participated in an event which was held at Coney Island where she rode a horse while carrying a sign that read "votes for women". (Brooklyn Daily Eagle) In October, Ruhlin took over the Negro branch of the Political Equality Club while also holding her position as president of the Women's Progressive Political League. (Women Will Vote: Winning Suffrage in New York State)

On February 13, 1912, Gus Ruhlin suddenly passed away in the Brooklyn Cafe. He left Sarah behind with a $40,000 inheritance which she was forced to fight his family for. ( 1913 was an eventful year for Mrs. Ruhlin that included both positive and negative events. On November 10, a newspaper ran a story about how she was blackmailed anonymously. Someone demanded that she pay them $1,000 and show her willingness to participate by hanging a suffrage flag outside of her window. (Brooklyn Daily Eagle) However, she participated in an important milestone for the Women's Suffrage Movement. Sarah Mulrooney Ruhlin participated in the 1913 Suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. orchestrated by Alice Paul. (IMDb)

The 1940 federal manuscript census lists Mrs. Ruhlin as a housekeeper for a David Murray and New York state marriage records record the marriage of Sarah Mulrooney Ruhlin and David Murray in April 1952 in Yonkers. New York state records record her likely death in January 1954.

Although there were many hardships throughout, Mrs. Sarah Mulrooney Ruhlin always made it clear that she was fighting for women's rights. Her efforts helped to spread knowledge about the Women's Suffrage Movement, especially in Brooklyn and other parts of New York. She was strong willed and not afraid to use her husband's notoriety to spread the word. Unfortunately, her cause of death is unknown, but her legacy still lives on.


MyHeritage Library Edition,

"10 Nov 1913, Page 2 - The Brooklyn Daily Eagle at", Ruhlin.

"14 Feb 1912, Page 22 - The Brooklyn Daily Eagle at", Ruhlin

"29 Jul 1911, Page 16 - The Brooklyn Daily Eagle at", Ruhlin.

Goodier, Susan, and Karen Pastorello. Women Will Vote Winning Suffrage in New York State. Cornell University Press, 2017.

"Ruhlin." James Joyce Online Notes,

"Suffragette's Parade in Washington." IMDb,, 4 Apr. 1913,

Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960/findmypast
The Passenger Lists leaving UK 1890-1960 are held in the National Archives in Britain. The records are also known by their National Archive reference BT27.

New York State Department of Health; Albany, NY, USA; New York State Marriage Index—Likely marriage record for Sarah Ruhlin and David Murray. New York, New York, Death Index, 1949-1965 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2017. Likely death record for Sarah Murray.

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