Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary Cornett Lowes, 1866-1945

By Ashley Champion, undergraduate student, University of Missouri, Columbia

Mary Cornett was born in Madison, Indiana, in July 1866 to Charles and Mary Cornett, both of Indiana. Mary Cornett married John Livingston Lowes in June 1897, and about a year later the couple had a son, John W. Lowes. John L. Lowes worked as a professor at various colleges, including at Hanover College in Indiana, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, and Washington University in St. Louis, where he was also the dean of arts and sciences. The Lowes arrived in Missouri around 1909, and Mary Lowes took part in community activities, including woman suffrage.

In June 1911, Mary Cornett Lowes served on the board of directors for the Equal Suffrage League of St. Louis, and she traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, in the same year as a delegate at the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention. By August 1913, Lowes led the St. Louis League. As president, she helped coordinate a petition for the democratic representatives to urge presidential candidates to grant women voting rights. The petition target was 23,000 signatures. In September 1913, Missouri suffragists held a convention to bring to the forefront the issues of woman's rights, which were still not widely accepted by Missourians. Lowes continued to raise funds and awareness for this campaign until it reached the democratic representatives in Missouri. After the state convention, she was quoted by the Iron County Register in Ironton, Missouri, saying, "soap-box oratory and Tammany methods will be used for the coming campaign for equal suffrage." Lowes retired from her role of president of the St. Louis League in October 1914 due to exhaustion, but she returned to the helm in 1915. She withdrew her name from the presidency and the board in April 1916, but she continued to remain active in the organization.

In June 1916, the St. Louis Equal Suffrage League protested the Democratic National Convention, which met in St. Louis, to demand women's right to vote. Mary Cornett Lowes took part in the "Golden Lane Protest," so-called because an estimated three thousand women from around the country lined Locust Street carrying yellow parasols. The non-violent protest sought to make woman suffrage a priority for the Democratic Party and the incumbent President Woodrow Wilson. Lowes was honored in 1930 at a League of Women Voters' event celebrating the protest, and her name is listed on a commemorative plaque dedicated in January 1931 in Jefferson City, Missouri.

By 1920, Mary and John Lowes moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and John Lowes worked at Harvard University. They lived there for the rest of their lives. Mary Cornett Lowes died in 1945 in Cambridge.


CAPTION: Mary Cornett Lowes, St. Louis, ca. 1916.
CREDIT: "Suffrage Leader Who Will Address a Meeting of Security League." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. February 20, 1916.


"Equal Suffrage League Elects Its New Board." St. Louis Globe-Democrat. April 12, 1916.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. "Missouri." Chapter 24 in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920, pp. 352-69. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]

Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001. Mary Cornett and John Livingston Lawes, June 21, 1897. Ancestry Library.

"John Livingston Lowes." Encyclopedia Britannica. Posted July 20, 1998. Last updated August 11, 2019.

League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis. "Missouri Suffragists." In League Reporter (August 2019): 6.

"League of Women Voters' Anniversary." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. March 23, 1930.

Lowes, Mary C. "Suffrage Notes." St. Louis Globe Democrat. December 20, 1914.

Massachusetts, Death Index, 1901-1980. John L. Lowes, 1945, Boston, MA. Ancestry Library.

Massachusetts, Death Index, 1901-1980. Mary (Cornett) Lowes, 1945, Cambridge, MA. Ancestry Library.

Massachusetts, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1963. Mary Cornett Lowes, arrival, Boston, August 11, 1935, Laconia. Ancestry Library.

Moffitt, Kelly. "In 1916, 3,000 Women in St. Louis Marched for Suffrage, Heralding an Era of Non-Violent Protest." St. Louis on the Air, produced by Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, and Kelly Moffitt. KWMU. St. Louis Public Radio. August 24, 2016.

"Mrs. Lowes Heads Suffragists." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 22, 1915.

"Soap-Box Oratory Will Be Used." Iron Country Register (Ironton, MO). May 28, 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.

"Suffrage Leader Who Will Address a Meeting of Security League." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. February 20, 1916.

"Suffragists War on Goodson Solon's Shot Draws Sarcasm." St. Louis Globe Democrat. November 6, 1913.

"St. Louis Women Are Doing Much for Equal Suffrage." St. Louis Star and Times. June 18, 1911.

United States Census, 1860, 1870, s.v. "Mary Cornett, Madison, Jefferson, IN." Ancestry Library.

United States Census, 1900, s.v. "Mary Lowes, Hanover, Jefferson, IN." Ancestry Library.

United States Census, 1910, s.v. "Mary Lowes, University Ward 2, St. Louis, MO." Ancestry Library.

United States Census, 1920, 1930, 1940, s.v. "Mary C. Lowes, Cambridge, Middlesex, MA." Ancestry Library.

"Women Seek Signatures for Suffrage Vote." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 17, 1913.

"Woman Suffrage Loses in 6 States, Wins in Montana." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. November 4, 1914.

back to top