Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary Elizabeth Sleichter, 1871-1957

By Katherine Pettine, Rosemont College, Rosemont, Penn.

Mary Elizabeth Sleichter was born on January 10, 1871, in Scotland, Pennsylvania, to Henry A. Sleichter and Catherine Wenger Sleichter. She had one brother, Charles Henry Sleichter, and never married.

Sleichter graduated from Wilson College and became a teacher. She was a German professor at Lebanon Valley College in 1909. Then, in 1917, she taught Latin at Waynesboro High School. Sleichter was also an instructor at the Shippensburg State Teachers College. In 1928, she was hired to teach in Haddonfield, New Jersey, where she worked until she retired from teaching after twenty-eight years in 1935.

Before she retired, Sleichter inherited $1000 from an aunt. Despite this inheritance, Sleichter continued to work for her community. In 1939, she was chosen to be a tipstaff of the Franklin County courts.

Besides teaching, Mary Sleichter was also involved in woman suffrage. As state organizer for the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association, she arranged and addressed several meetings, hosted lunches, and spoke at open-air events. Her public speaking skills drew large crowds even in the pouring rain. As the custodian of the "Justice Bell," Mary Sleichter traveled with the bell during its 1915 tour of the country to promote woman suffrage. While traveling, she taught children the history of the bell.

Sleichter later served as an organizer and representative for the League of Women Voters (LWV) and executive member of the state headquarters in Harrisburg. She was in charge of LWV-sponsored legislation classes that taught young girls current laws.

In her later years, Sleichter suffered from impaired health from several injuries during her very active life. She fell down her stairs and fractured and dislocated her shoulder in 1953, and she fractured her hip after falling in her living room in 1954. She died on April 28, 1957, in Greene, Pennsylvania, at the age of eighty-six and is buried in Norland Cemetery.


Sources on Sleichter include, York (PA) Gazette and Daily, Shippensburg (PA) News-Chronicle, York (PA) Daily, Harrisburg (PA) Evening News, Lebanon (PA) Courier and Semi-Weekly Report, Philadelphia Inquirer, Monongahela (PA) Daily Republican, Pottstown (PA) Mercury, and Harrisburg (PA) Telegraph. See also, Ida Husted Harper, ed., "Pennsylvania," chapter XXXVII in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920 (New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), pp. 550-64. [LINK]

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