Biographical Sketch of Mary Henry

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary Henry, 1857-1942

By Nora Brew and Isabella Summe,
students at Sacred Heart Preparatory High School, Atherton, California

Mary Henry was a suffragist who was known for her political work on the women's suffrage campaign in the state of Nevada. She was born in 1857 in Canada. Her parents were James Henry and Nancy McKinley of Ontario, Canada. Both of her parents were Irish immigrants. Mary had an older brother Henry, born in 1851, and a sister Margaret, born in 1861. Henry immigrated to the United States in 1880, settling in West Fourth Street Reno, Washoe County, Nevada. She lived in a household with her brother Henry, who immigrated to Nevada in 1867, sister Margaret Gulling, who immigrated in 1877 and her husband Charles, along with various nieces and nephews. Henry was a schoolteacher who taught first and second grade children. It appears as though Mary Henry never married or had children.

Mary Henry was a member of the Nevada State Equal Suffrage Association, an organization founded on October 29, 1895 by Anne Martin, the most prominent Nevada suffragist. Attempts at suffrage had been made before 1895, with little success. In 1887, the legislature voted to strike out the word "male" from the Nevada state constitution. The resolution lost with a 7 to 13 vote. A similar resolution was also defeated in 1889. In the wake of these defeats, the Nevada State Equal Suffrage Association, which originated in Reno, came into existence. Frances Williamson was the first president of this organization. The association fought for equal suffrage by implementing "petition and legislative work, distribution of literature, lectures, parlor talks, canvass, and the establishment of the 'Nevada Citizen.'" Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Mabel Vernon and other national suffragists sponsored the NSESA. It received funding from Alva Belmont, who was a prominent donor to nation-wide suffrage movements.

In the state of Nevada, suffragist Anne Martin employed professional women who had been involved in the public sphere. One of these women was Mary Henry, who was working as a schoolteacher while involved in suffrage work. Henry was politically active in organizing for the cause in the cities of Sparks, Verdi and Wadsworth, which were all located in Washoe county, with newspaper references to her suffrage work predominately in the period 1912-1916. These meetings helped rally support and spread the message about suffrage for women throughout the state. Although suffrage was passed in Nevada in 1914, Washoe County, home of Henry, did not vote for it. Although not certain, Mary Henry may have been part of the St. Agnes Society, a women's organization connected to the Catholic church, as well as the Nevada Civic League. Henry died in 1942 at the age of 85 and she is buried at Our Mother of Sorrows Cemetery in Reno.

Sources:

1. Emerson Marcus, 'An Epic in Politics,' Reno Gazette Journal, 2014

2. Frankie Hurston and Barbara Straus Reed, Outsiders in 19th Century Press History: Multicultural Perspective, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1995

3. Gather in Great Numbers to Attend Teachers Institute, Carson City Daily Appeal, 1913

4. Jane Addams, et al., Women of the Suffrage Movement: Memoirs & Biographies of the Most Influential Suffragettes, Madison and Adams Press, 2018

5. Mary Ann Henry, Ancestry.com, https://search.ancestryclassroom.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?_phsrc=TNa30&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&qh=yM4mE/TUbLLx0FPJM8DZ/A%3D%3D&gss=angs-g&new=1&rank=1&msT=1&gsfn=Mary%20Ann&gsfn_x=0&gsln=Henry&gsln_x=0&msbdy=1857&catbucket=rstp&MSAV=0&pcat=ROOT_CATEGORY&h=17007&dbid=60974&indiv=1&queryId=576cad68c16ab07f3acdb9663c1433bc&ml_rpos=4

6. Mary Ann Henry, Find A Grave https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/189507984/mary-ann-henry

7. Rachel Foster Avery, Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, NAWSA, 1898

8. Sam P. Davis, The History of Nevada, Elms Publishing Company, 1918

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