Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary R. (Mae) Patterson, 1862-1914

by Kate Byars, student, University of Kentucky

Mary R. Barton, also known as Mae, was born on August 3, 1862 to Scottish immigrants Jacob B. Barton and Hellen Methum Barton in Sublette, Illinois. Barton had a fondness for music from a young age. As a young adult she was the organist at the Congregational Church in Sublette. She also worked as a music teacher in the public and private schools in the area. Later, she attended Berea College and was employed in the public schools of Berea and Pine Grove, Kentucky. She married George M. Patterson on May 20, 1885. George Patterson had attended Berea College as well. The couple made their home in Lancaster, Kentucky in Garrard County in 1893. In Lancaster, George Patterson worked as a local station agent for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company for many years. The Pattersons had one child, Grace Helen Patterson.

Patterson was highly involved in the Lancaster Methodist Church, including its Woman's Missionary Society. She was an active member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) as well. In 1897 Patterson served as the corresponding secretary for the local WCTU. That same year she read a paper entitled, "The Day We Commemorate," at the WCTU annual district convention in Stanford, Kentucky. Patterson also served as the WCTU district president in 1900 and was elected president of the Lancaster WCTU in 1898 and again in 1903. She was appointed Superintendent of Literature and Railroad in 1904.

Patterson's association with the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) began in 1889 when she was named chair of the Advancement of Women's Work in the Public Schools department. She was elected the Recording Secretary of KERA in 1891 and in 1892 she became KERA's Superintendent of Educational Opportunities for Women. As long as Patterson lived in Berea, she was listed in annual KERA minutes as a "state member," unaffiliated with any local suffrage club. She moved to Lancaster around 1897, and soon after a Lancaster Equal Rights Association began meeting, and she became a founding member. Patterson served as Treasurer of the Lancaster ERA from 1901 to 1905. Due to her active presence in the community, Laura Clay called on her to lead the KERA membership petition drive in 1908 for Lancaster and Garrard County, although it appears that Patterson never responded to Clay's request.

Patterson's suffrage work ended, likely because she was in poor health. She died at age 52 on April 26, 1914 in Lancaster after a lengthy illness. Following her death the Woman's Missionary Society of the Lancaster Methodist Church published a memorial in the Lancaster Central Record describing her as having lived, "a sincere, beautiful Christian life, loving her God, her church, her friends, and her family, leaving us the example of a strong faith and beautiful patience." She was buried in Lancaster Cemetery and was joined there by her husband in 1922.


Mary R Patterson in Kentucky, Death Records, 1852-1965.

Mary R. Barton and Hellen Methum Barton in the 1880 United States Federal Census.

Mary R. Patterson in the U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current.

Mary Rachel Barton in the U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900.

George M. Patterson in the 1910 United States Federal Census.

Geo M Patterson in the 1900 United States Federal Census.

William Eleazar Barton, Lieutenant William Barton of Morris County, New Jersey and His Descendants. Oak Press, IL: Vaile Press, 1900.

KERA Minutes, University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.

Laura Clay to Mrs. Mae R. Patterson, January 7, 1908, University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center, Laura Clay Papers, box 7, folder 23.

The Madisonian (Richmond):
"In Kentucky," May 5, 1914.

Stanford Interior Journal:
"Mt. Vernon," June 15, 1897.
"Hustonville," June 4, 1897.

Mount Vernon Signal:
"Personal," May 11, 1900.

Kentucky Advocate (Danville):
"W.C.T.U. Convention," May 13, 1898.

The Lancaster Central Record:
"W.C.T.U.," October 21, 1904.
"News of the Churches," May 7, 1914.
"Patterson," April 30, 1914.

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