Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mary Latimer McLendon, 1840-1921
By Sheri F Cash, Ed.D., Paul M Dorman High School
Mother of Suffrage in Georgia
The younger sibling of Rebecca Latimer Felton, the first woman to serve in the US Senate, Mary Latimer McLendon was an officer in the prohibition and women's suffrage movements in Georgia. The daughter of Eleanor Swift and Charles Latimer, Mary Latimer was born in DeKalb County, Georgia in 1840. After graduating from the Southern Masonic Female College in Covington, she married Nicholas A. McLendon in 1860 and the couple relocated to Atlanta. Forced to leave in 1864 due to the Civil War, she and her family moved to Crawfordville, southeast of Atlanta. Following the war, McLendon became active in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and later founded the Atlanta chapter of the Georgia Woman Suffrage Association (GWSA) in 1894, serving as president for 18 years.
While attending the National WCTU convention in Atlanta during 1890, Mary McLendon was appointed as Superintendent of the Demorest Medal Contest for the Georgia chapters of WCTU. This position allowed her to promote temperance education in both public education and the public. Mary used the medal contest as a platform for temperance education reform. During her time, she pushed for the passage of a state law mandating school instruction regarding the debilitating effects of alcohol use. In 1907, Georgia's legislature approved a state prohibition amendment. Later, in 1918, Georgia supported federal prohibition, ratifying the Eighteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited the sale and production of "intoxicating liquors" across the country.
In 1894 Mary McLendon founded the second local woman suffrage organization to be established in Georgia, the Atlanta chapter of the Georgia Woman Suffrage Association (GWSA). By 1896 McLendon was president of the chapter, serving two terms, first until 1899 then from 1906 until her death in 1921. Mary thought that the female vote would support reform programs to abolish child labor, institute compulsory school attendance, and mandate the hiring of female guards for the state's female prisoners. Initially, Mary supported suffrage at the state constitutional level though eventually came to realize that female enfranchisement would have to originate from the federal level. As the president of her GWSA chapter, Mary began writing a series of articles in 1913 supporting suffrage and other reforms.
Success came in 1919 as Atlanta permitted municipal woman suffrage and the U.S. Congress approved the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. McLendon spent the last year of her life working to ensure that the state of Georgia recognized women's right to vote. Mary McLendon died November 20, 1921. She was survived by her daughter, Nellie Henderson, and a grandson. Two years after her death, the GWSA and Georgia Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) placed a marble fountain bearing her likeness in the state capitol; the inscription recognizes her as the "Mother of Suffrage in Georgia."
(1970, June 24). Mary Latimer McLendon. Retrieved from https://www.todayingeorgiahistory.org/content/mary-latimer-mclendon
Chirhart, A.S., & Wood, B. (2009). Georgia Women. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=5SDJAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA254&lpg=PA254&dq=Mary+McLendon+had+founded+the+Georgia+WCTU+Frances+Willard+chapter&source=bl&ots=hopmk-lwmD&sig=ACfU3U3ljpGYdGo0jwHV0jUu9--AU28DtA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiTleiz_cvkAhUGi6wKHY2gBZ0Q6AEwA3oECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=Mary McLendon had founded the Georgia WCTU Frances Willard chapter&f=false
Pullen , A. E. (n.d.). Mary Latimer McLendon (1840-1921). Retrieved from https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/mary-latimer-mclendon-1840-1921