Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mary Elizabeth Smith Pyper, 1874-1955
By Elliot Earnest, student, University of Puget Sound
Mother, Wife, Politician, Social Activist
Mary Elizabeth Smith was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 20, 1874 to parents William Simmons Smith and Margaret Rebecca Bird. They were both social trailblazers in their own way, immigrants who had successfully established themselves in the United States. No records of Mary's childhood or adolescence are available so little is known about her life until her marriage in 1898.
She married Brigham Tullidge Pyper and was subsequently known as Mrs. B. T. Pyper. On May 5, 1900, two years after their joyous union, Mrs. Pyper gave birth to the couple's only child, a daughter named Lucile Pyper. Similar to her mother, Lucile was also born and raised in Salt Lake City. In 1910 the Pypers relocated from their family home in Precinct 5 to a new residence in Salt Lake City's 1st Ward. She and her husband became diligent owners of a successful auto painting business, where her husband did most of the work
Mary Elizabeth made a long-term commitment to woman suffrage. In 1900 she was among the vice-presidents of the Council of Women, established to help spread women's suffrage in the West after Utah women secured the vote. In 1915 Mrs. Pyper became president of the Women's Democratic Club of Salt Lake City. The next year she achieved another notable career accomplishment when she was appointed to be Secretary of the Democratic Women of the First Ward in 1916. That same year she served as a Utah delegate to the Democratic National Convention. She further proved her commitment to societal improvement in 1919 when she was appointed to the Commission for the Adult Blind, which provided services and assistance to individuals with visual impairments.
Three years after this in 1922, Mrs. B. T. Pyper traded one virtuous undertaking for another when she announced her candidacy as a Democrat for the position of County Recorder in a show of dedication to her fellow women receiving equal rights. Following her election, little else is publicly known about Mrs. B. T. Pyper. The last available public record pertaining to her that predates her death was a headline from 1924 detailing her appointment as Chairman of the Veteran's Committee, once again demonstrating her impressive dedication to the service and betterment of society.
Mrs. B. T. Pyper's quest for justice and societal improvement ultimately came to an end in the city of her birth, when she passed away on September 9, 1955. She was interred in Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Adult Blind Commission 1919 - Utah Digital Newspaper https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=15048470&q=B.+T.+Pyper&sort=rel
The League of Women Voters - Women in Utah's History
President of Women's Democratic Club of Salt Lake 1915 - Salt Lake Tribune
Secretary of the Democratic Women of the First Ward 1916 - Salt Lake Tribune
Announces candidacy for County Recorder 1922 - Salt Lake Tribune
Veteran's Committee Chairman 1924 - Google
B. T. Pyper Family Tree - Family Search https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/timeline/KWVQ-HHV
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922) [LINK].