Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary C. Larkin

By Tarez Samra Graban, Associate Professor, Department of English, Florida State University

Brief Biographical Descriptors: American Suffrage; St. Catherine Welfare Association of Catholic Women; Consumers' League of the City of New York; Public School 17

Given the commonality of her name, definitive vital or census records for Mary C. Larkin of New York cannot be found. However, we do know that she was a member of a vibrant group of Catholic women who supported woman suffrage and played a major role in the New York suffrage victory in November 1917; and that she was, for a time, a teacher at Public School 17, 86 Bedfort St., New York City (The City Record).

Larkin's suffrage activity can best be traced to her involvement with the St. Catherine Welfare Association of Catholic Women, itself an important feature of the New York City campaign. The Association, named for St. Catherine of Siena, was organized by Miss Sara McPike, "executive secretary of the advertising department of a large corporation, and Miss Winifred Sullivan, a lawyer," and its aim was to: "better social and economic conditions for women and children and the extension of the suffrage to women as a means to this end" (History of Woman Suffrage, 487).

More specifically, the Association sought to "bring home to Catholic women an intelligent knowledge of conditions social and economic, to get them to work for better conditions, ... 'In order to secure the weapons to obtain these much needed reforms, our constructive program includes full citizenship for women'" ("Catholics Say Ballot Needed," 163). Larkin was cited as one of "countless members who helped unceasingly by writing" letters and leaflets for distribution throughout the state. She was likely one of the "500 [who] marched under the banner of the association in the last suffrage parade in New York in October, 1917" (488).

The St. Catherine Welfare Association also "endorsed the legislative program of the Consumers' League which says that, 'Women shall not work long hours; they shall not work at night; the sweated labor of the tenement must be abolished; minimum wage rates must be established and the speed of machines regulated by law'" ("Catholic Women Hold Big Suffrage Meeting," 286) (O'Dea).

It is implied that Larkin is one of the "large number of devout Catholic women and many eminent Catholic divines [who] are ardent suffragists" ("The Cardinal and the Suffragists," 8). This is significant in that the Association earned favor of Cardinal Gibbons, after a campaign of writing many letters and eventually making a pilgrimage to Baltimore to visit. "This visit to the Cardinal was one of the most important single endeavors of the Catholic women, and undoubtedly strengthened their position, for they said from that time the anti-suffragists had no new statements to quote from Cardinal Gibbons" ("Debt of Suffrage to Catholic Women," 11). It is very likely that Larkin was a member of the delegation that went to Baltimore to meet with the Cardinal.


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"Catholics Say Ballot Needed," The Woman's Journal, Vol. 44, No. 21 (24 May 1913), 163. Microfilm Reel #198, Schlesinger Library [GALE|IOIXFT828352897].

"Catholic Women Hold Big Suffrage Meeting," The Woman's Journal, Vol. 43, No. 36 (7 Sept. 1912), 286. Microfilm Reel #198, Schlesinger Library [GALE|PTDHOK076902414].

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Consumers' League of New York City. The Work of the Consumers' League of the City of New York, 1915. Allied Printing, 1916. Retrieved from

"Debt of Suffrage to Catholic Women: Review of the Work of the St. Catherine Welfare Association for Votes for Women." New York Times, 1917 (Nov. 19), p. 11. New York Times (1857-1922). Retrieved from

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Fragment Society. Souvenir Year Book, One Hundredth Anniversary of the Fragment Society (Sewing Circle). A. T. Bliss, 1916, p. 52. Microfilm Reel #891, No. 7369, Schlesinger Library [GALE|AWQWEQ886440753].

Gage, Matilda Joslyn, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ida Husted Harper. History of Woman Suffrage, 1900-1920, Vol. 6. [LINK]

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Municipal Services Administration. The City Record (Department of Education Supplement), Vol. 34, Jan. 1906. [Microform, HathiTrust, LCCN 53030023].

O'Dea, Suzanne, et al. From Suffrage to the Senate: America's Political Women: An Encyclopedia of Leaders, Causes & Issues. Grey House Publishing, 2006.

"The Cardinal and the Suffragists." National Suffrage News, Vol. 3, No. 2, Feb. 1917, p. 8. Microfilm Reel #243, New York Public Library [GALE|AEFTZY174643846].

Wyatt, Lucy. Women in Industry: A Bibliography. London, Women's Industrial Council, 1915, p. 128. Microfilm Reel #845, No. 6875, New York Public Library GALE|AWBGHO755055301].

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