Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Margaret Cheston Thomas Carey, 1869-1945
by Nicole Heaton, independent historian
Margaret Thomas Carey was born in Baltimore, MD on March 13, 1869. Her parents, Mary Whitall (of Philadelphia) and James Carey Thomas (of Baltimore), were devout Quakers. James was a physician and served on the boards of Bryn Mawr College and Johns Hopkins University. Mary helped to found the Baltimore Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) and served as president of Maryland's branch of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.
Margaret Thomas Carey left Baltimore to attend Bryn Mawr College. During her last year as a student, her mother died. She returned to Baltimore after graduating in 1889 and remained a resident of the city for the rest of her life. Her sister, M. Carey Thomas, became president of Bryn Mawr in 1894, a position she held for twenty-eight years.
In 1893, she married her second cousin, Anthony Morris Carey. He worked for Carey Machinery and Supply Co., eventually rising to the level of president. They had six children together.
Following in her parents' footsteps, Margaret Thomas Carey was deeply religious and became an active participant in her community. She was a Quaker minister and was active in the Baltimore Friends' Meeting. She was involved in such issues as women's rights, racial segregation, and the peace movement. She was active with a variety of organizations, held meetings in her own home, and would drive to Washington D.C. to interview legislators or attend hearings. Carey also served for many years on the Board of Managers and as Treasurer of the Bryn Mawr School for Girls in Baltimore.
In 1894, Margaret Thomas Carey began serving on the Board of Directors of the Baltimore YWCA. She remained active with the organization for 46 years, until 1940. During her time with the organization, she would see it transition from a space for white women only to one integrated with the Colored Women's YWCA. The two organizations merged in 1920. For a document project on the Women and Social Movements website that focuses on race issues in the Baltimore YWCA in these years, click here.
Also in 1894, Margaret Thomas Carey helped found The College Club (more commonly known as the Baltimore branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, which became the American Association of University Women in 1921). It was a space for women with college backgrounds to gather and exchange ideas, with a focus on women's rights. It supported the women's suffrage movement, as well as raised money for undergraduate scholarships and to help fund graduate work for women.
Margaret Thomas Carey was a member of the Woman's Peace Party, formed in 1915 for women to advocate for an end to war and promote pacifist ideas. In 1916, a committee was created to consider resolutions before their presentation to the organization. Margaret Thomas Carey served as a member of this committee.
Carey was active in the Equal Suffrage League of Baltimore and served on its board of directors, though the single reference to her activity in The History of Woman Suffrage, volume 6, provided no details. There is record of a statement submitted to Congressional hearings in 1918 before the Committee on Woman Suffrage. Margaret Thomas Carey wrote to "add my name to that of the many other women in Maryland who wish your committee to report the woman-suffrage amendment favorably."
Margaret Thomas Carey was active with the United Democratic Law Enforcement Clubs of Maryland. They held an annual convention in Baltimore in late October. Carey was listed as a member of the advisory committee in 1927, treasurer in 1929, and a member of the planning committee in 1930.
Margaret Thomas Carey's activism extended also to the Civil Liberties League, where she served as president for some time, the League of Women Voters, and the Humane Society. She also worked alongside Lillie Carroll Jackson, a civil rights activist and organizer of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP, in the fight against racial segregation and in condemnation of lynchings that occurred in Maryland in the 1930s. There is a room dedicated to Margaret Thomas Carey, her life and work, at the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum in Baltimore.
According to the museum website:
"She described herself as a serious, conscientious child, rather shy, happy in her family, and adoring her beautiful mother and remarkable father who were unusual in the depth of their religious interest."
Margaret Thomas Carey died in Baltimore on May 12, 1945, at the age of 76.
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