Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mary E. Hughes, 1858-1938
By Amanda Hendrix-Komoto, Montana State University and Thomas Dublin
Mary E. Moore was born in February 1858 in Williamstown, New York, the daughter of Michael and Elizabeth Moore, immigrants from Canada and Ireland, respectively. She married John T. Hughes, probably around 1875, though no marriage record seems to have survived. In the 1880 census we find Mary Hughes, married, but with no husband present, living in Williamstown with daughters Julia and Lizzie, ages 3 and 1. The family moved to Butte in 1889. Butte city directories record her as residing in Butte between 1890 and 1923. The 1900 federal manuscript census finds Mary E Hughes, a widow and a dressmaker, living in Butte with her mother, Elizabeth Moore, daughters Julia and Elizabeth, and a lodger, David Rogers, at 647 Utah Avenue. Ten advertisements in Butte newspapers provide evidence of her dressmaking business in 1902 and then, by 1905, her shift to millinery at the same address. One ad offered the "latest Paris and American hats" at "50 percent lower than elsewhere."
By 1910, her mother had passed away and daughter Elizabeth had married Clarence Smith. The couple had a 7-year-old daughter, and Mary, recorded as a milliner, lived with them and was noted as the mother-in-law of Mr. Smith. Daughter Julia had married the lodger, David Rogers, and the couple also lived in Butte in 1910 with two children, 7 and 5. Mary continued to operate her millinery store in Butte in 1920, but lived at this date with her widowed daughter, Julia, and two grandchildren. In 1930 Mary continued to reside at 647 Utah Ave. in Butte, the same house that was noted as her residence in the 1900 census and where she had operated her millinery shop. Daughter Julia and two grandchildren lived with her. Julia owned the house, valued at $4,000. Julia, who had been recorded as a bookkeeper in two earlier censuses, was now listed as doing clerical work and her two children were employed as well. Finally, we find Julia living in this house in 1940, with a married son but without her mother Mary.
The full census record for Mary Hughes and her family is not matched by as robust information about her suffrage activities. Still, the Butte Miner reported that she participated in a suffrage convention as early as September 1902, where she described the work of a committee to investigate the treatment of women and children in the judicial system. In addition, a reference in the History of Woman Suffrage, volume 6, tells us that Mrs. M.E. Hughes was "especially active in the [1914 suffrage] campaign" that gave Montana women the vote. Two years later Montana voters - male and female - sent Jeannette Rankin to Washington, D.C., the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.
Mary Hughes was also active in Catholic Church affairs, including the St. Joseph's Ladies' Aid Society and the League of Catholic Women. The latter sought to promote moral reform and to encourage people to avoid, in the words of the Anaconda Standard in February 1920 "indecency of dress, immoral dances and suggestive posters and other forms of suggestiveness."
Mary E. Hughes died 17 September, 1938 in her long-time residence at 647 Utah Avenue in Butte. What is striking about the life of Mary E. Hughes is the importance of family connections. In 1900 her widowed mother lived with her. In 1910 she lived with one married daughter; from 1920 to 1938, with the other. Her sister, Delia Moore Peets, was also involved in Butte social movements, including woman suffrage. See her biographical sketch, also in this database. Delia was active in the Knights of Labor, in both New York and Montana. She helped found and served briefly as the president of the Butte Women's Protective Union in the 1890s. In 1919-1920 she served as president of the Butte Consumers' League. Whether sister Mary ever joined her in these labor-oriented causes is uncertain.
Emmons, David. "Immigrant Workers and Industrial Hazards: The Irish Miners of Butte, 1880-1919." Journal of American Ethnic History Vol. 5, No. 1 (Fall 1985): 41-64. Accessed via JSTOR.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds., History of Women's Suffrage. Vol. VI, [LINK]
Federal manuscript censuses for Butte, Montana, 1880, 1900-1940, accessed through HeritageQuest.com.
"We Receive a New Consignment," advertisement in The Butte Miner, 12 November 1905, p. 12. Additional ads, 1902-1905. Accessed via Newspapers.com.
"Catholic Women Ask for Reforms," The Anaconda Standard, February 24, 1920, pg. 5. Accessed via Newspapers.com.
"A Washington Tea," The Butte Daily Post, February 24, 1912, pg. 5. Accessed via Newspapers.com.
"For Suffrage Convention," Butte Miner, September 10, 1902), pg. 9. Accessed via Newspapers.com.
"Funeral Notices," Butter Miner, June 29, 1908, pg. 6. Accessed via Newspapers.com.
"Millinery," Butte Miner, March 3, 1903, pg. 15. Accessed via Newspapers.com.
"Prominent Early-Day Butte Resident dies After Brief Illness," Montana Standard, September 18, 1938. Accessed via Newspapers.com
"The Montana Suffrage Story," accessed online at http://montanawomenshistory.org/suffrage/.
Montana, County Marriage Records, 1865-1993. Birth records for Julia and Bessie (Elizabeth) identify John T. Hughes as husband of Mary E. Hughes. Ancestry Library Edition.
Montana, State Deaths, 1906-2016. Death record for Mary E. Hughes. Ancestry Library Edition.
Montana Death Records, 1906-2016. Death record for Elizabeth Moore. Ancestry Library Edition.
Queen, Anyssa. "Delia Peets: A Montana Suffragist," University of Montana Conference on Undergraduate Research. April 17, 2019. Accessed via https://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2181&context=umcur.