Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mary T. Gamage, 1854-1942
By Dana Hughes, PhD student, History Department, UC Santa Barbara
President of the San Francisco Equal Suffrage League; Treasurer of the California Equal Suffrage League.
Mary Teresa Gamage was born 25 December 1854 to Samuel C. Harding, founder of a prominent law and collection agency in San Francisco, and Mary Margaret Gibson Harris Harding, a philanthropist who was a life board member of the Ladies' Protection and Relief Society. Through club activities and speechmaking, she encouraged a moderate approach to women's suffrage, and promoted such issues as sanitation in women's workplaces and women's organizing around their purchasing power.
In 1875, Mary Teresa Harding married John Steel McLain Gamage, superintendent of the Pacific Box Company of San Francisco, with whom she had two sons. The 1880 U.S. census listed her as divorced. The San Francisco Equal Suffrage League, a combination of multiple local suffrage clubs founded by Lillian Harris Coffin in 1906, elected Gamage as their president. By this time, Gamage was well known as a clubwoman in the San Francisco area. In addition, she was the treasurer of the California Equal Suffrage League. In these capacities, Gamage was active in organizing committees to investigate political conditions, giving speeches, and arranging receptions among, other duties. She also was involved in League initiatives that dealt with issues facing lower-class San Francisco women, at one point serving on a sanitation committee to oversee factories, laundries and other places women worked in the twelfth sanitary district.
After the passing of women's suffrage in California in 1911, Gamage continued to be involved in the movement for nationwide women's suffrage, continuing on as the treasurer of the California Equal Suffrage league. In 1912 she was appointed chairman of a California parade committee, in order to coordinate the California delegation to the annual New York suffrage parade. Gamage participated in both New York and Baltimore parades during this period. She was also involved in the effort of Nevada women to obtain suffrage, collecting donations from other California women, to aid in distributing literature. Gamage actively supported Woodrow Wilson in 1912 and 1916. In 1916 she spoke out to criticize the National Women's Party's opposition to Wilson as ultimately destructive to their goal, arguing that their tactics would alienate the voting public in the states that they hoped would ratify the 19th amendment.
Gamage was involved in a number of other women's clubs and spoke on behalf of social issues. A consumer advocate, Gamage addressed the Housewives' League in 1917, urging the housewives of San Francisco to organize to boycott grocers who charged unreasonable prices. In 1921 Gamage was listed as the president of the board of directors of San Francisco County Florence Crittenden Home, described as a rescue home. Like her mother, she was an active philanthropist, also becoming a life member of the San Francisco Ladies Protection and Relief Society.
Mary T. Gamage died January 27, 1942, in San Francisco, California.
California Grocers Advocate. United States: 1917.
"Equal Suffragists to Open Big Convention Here Today," San Francisco Call, Volume 108, Number 122, September 30, 1910. Accessed 3 August 2020.
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Journals of the Legislature of the State of California. United States: 1921.
Millard, Bailey. History of the San Francisco Bay Region: History and Biography. United States: American Historical Society, 1924.
"Nevada Suffragists Appeal to Sisters." Morning Union, August 23, 1913. Accessed 3 August 2020.
San Francisco Ladies Protection and Relief Society. Annual Reports. Bosqui and Company, United States: 1913.
"State Suffragists to Work Together," Sacramento Union, Volume 163, Number 7. January 7, 1912. Accessed 3 August 2020.
"State Women will March," San Francisco Call, Volume 111, Number 68. February 6, 1912. Accessed 3 August 2020.
"Twelve Ministers to Talk Suffrage," San Francisco Call, Volume 103, Number 87. February 25, 1908. Accessed 3 August 2020.
Wilson, Ann Marie; Irwin, Mary Ann; Cherny, Robert W. eds. California Women and Politics: From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression. United Kingdom: UNP Nebraska Press, 2011.
"Women Resent Effort of Women's Party to Prevent the Re-Election of Wilson," Blue Lake Advocate, Volume XXIX, Number 25. October 14, 1916. Accessed 3 August 2020.