Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Maude May Babcock, 1867-1954
By Dr. Kathryn Mackay, Professor of History and Public History Program Director, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah.
Professor, writer, and theater manager.
Dean of Physical Education and Expression.
Trustee of Brigham Young University.
Board member and president, Utah School for the Deaf and Blind.
President, National Communication Association.
Maude May Babcock was born in East Worchester, New York, and was recruited by Susa Young Gates to come to Utah. Within a few months, Babcock joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The two women had met at a 1891 summer program at Harvard. The next year, the University of Utah added Babcock to the faculty to teach "physical culture" and elocution. She went on to establish the departments of Physical Education and of Speech.
Babcock earned a B.A. from Welles College in 1884 and a B.E. from the Philadelphia National School of Oratory in1886. She attended Harvard University, 1890-92, and earned a diploma from the American Academy of Dramatic Art in 1890. She studied in London and Paris and at the University of Chicago in 1901.
In the 1914 edition of Woman's Who's Who of America, editor John William Leonard noted that Babcock favored woman suffrage. However, she was involved less in politics than she was in church, professional, and community activities. She offered many programs of songs, speeches, and physical demonstrations at meetings and conferences of the LDS women's auxiliary, the Relief Society. She served for many years on the general board of the Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Association, an organization run by the LDS church.
During the course of her lifetime, Babcock produced and directed over 300 plays, including Eleusinia, the first play produced by a university in the United States. She was the driving force behind the Social Hall, the first university-subsidized professional theater in the United States. She authored several books on oral expression, including handbooks for teachers. She also contributed a chapter on physical education to What Every Woman Should Know written by Hannah Sorensen, a prominent trainer of midwives (SLC: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1896). Babcock was the first woman given full professorship at the University of Utah. She retired in 1928 and was awarded an honorary doctorate from that institution in 1939.
Babcock was the guest director for the Washington Square and Provincetown Players in 1916 and conducted the first university Little Theatre west of the Mississippi in 1917. She served as manager for many theatrical companies performing in the intermountain region.
In 1936, Babcock became the second female president of what would become the National Communication Association; she was then 69 years old. She had joined the organization in 1917 and had previously served as the second vice president.
Active in Utah community affairs, Babcock served for two decades on the board of the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, including twelve as president, thus being the first woman to preside over the trustees of a state institution. She was also the first woman to hold the position of chaplain of the Utah Senate, probably the first woman in any state to do so.
Arrington, Harriett Horne. "Babcock, Maud May (1867-1954)." Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. https://www.encyclopedia.com/women/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/babcock-maud-may-1867-1954. Accessed 5 August 2019.
McKaughan, Jodie Grace. "Maud May Babcock, a Woman Before Her Time," NCA 100th Anniversary. National Communication Association, https://www.natcom.org/communication-currents/nca-100th-anniversary-maud-may-babcock-woman-her-time. Accessed 5 August 2019.
Leonard, John William, Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1915. New York: American Commonwealth Company, Vol. 1: 63. [LINK]
Pace, David G. Pace, "Maud May Babcock: Speak Clearly and Carry a Big Umbrella," Worth Their Salt: Notable But Often Unnoted Women of Utah, edited by Colleen Whitley. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1996.
Price, Raye. "Utah's Leading Ladies of the Arts," Utah Historical Quarterly. Volume 38, no. 1. (Winter 1970): 77-82.
Woman's Exponent, 1892-10-01.