Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Emily Debs Mailloux, 1861-1932
By Isabelle Boone, undergraduate student, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Emma Debs, known as Emily, was born on September 16th, 1861*, in Indiana to French immigrants Jean Daniel and Marguerite Mari (Bettrich) Debs. Jean and Marguerite had six children: Marie, Louise, Eugene V., Eugenie, Emma (Emily), and Theodore. Jean Debs owned a textile mill and grocery/market in Terre Haute, where Emily worked as a clerk as a young woman. She married an electrical engineer by the name of Cyprien O'Dillon Mailloux on June 20th, 1883 in Indiana where they met. Starting around the turn of the 20th century, Cyprien and Emily lived the majority of their married life in New York City. Cyprien became a well- known and respected engineer, holding at least 11 patents in his lifetime.
Emily was an extremely well-connected activist, as her brother Eugene was one of the most significant American socialists of the 20th century. Eugene Debs's support for suffrage was demonstrated early in his life, when a club he was a member of refused to permit Susan B. Anthony to speak in 1879 because her ideas were too radical. Undeterred, Eugene secured a hall, orchestrated and hosted Anthony's visit, and met her personally. It seems likely that 18-year-old Emily, still living in the same household as her brother at the time, would have attended, and that this would have made a significant impression. Ultimately, Eugene Debs ran for president as a socialist candidate five times between 1900 and 1920 with one of his main platforms being support for women's enfranchisement. It is unclear whether Emily influenced Eugene to support the fight for women's suffrage or whether his interest in the cause influenced her, but there is no doubt that Emily supported suffrage in her later life as she participated in the New York City women's movement.
While records of her activism are sparse, Emily took a prominent position in the New York City suffrage parade on May 6, 1911. This was one of many annual marches that were organized in this period to encourage support for women's suffrage. With over 3,000 women marching and a crowd of 10,000 coming out in support, this was one of the largest marches at the time. Many of the most prominent women in the suffrage movement, including Reverend Anna Howard Shaw and Harriot Stanton Blatch, along with members of the multitude of women's rights organizations, turned out and banded together to support their common goal. To show her support of this movement and ideology, Emily took center stage, leading the whole parade and carrying the white flag of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association. While this is Mailloux's only recorded direct involvement in suffrage, her brother's work with the Socialist Party has been partially credited with women's enfranchisement in 1920. Correspondence in Eugene Debs's Papers at Indiana State University indicate that Emily remained active in the Socialist Party into the 1920s.
After continuing to live the majority of her adult life in New York City, Emily Debs Mailloux died from complications of myocarditis on July 16th, 1932, in Solebury Bucks, Pennsylvania.
*Emily's grave stone reported her birthdate as September 16, 1861. This is consistent with the 1870 census which lists her as (Emma Dobbs) as age 9 and with the 1880 census data, which lists her as 18. But her death certificate lists her birth date as September 16, 1867.
American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Member file for Mailloux, New York, January 26th, 1914, October 7th,
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia. "Eugene V. Debs." Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, 20 June 2017.
"C. O. Mailloux." C. O. Mailloux - Engineering and Technology History Wiki.
Chapter XXXI: New York. In History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920, edited by Ida Husted Harper. (New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922). pp. 440-489. [LINK to NY state report]
Historical New York Times: "Debs Still Puzzled by His Status Here." New York Times (1923-Current file): 11. Apr 23 1926. ProQuest. Web. 6 Feb. 2018.
"Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001." Ancestry, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.
"May 6, 1911: NYC Suffrage Parade Largely Exceeds Expectations." Feminist Majority
Foundation Blog. "Women's Rights." The Eugene V. Debs Foundation, Eugene V. Debs Foundation.
"1910 United States Federal Census." Ancestry, Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2006.
Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 22, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1046; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 1306; FHL microfilm: 1375059
"1920 United States Federal Census." Ancestry, Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010.
Year: 1920; Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 7, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1198; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 572