Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of May Ladd Simonson, 1870-1948

By Eleanor Raab, student, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut

May Ladd Sexton was born on May 20, 1870 in Staten Island, New York to William L. Sexton and Mary Ladd Sexton. In 1899, she married Charles Edgar Simonson, founder of the C.E. Simonson & Company real estate insurance firm. Together they had one child named Cortelyou William Ladd Simonson, born in 1902. She never attended college, but received at least some schooling.

Mrs. Simonson's earliest suffrage work was primarily on a local scale around Staten Island. She was a member of the Political Equality Club of Richmond County, which was founded in 1895 as an auxiliary to the New York State Woman Suffrage Association. By 1916, she was the secretary of the organization. In 1916, she was also a cast member in a pro-suffrage play put on by local Richmond suffragists.

By the end of 1916, she was the treasurer of the Richmond branch of the New York Woman Suffrage Party. She continued to increase her involvement in the Women Suffrage Party, and in February of 1917, was elected to the Board of Directors as the Director of the Richmond Borough. In March, she was appointed the vice-chairman of a committee tasked with recruiting women to national suffrage activism through smaller, local organizations. In May of the same year, Mrs. Simonson served on the War Service Committee of the party, which was in charge of making donations to the war effort on behalf of the Woman Suffrage Party.

After New York State suffrage was achieved in the fall of 1917, Mrs. Simonson remained a member of the Woman Suffrage Party of New York, which continued to campaign for suffrage on a national level. In January of 1919, she served as the director for the New York Women Suffrage Party. When national suffrage was won in late 1919, the Party transitioned into the New York League of Women Voters. During this transition, she served on the committee tasked with writing the organization's new constitution. She remained active in the League for many years, and in 1930 was appointed chairman of the Memorial Committee for New York State. In this position, she organized many of the celebrations for the 10-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment.

In addition to her suffrage work, Mrs. Simonson was politically active as a staunch supporter of Woodrow Wilson and World War I efforts. She was the President of a Support League during the war, which performed various services to aid the troops. In 1917, she lead the Staten Island Women's League for Service in a rally to organize women for war work; the league was designated the official unit for Richmond County of the Women's Committee of the National Council of Defense. Mrs. Simonson headed up another committee in 1918, whose stated purpose was to find work for elderly women and young girls in order to maximize war emergency work. She also served as the Richmond chairman of the National Woman's Liberty Loan committee in 1919. She, along with Carrie Chapman Catt, presided over a women's peace conference in 1927, which was sponsored by the Associated Press.

Most notably, she was the co-founder and secretary of the Woodrow Wilson foundation, which was established in 1922 in order to recognize the national and international services of President Woodrow Wilson. She toured the country promoting the foundation as well as trying to drum up support for the League of Nations. She served as secretary of the foundation until at least 1945.

May Ladd Simonson died on December 25, 1948, and is buried in Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island.


1."Clubs and Clubwomen," Brooklyn Life and Activities of Long Island Society. March 15, 1930, p. 10,

2."Form League Branch Here," The Lincoln Star. April 17, 1923, p. 1,

3. Genealogies of the State of New York: Long Island Edition. Vol. 2. Compiled by Tunis Garret Bergen. p. 599.

4."Mary Ladd Anderson Simonson Gravesite Location,"

5."Suffrage Play," Staten Island Historical Society. May 20, 1916.

6."Want Hospitals to Join Protest Against Garbage," Perth Amboy Evening News. June 26, 1918, p. 3.

7."Wilson Eulogized; Born 74 Years Ago," Times Union. December 29, 1930, p. 28.

8."With the Women Voters: Suffrage Party Changes Name," Times Union. May 9, 1919, p. 8.

9."Women Map Out Plan to Check Food Profiteers," New York Tribune. February 12, 1918, p. 9,

10."Women's Work: Topics of Interest," The Buffalo Times, July 6, 1919, p. 37.

11."Woodrow Wilson Foundation," The Buffalo Times. December 18, 1921, p. 43.

12. Woolston, Florence. The Woman Voter, vol. 7, no. 2. New York, New York: The Woman Suffrage Party of New York City. p. 22,

13. Woolston, Florence. The Woman Voter, vol. 7, no. 10. New York, New York: The Woman Suffrage Party of New York City. pp. 21,

14. Woolston, Florence. The Woman Voter, vol. 8, no. 2. New York, New York: The Woman Suffrage Party of New York City. p. 9,

15. Woolston, Florence. The Woman Voter, vol. 8, no. 4. New York, New York: The Woman Suffrage Party of New York City. p. 21,

16. Woolston, Florence. The Woman Voter, vol. 8, no. 5. New York, New York: The Woman Suffrage Party of New York City. p. 16,

17. Year Book of the New York State Federation of Women's Clubs. 1916. New York State Federation of Women's Clubs. Syracuse: Lyman Bros. Inc. Printers. p. 133.

18."1,000 Women Voters at Astor Luncheon," The Standard Union. December 14, 1919, p. 5,

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