Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Mary Pleasant Jones, 1872-1938
By Debra Bloom, Walker Local and Family History Center Manager, Richland Library, Columbia, S.C.
The well-to-do household of Anne and Henry Eugene Jones included six children: George, H. E. Jr., Annie, Mary, Martha and Elizabeth. Jones, a prominent Nashville attorney, offered his children a high standard of living and progressive educational opportunities. The oldest daughter, Mary Pleasant Jones, a Peabody College for Teachers graduate, harbored the dreams of many educated nineteenth-century women to become a twentieth-century professional woman. As she pursued her career opportunities Mary joined Nashville's growing suffrage movement.
Mary Jones set her career goals in the field of education and, ambitiously, sought an open seat for Tennessee State Librarian in 1900. Ultimately, she lost the election and returned to Peabody College as the head of the Primary Department where she taught primary method classes to future teachers. In 1912, she made another career move and received an appointment as secretary to the Nashville YWCA. Jones received noteworthy promotions during her career at the YWCA including positions as the Director of the Employment Division and the Industrial Division. She retired from the YWCA around 1935.
A turning point for Mary began when the National American Woman Suffrage Association held their national convention in Nashville, November 1914. The convention brought suffrage dignitaries like Carrie Chapman Catt, Jane Addams and Anna Howard Shaw to the Nashville scene. Held at the Ryman Auditorium, the convention was well received with front-page newspaper headlines every day. Momentum from the convention inspired Nashville suffragists to form new voting rights organizations including Mary Pleasant Jones.
Motivated by her increased interest in the suffrage movement Jones formed the Business Women's Equal Suffrage League. Noted Nashville writer and suffragist, Ida Clyde Clarke, was elected its first president. The Business Women's Equal Suffrage League started with a membership of 40. By 1915 membership swelled to 600 members and Mary Pleasant Jones was elected vice-president. Also an accomplished speaker, Jones lectured as a league representative to local women's groups advocating women's right to full citizenship. The league published her speeches in the association's promotional material.
Following her retirement, Jones lived with her sister, Dr. Martha Richardson Jones (1884-1974), in San Francisco (Dr. Jones, an accomplished medical researcher, famously discovered that unbalanced diets were the cause of gum disease and dental decay). Mary Pleasant Jones died September 14, 1938 in California. She is buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery family plot in Nashville, Tennessee.
"Society," 25 Oct 1890.
"Resolution to instruct," 28 Sep 1900.
"Race for Librarian," 06 Dec 1900.
"Three days meet school teachers," April 12, 1911.
"Local YWCA board hears good reports," 01 Aug 1912.
"Miss Mary P. Jones" (obituary), 16 Sep 1938.
Knoxville Sentinel, "South's sentiment for women's ballot growing stronger", 10 Dec 1915.
Asbury Journal, "From the Archives: Of Children's Teeth and Missions: The Papers of Martha R. Jones", v. 74 no. 1, pp. 183-188.
Vanderbilt University Special Collections, Garnet and Blue 1902.
Tennessee Encyclopedia, Women Suffrage Movement.