Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Maria L. Benedict, 1840-1922

By Prudence Doherty, Silver Special Collections, University of Vermont, Burlington

Burlington (VT) Equal Suffrage Association, secretary; National American Women Suffrage Association, annual convention delegate

On November 2, 1920, the League of Women Voters hosted a dinner to celebrate full suffrage for sixty-five women at a hotel in Burlington, Vermont. The menu included an election cake for dessert, and the guests received election returns by wire in the hotel parlors. One guest of honor was Maria L. Tuttle Benedict, the oldest suffragist present, who cast her first presidential ballot earlier that day.

Maria L. Tuttle was born to John E. and Jane Tuttle in Ohio on November 19, 1840. The family moved to Salem, Wisconsin, in 1846. Maria Tuttle married Dr. John H. Benedict in 1860, and daughter Lucy Grace was born in 1861. The Benedicts relocated to Danbury, Connecticut, where daughter Jessie, was born 1868. By 1880, Maria Benedict was divorced, and she and her daughters lived in Burlington, Vermont, with her cousin, Albert C. Tuttle, a successful businessman. Lucy Benedict Henderson died in 1896. Albert Tuttle died in 1904 and left a substantial inheritance to Maria Benedict and her daughter, Jessie.

Maria Benedict's active involvement in the suffrage movement dates from at least 1897, when she was one of a small group of prominent women who established the Burlington Equal Suffrage Association. Most of the women were already members of the statewide organization, the Vermont Woman Suffrage Association. Benedict was appointed secretary.

In 1910, Maria Benedict was the Vermont delegate to the annual convention of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in Washington, D.C. After the convention, she submitted a lengthy day-by-day report to the editor of the Burlington Free Press to ensure wide distribution. Describing the first day's presentations, she praised the convention for proceeding "rapidly with keen, clear-cut and decisive movement." She listed the talks she found most valuable, ranging from "Why Women Should Have the Suffrage" by Oklahoma Senator Robert Latham Owen to a presentation on industrial problems and conditions affecting women by Rose Schneiderman and Margaret Dreier Robbins of Chicago. Maria Benedict was impressed with the "aggressive and militant spirit" of NAWSA President Carrie Chapman Catt's speech and shared Catt's opinion that it was "time to abandon drawing-room and pink tea methods" and instead work to elect candidates who supported woman suffrage. The report included detailed accounts of the day when petitions calling for a constitutional amendment allowing women to vote were presented to Congress. Benedict assured readers that both Vermont senators were willing to present the petitions signed by Vermont men and women.

In her article, Maria Benedict described the convention's daily open-air meetings where women delivered short speeches to large, mostly male, audiences. She used the example of these speeches to capture the "spirit of the convention," and she also used it as an opportunity to express her thoughts on the significance of the suffrage movement. She wrote: The equal suffrage cause reaches out into the great political and humanitarian movements of the day. The world is moving in its evolution rapidly, and the desire for equal rights in opportunity and justice is equally strong among the toilers, the thinkers and the professions. The tendency and drift is away from the old autocratic and aristocratic machinery that enslaves men and their consciences fast in its snare, and the new day of independent thinking and action is at hand."

Maria Benedict was one of thirty-seven women who met in 1912 to organize the Burlington Equal Franchise League. At the 1915 annual meeting of the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association (VESA), Benedict was again chosen to represent Vermont at the NAWSA convention. She attended the 1916 convention in Atlantic City with Dr. Grace Sherwood, VESA president.

In her later years, Maria Benedict lived with her daughter Jessie and son-in-law James H. Middlebrook. Jessie Middlebrook shared her mother's commitment to woman suffrage, and in 1919 Middlebrook traveled to St. Louis as Vermont's delegate to the NAWSA convention. She was a candidate for presidential elector in 1920, and she served as an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1924. Middlebrook was active in local politics.

Maria L. Tuttle Benedict died on February 20, 1922, at her daughter's home in Burlington, Vermont. She was buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Burlington.


Benedict, Maria. "Equal Suffrage Convention," Burlington (VT) Free Press, April 30, 1910, p. 5.

"Capt. John E. Tuttle." In The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin, p.735. Chicago: Western Historical Society, 1897. University of Wisconsin Digital Collections, State of Wisconsin Collection.

"Capt. John Tuttle Dead." Kenosha (WI) News. February 4, 1895, p.2.

"City Notes." Burlington (VT) Clipper. January 1, 1898, p. 1.

"Death of A.C. Tuttle." Burlington Free Press, February 26, 1904, p.8.

"Democrats Plan Campaign and Adopt Platform in Convention." Swanton (VT) Courier. September 23, 1920, p.1.

"Equal Franchise League." Burlington Free Press. October 3, 1916, p.8.

"Equal Franchise. " Burlington Free Press. July 12, 1912, p.8.

"Equal Suffrage Association." Burlington Free Press. December 29, 1897, p. 6.

Find a Grave. Maria Tuttle Benedict. Posted March 22, 2016.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. "Vermont," chapter 44 in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pp.667-80. [LINK]

"Jubilee Convention in St. Louis Next Week." Burlington Free Press. March 22, 1919, p. 12.

"Mrs. Maria L. Benedict." Burlington Free Press. February 21, 1922, p. 7.

Vermont Death Records, 1909-2008. Maria L. Benedict, Burlington, February 20, 1922. Ancestry Library.

"Vermont Democrats to Convene June 5." Rutland (VT) Daily Herald. April 9, 1924, p.10.

Vermont, Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999. Alfred C. Tuttle, Chittenden, 1904. Ancestry Library.

"Vermont's Delegates to St. Louis." St. Albans (VT) Weekly Messenger. April 3, 1919, p.2.

United States Census, 1850, s.v. "Maria Tuttle, Salem, Kenosha, WI." Ancestry Library.

United States Census, 1870, s.v. "Maria Benedict, Danbury, Fairfield, CT." Ancestry Library.

United States Census, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, s.v. "Maria Benedict, Burlington, Chittenden, VT." Ancestry Library.

"Women at Dinner." Burlington Free Press. November 3, 1920, p. 7.

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