Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary Harn Williams, 1855-1941

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University

Mary Harn Williams was born in Lawrence, Mass. In 1855, daughter of Alvin Williams, a Freewill Baptist minister and later s seminary principal and state Superintendent of Schools in West Virginia.

Mary attended the Cheshire Academy in Ohio and then West Virginia College, Nebraska State Normal School, and the University of Nebraska. She worked in a printing office in Nebraska, setting type on occasion for The Woman's Tribune, a suffrage newspaper, edited by Clara Bewick Colby. When the journal moved to Washington, DC, Williams accompanied it and did its printing. She also did work at the Government Printing Office in DC.

As early as 1884 she is recorded as living in the District of Columbia and having contributed $10 to the National Woman Suffrage Association. By 1894 she was the secretary of the Equal Suffrage Association in DC. In 1900 she returned to Kenesaw, NE, where she cared for her invalid mother. In Nebraska, she served as secretary of the State Equal Suffrage Association for 8 years, served as historian of the Association, and represented the state at annual meetings of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in that period. Census listings note her as a printer one year and a newspaper correspondent at another time. A 1916 biographical sketch said, "She is a practical newspaper woman . . . and says she has done everything about an office 'from inking the roller to writing editorials.'"

Mary never married. In 1900 she lived with her mother, Sarah Williams, in Kenesaw, Nebraska. In 1910-1930 she lived with her aunt, Ellen Harn, a teacher for forty years and also a suffragist. She died in Kenesaw, NE in January 1941


Federal Manuscript Censuses, 1900-1940 for Mary H. Williams. Accessed in Ancestry Library Edition.

Find-a-Grave death record for Mary H. Williams, Kenesaw, 1941.

Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922) [LINK]

National Woman Suffrage Association, Report of the Sixteenth Annual Washington Convention . . . 1884, p. 45

Harriet Taylor Upton, ed., Proceedings of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association . . . 1894, p. 56 has a district of Columbia report signed by Mary H. Williams as Secretary.

"Nebraska Woman's Suffrage," The Alliance (NE) Herald, 27 March 1913, p. 1.

Biographical Sketch of Mary Harn Williams in Ellen D. Harn, Manuscript of the Harn Family, 7 July 1996, unpaginated. Accessible online at

Biographical sketch of MHW in Winoma Evans Reeves, The Blue Book of Nebraska Women, 1916, p. 173, reprinted in the Find-a-Grave entry for MHW.

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