Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mattie Cecilia McGregor, 1869-1915
By Tamara Bunnell, independent historian
Mattie McGregor was born in Hamilton, Missouri in 1869 or 1870 to Thomas Williams and Charlotte Hoag Williams. She lost her mother at a young age, and by age 11 was listed in the 1880 federal census as a servant. Not long after, she moved to Colorado, where her older sister Hattie married a man named Walter H. Bennett. Hattie and Walter were divorced, and Mattie married the same Walter in 1884. Mattie and Walter had two children together, Harry and Ida Adele (also referred to as Adelia, Adella, and Della). Though it is unclear when her first marriage ended and her second began, by 1890 Mattie was residing with her second husband, Henry "H.J." McGregor, in Port Angeles, Washington. The couple then moved to Tacoma, Washington where they resided until their deaths. In addition to Mattie's children from her first marriage, Mattie and Henry had two children together, sons Herbert and Lester. Her first son Harry died tragically in 1914 in Centralia, Washington, reportedly while jumping from a train.
The McGregors quickly established themselves among the notable families of the area. H.J. served as a general contractor, businessman, and the Commissioner of Public Works of Tacoma, and both H.J. and Mattie were involved in numerous causes and civic organizations. Mattie was a member of the Missouri Women's Club, the Daughters of Isis, the Monday Civic Club, and the Taft Club. She was also involved with the Humane Society at both the local and state levels. She served as a trustee for the Tacoma chapter and was twice elected to the position of Treasurer at the state level.
Mattie was a fierce advocate for women. She was a member of the National Council of Women Voters and was involved with the 1910 campaign for Washington Suffrage, where she served as Auditor. On one occasion, she was noted as part of a small group to greet Emma Smith Devoe on a visit to Seattle, though it is likely their paths crossed regularly given their involvement with the cause and their concurrent residence in Tacoma. Mattie once spoke on the topic of "Answers to Suffragette Questions" at a meeting of the North End Suffrage association in Tacoma. Her advocacy extended to other circles, too. For example, at a 1913 meeting of the Tacoma Civic Club, featured speaker Police Commissioner Mills "bore down pretty hard on the mothers" while discussing what women could do to assist in social welfare. When it was noted that only a few minutes in the program remained, Mattie took charge, saying, "You have said quite enough about the mothers. Now supposing you take that two minutes to tell the shortcomings of the fathers."
Mattie died on March 4, 1915 of uremic poisoning in Tacoma, after a protracted illness. She was 45 years old.
1890, 1900, 1910 Census Records
"State Humane Society Organizes in Tacoma," Seattle Daily Times, November 11, 1909
"Heads Humane Society," Seattle Sunday Times, November 12, 1911
"Monster Crowd of 7, SEVEN Greets Mrs. Devoe in Seattle," Tacoma Times, January 27, 1911
"Taft Club Organized by Tacoma Women," Seattle Daily Times, April 5, 1912
"Women Talk with City," Tacoma Times, March 4, 1913
"Train Kills Tacoma Youth," Tacoma Times, March 3, 1914
"Local Death Record," Tacoma Daily Ledger, March 5, 1915