Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary Scrugham, 1885-1965

By Heather M. Kuzma, Independent Scholar, Lexington, Kentucky

Mary Scrugham was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1885 to James and Theodotia (Allen) Scrugham. Scrugham graduated from Agricultural & Mechanical College of Kentucky (now University of Kentucky) in 1906. She went on to teach eighth grade at Johnson School in Lexington before continuing her education at Columbia University. In 1911, Scrugham received her master's degree, writing on "The Reconstruction in Kentucky." She returned to Lexington to teach high school at Morton High School before returning to New York upon appointment as a scholar in American History at Columbia in 1913. She received her PhD from the university in 1920. After attending Columbia, Scrugham spent the remainder of her life in Lexington aside from a short stay in Nevada during the 1920s where her brother, James Scrugham, was working as state engineer and later serving as governor.

Scrugham was a long supporter of the woman suffrage cause. During her time teaching, Scrugham introduced her students to the subject. While working at Morton High School Scrugham was an honorary member of the school's literary society. In 1912, a meeting of the society read a paper written by Scrugham discussing the attitude of the English woman to the suffrage movement and followed with a discussion of the movement.

In 1915, Scrugham presented at the Annual Convention of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association on "The Schools and the Ballot." She toured eastern Kentucky in 1919 as a paid organizer on behalf of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

In anticipation of the federal amendment, classes on citizenship were organized throughout the state starting in the summer of 1919. With her expertise in politics and history, Scrugham stepped in as one of the lead instructors. During these courses, she lectured on nominations and elections through the University of Kentucky Extension program. Her lessons on politics were published in the Lexington Herald in an effort to reach more women.

After the passing of the 19th amendment, Scrugham continued to be involved in politics as a leader of the Fayette County Women's Democratic Club and Kentucky League of Women Voters. She died on April 9, 1965 in Lexington, Kentucky.


U. S. Census,

"Summer School in Citizenship at University." The Public Ledger. (Maysville, Ky.), 01 July 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

"University of Kentucky Offers A Citizenship Course." Mountain Advocate. (Barbourville, Ky.), 09 July 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

"League of Citizens Organize." The Mt. Sterling Advocate. (Mt. Sterling, Ky.), 20 Jan. 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

"Women Voters of This State to Hold Meeting." The Public Ledger. (Maysville, Ky.), 29 Nov. 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Hay, Melba Porter. Madeline McDowell Breckinridge and the Battle for the New South. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2009.

The Mortonian, Morton High School, 1912. <>

"Social and Personal." Leader. (Lexington, KY), 1 June 1913. <>

"Speakers Honor Thos. Jefferson." Leader. (Lexington, KY), 13 April 1925. <>

"History Contest." Leader. (Lexington, KY), 28 May 1909. <>

"Class of '06." The Kentucky Kernel (Lexington, KY), 10 May 1921. <>

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