Biographical Sketch of Mary Emma Bassett (Callahan Wallen)

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary Emma Bassett (Callahan Wallen), 1876-1956

By Linda D. Wilson, Independent Historian

New Jersey suffragist Mary Emma Bassett, the daughter of C. (Charles) Edwin Bassett (1839-1896) and Marianna [(1839-1917), also spelled as Mary Anna, née Griscom] Bassett, was born on April 9, 1876, in Salem, New Jersey. Her parents were Quakers, who attended the Salem Meeting House. Although Quakers were pacifists, C. Edwin Bassett was one of approximately three hundred Quaker men who joined the Union Army during the Civil War. In 1880, the family of six was living in Mannington, Salem County, New Jersey. Mary Bassett had three older brothers. In 1893 while living at Pennsville, Salem County, New Jersey, her father received a Civil War pension. According to the 1940 federal census, Mary had an eighth-grade education.

In May 1896, Mary Bassett was elected secretary of the Pennsville Epworth League of the Methodist Church. At the same meeting her future husband Horace L. Callahan was elected president of that organization. At age twenty Mary E. Bassett married Callahan, a storekeeper, on May 26, 1897, in Pennsville. In October 1897 she renounced her Quaker religion. They had one child, a daughter named Mildred, who was born on November 19, 1899. In January that year Mary was elected second vice president of the Epworth League.

Tragically, Horace Callahan drowned at Lower Penns Neck (township of Sharptown), New Jersey, on June 12, 1900, and was buried in the East View Cemetery, in Salem, New Jersey. In 1905 Mary Callahan and her daughter lived with Mary's widowed mother Mary Anna Bassett in Salem, Salem County, New Jersey. Between 1905 and 1908, Mary married John S. Wallen, who died at the age of thirty-five, on May 12, 1908. In 1915, Mary Wallen was again living with her mother. By 1930 the widowed Mary Wallen was living with her daughter Mildred and son-in-law John H. McCoubie in Salem, New Jersey. She supported herself by working as a salesclerk in a drug store.

In 1867 suffrage leaders and sisters-in-law Lucy Stone Blackwell and Antoinette Brown Blackwell organized the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association. When Lucy and her husband Henry Blackwell moved to Massachusetts in 1868, the organization declined. In 1900 New Jersey suffragists elected Minola Graham Sexton as president and through her leadership the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association (NJWSA) flourished. The first mention of Mary Bassett's involvement in the suffrage movement occurred in 1900. She is variously mentioned as Mary Bassett as well as Mrs. Mary Bassett and Mrs. Mary C. Bassett. Perhaps like Lucy Stone who retained her maiden name after her marriage, Mary Bassett followed the same practice. Or, because Mary was a widow by June 1900, she reverted to using her maiden name. Newspaper accounts mention that Mary Bassett of Sharptown was elected auditor of the NJWSA in November 1900 and re-elected as auditor in 1901. Chapter 29 of volume six of The History of Woman Suffrage states that Bassett served in that capacity during Sexton's presidency of five years. Additionally, Mary Bassett was active in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, serving as first vice president in September 1896 and recording secretary in July 1897.

After her second husband's death in 1908, Mary Wallen remained a widow. She died on May 3, 1956, and was buried in the East View Cemetery, Salem, New Jersey.


Bridgeton (NJ) Pioneer, January 12, 1899.

Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ), November 27, 1901.

Courier-Post (Camden, NJ), November 15, 1900.

Ida Husted Harper, The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6 (NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922) [LINK].

"Mary E. Callahan," in U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, accessed through on March 10, 2022.

"Mary E. Wallen," in U.S., Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol. II, indicates that she was born in 1876 and that her parents were C. Edwin and Marianna (Griscom) Bassett, accessed through on March 10, 2022.

Morning Post (Camden, NJ), May 11, 1896, and November 15, 1900.

New Jersey State Census, 1885, Mannington, Salem County, New Jersey.

New Jersey State Census, 1905 and 1915, Salem, Salem County, New Jersey.

New Jersey, U.S., Deaths and Burial Index, 1798-1971, for Horace L. Callahan, accessed through on March 10, 2022.

New Jersey, U.S., Marriage Records, 1670-1965, for Horace L. Callahan and Mary E. Bassett, accessed through on March 10, 2022.

News Journal (Wilmington, DE), May 7, 1956.

Penn's Grove (NJ) Record, May 8, and September 25, 1896; May 28, and July 16, 1897; October 6, 1899.

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), November 19, 1893; December 6, 1896; June 15, 1900; January 5, 1917.

U.S. Census, 1880, Mannington, Salem County, New Jersey.

U.S. Census, 1900, Lower Penns Neck, Salem County, New Jersey.

U.S. Census, 1930 and 1940, Salem, Salem County, New Jersey.

U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995, Mary E. Wallen, (widow of John), lived in Salem, New Jersey, in 1923, accessed through March 10, 2022.

U.S., Find a Grave Index, Mary Emma Wallen, Horace L. Callahan, John S. Wallen, Mildred Callahan McCoubrie, Charles Edwin Bassett, Mary Anna Bassett, accessed through on March 10, 2022.

U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, accessed through on March 10, 2022.

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