Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Bertha Maude Rehbein Mather Jackson, 1873-?
By Julianna Romaniuk and Kara Phillips, Undergraduates, University of Maryland, and Linda D. Wilson, Independent Historian, with additional edits by Jennifer Banks, University of Strathclyde
Maryland suffragist Bertha Maude (Rehbein) Mather Jackson, born circa 1873 in Maryland, was the daughter of George and Mary (Whelan) Rehbein. According to the 1880 federal census, her father, who was born in Maryland circa 1846, worked as a carpenter. Her mother, age twenty-nine in 1880, was born in Ireland. On February 6, 1894, a marriage license was issued to James Francis Mather of Brooklandville, Maryland, and Bertha Maude Rehbein of Lake Roland, Maryland. James Mather was a manager of a fertilizer company in Baltimore. They had four children, two of whom died in infancy. A fire in 1905 destroyed their home, but the family and an African American servant managed to escape. In October 1912, Bertha sued her husband for separate maintenance on the grounds of ill treatment and death threats.
In September 1915, Bertha M. Mather married Mark Jackson in Washington, D.C. Mark Jackson, an attorney in Baltimore, was active in the Socialist Party and as a labor union leader. He edited the Trades Unionist. On October 9, 1905, Mark and his brother Charles Jacobson Jackson, members of the Baltimore Bar, became citizens of the United States. They stated that they had been born in Sunderland, England, and immigrated to the United States on February 3, 1904. Mark Jackson said his original name was Myer Jacobson.
Bertha Mather Jackson participated in the woman's suffrage movement during both of her marriages. The first recorded instance of Bertha Mather actively participating in the woman's suffrage movement occurred on January 21, 1913. At a meeting of the Maryland Just Government League (JGL), she was appointed "'fraternal delegate'" to the local Federation of Labor. Additionally, Mather, other Maryland suffragists, and seventy-five members of the local garment workers' union planned to join "General" Rosalie Jones's "army" trek to Washington, D.C. to participate in the suffrage parade on March 3, 1913. The garment workers arranged to wear tattered clothes to symbolize their low wages and unsatisfactory work conditions. Alice Paul, president of the National Woman's Party (NWP), organized the suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. to coincide with the arrival of recently elected President Woodrow Wilson.
In Baltimore, Maryland, garment workers at the L. Greif and Brother factory planned to strike on January 27, 1913. As tensions rose, the firm hired retired policemen and several detectives to protect their business and the employees who continued to work. The strikers held a meeting at the Labor Lyceum in Baltimore on January 23. Bertha Mather of the Just Government League (JGL) and George A. Miller, president of the Federation of Labor, addressed the gathering. By early February, several striking garment workers issued a complaint charging a police officer "of conduct unbecoming an officer." Mather, representing the JGL, made a statement supporting the garment workers at the hearing. The strikers were represented by attorneys Louis S. Ashman and Charles Jackson (Mark Jackson's brother).
Bertha Jackson and other Maryland suffragists distributed suffrage literature to voters going to the polls on November 2, 1915. One month later Bertha Jackson served as a Maryland delegate to the thirteenth annual meeting of National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) on December 14. NAWSA President Dr. Anna Howard Shaw led the event held in Washington, D.C.
The following year Jackson was elected as corresponding secretary of the Maryland Women's Suffrage Association. At the election meeting held on January 7, 1916, Jackson and Evelyn Timanus presented a report on the proceedings of the NAWSA convention that they had attended the previous December. In April 1916, Jackson attended the annual meeting of JGL held in Hagerstown, Maryland. Prominent speakers included Reverend Olympia Brown of Wisconsin and Maude Younger of California. At the May 1916 meeting of the Maryland Women's Suffrage Association, suffragists adopted resolutions asking the Democratic and Republican parties to insert a plank favoring woman's suffrage during their state and national conventions. Bertha Jackson and other suffragists addressed those attending the May meeting.
On the afternoon of January 28, 1917, Bertha Jackson and other Maryland suffragists met with NWP President Alice Paul. Paul arranged for the women from Maryland, who were joined by suffragists residing in and around Washington, D.C., to picket in front of the White House. The suffragists wore yellow and purple sashes, designating the suffrage organization. Because the women stood in "stony silence," they became known as "Silent Sentinels."
Jackson returned to Washington, D.C. in September 1917 to picket at the White House. On September 13th, 1917, Jackson and six other picketers walked from NWP Headquarters to the East Gate holding two banners reading "Mr. President. what will you do for women's suffrage?" and "How long must women wait for liberty?" After two sailors ripped the banners, the suffragists were arrested and taken to Judge Alexander Mullowney. Mullowney initially asked them to pay a fifty-cent fine or encounter jail time. When they refused to pay the small fine, Mullowney fined them twenty-five-dollars or spend thirty days in Occoquan Workhouse. Ada Louise (Mrs. Frederick W.) Kendall from Hamburg, New York, one of the picketers arrested with Jackson, stated that the suffragists would rather go to jail than pay the fine.
After serving three days of her thirty-day jail sentence, Jackson was released on probation after she promised Occoquan Superintendent W. H. Whittaker that she would not picket again. Perhaps, she is the only sentenced suffragist who denied that the picketers faced malnourishment, starvation, and unsanitary conditions while incarcerated at Occoquan Workhouse. Jackson blamed the suffragists' problems on their own "bad behavior." Jackson went on to explain that the picketers did "a thousand and one things to annoy the matron, some do not even bear repetition." She claimed that the food portions at Occoquan were "excellent and well-cooked, that there was plenty of excellent milk to drink and that the portions served the prisoners [were] far from being of starvation measure, as the pickets claim . . . ." Jackson also stated that the reason the picketers claimed to find worms in their food was because Lucy Branham found worms and collected them in bottles. Jackson said, "conditions are excellent at the workhouse and the suffragists were treated with every consideration during her stay there." Jackson also recalled an incident when one of her fellow picketers swore at the guards for punishing her for breaking the institution's rules. African American prisoners were upset with the situation, because they would have been severely punished for a similar act, unlike the white suffragists who were "immune from punishment for such language."
Jackson claimed that she confronted the picketers, "you are not against political injustice under which we labor in your frame of mind. You are against law and order and right and decency."After Jackson made this remark, she said that they attacked her. Jackson also claimed that she was not the only woman released on probation, but that the National Woman's Party hid the fact from the public.
When reflecting on her time spent in prison, Jackson said that it was not horrible because of the treatment within Occoquan, but "because of the revelation of the real self of women with whom [she had] been working." She remarked that the women acted like "little girls in boarding school." The picketers were active and defiant from the beginning of their jail sentencing.
The National Woman's Party provided no comment on Jackson's statement. However, Philadelphia suffragist Dora (Mrs. Lawrence) Lewis, who was incarcerated in Occoquan Workhouse during the "Night of Terror" on November 14, 1917, and knocked unconscious, brought charges against Superintendent Whittaker, thus challenging Jackson's statement. As a Baltimorean, Jackson claimed, "Mr. Whitaker [sic] is a gentleman, he is well-known to Baltimoreans, having once been in charge of prisoners' aid work here. He could not have been more kind and conscientious in carrying out his duty."
In 1920 Bertha Jackson continued to live in Baltimore, Maryland. Her children were living with their father, James Mather, in a separate household. Bertha lived alone. No further information on Bertha's life and eventual death has been located.
Baltimore (Md.) Sun, February 6, 1894; May 27, 1902; October 17, 1908; May 7, July 4-6, and October 3, 1909; October 6, 1912; January 22 and 24, February 4, and August 19, 1913; March 25 and November 2, 1915; January 8, April 24, 26, and 27, and May 2, November 7, 8, and 23, 1916; January 19, March 10, and September 30, 1917; January 23, 1924; and May 7, 1938.
Daily Banner (Cambridge, Md.), September 15, 1917.
Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), September 22, 1915; September 14 and 17, 1917.
Evening Sun (Baltimore, Md.), November 1, 1915; March 10, September 29, and October 3, 1917.
Inez Haynes Gilmore, The Story of the Woman's Party (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1921), 242.
Rebecca Boggs Roberts, Suffragists in Washington, D.C.: The 1913 Parade and the Fight for the Vote (Charleston, SC: History Press, 2017), 13.
Doris Stevens, ed. By Carol O'Hare, Jailed for Freedom: American Women Win the Vote (Troutdale, OR: New Sage Press, 1995), 208.
U.S. Census, 1880, District 9, Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland.
U.S. Census, 1910 and 1920, Baltimore Ward 14, Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland.
U.S., Naturalization Records, 1840-1957, for Mark Jackson, accessed through Ancestry.com on October 15, 2021.
U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, for Mark Jackson, born August 19, 1876, and married to Bertha M. Jackson, accessed through Ancestry.com on October 15, 2021.
Washington, D.C., U.S., Compiled Marriage Index, 1830-1921, marriage of Mark Jackson and Bertha M. Mather, accessed through Ancestry.com on October 15, 2021.
Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), September 15 and October 1, 1917.
Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), September 14, 15, and 18, 1917.
Washington Times (Washington, D.C.), September 14 and 30, 1917.
Sources added 1 Feb. 2022:
Social Security Administration. USA. AMMENHEUSER, Lotta A. August 1939. : U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. https://www.ancestry.com: accessed 12 May 2021.
Census records. USA. Baltimore, Maryland. REHBEIN, George (head) ED 246. p. 315 C, dwelling 10, family 10. https://www.ancestry.com: accessed 11 May 2021.
Census records. USA. Baltimore, Maryland. 1 Jun 1900. MATHER, Bertha M. (wife) ED118, p. 6B-7B. dwelling 129, family 133. www.ancestry.com: accessed 16 April 2021.
Census records. USA. Baltimore, Maryland. 15 April 1910. MATHER, James F. (head) ED 230 p. 9A, dwelling 165, family 192. www.ancestry.com: accessed 16 April 2021.
Census records. USA. Baltimore, Maryland. 1 January 1920. MATHER, James F. (head) ED 205, p. 4A, swelling 66, family 83. https://www.ancestry.com: accessed 11 May 2021.
Census records. USA. Baltimore, Maryland. 1 January 1920. JACKSON, Bertha M. (head) ED 229 p. 9A. dwelling 123, family 215. https://www.ancestry.com: accessed 11 May 2021.
Marriage announcements (1894) The Baltimore Sun. 6 February. MATHER, James Francis and REHBEIN, Bertha Maude. p. 6 col. 6. https://www.newspapers.com: accessed 11 May 2021.
The Baltimore Sun. (1912) Mrs. Mather Sues Husband. The Baltimore Sun. 6 October. p. 12, col. 4. https://www.newspapers.com: accessed 16 April 2021.
Death announcements. (1895) The Baltimore Sun. 19 September. MATHER, Mary Frances. p. 4, col. 4. www.newspapers.com: accessed 16 April 2021.
Death announcements. (1898) The Baltimore Sun. 4 November 1898. MATHER, Margaret Compton. p. 4 col. 3. www.newspapers.com: accessed 16 April 2021.
The Baltimore Sun. (1905) Taken Out In Night Clothes. The Baltimore Sun. 6 January. p. 12 col. 6. https://www.newspapers.com: accessed 20 May 2021.
The Baltimore Sun. (1913) Strike Violence is Feared. The Baltimore Sun. 24 January. p. 12 col. 7. https://www.newspapers.com: accessed 20 May 2021.
The Baltimore Sun. (1913) Strike Brings Him To Trial. The Baltimore Sun. 4 February 1913. p. 3 co. 2. https://www.newspapers.com: accessed 20 May 2021.
Marriages (CR) USA. Washington, District of Columbia. 21 September 1915. JACKSON, Mark and MATHER, Bertha M. no. 71046. Collection: District of Columbia Marriages, 1811-1950. https://www.familysearch.org: accessed 15 April 2021.