Thursday, January 26, 2012

She was an Anti-WHAT?

If you haven't figured it out I am rather partial to the Woman's Suffrage Movement in the US. It is my favorite time period. I don't know which came first, my love of all things suffrage, or the knowledge that Susan B. Anthony (& her younger suffragist sister Mary) grew up in Greenwich, but I've been hooked for about 25 years.

In 8th grade, I wrote a paper on Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to graduate from medical school in the US. I could probably credit Mrs. Heighton, my social studies teacher, for laying the groundwork. I even took a history class in college (Western Civ) with her husband.

What I didn't know, until I started reading more about Chester A. Arthur, was that his sister, Mary was an ANTI-SUFFRAGIST! Can you believe it? & I'm going to write about her!

Mary Arthur was born in Union Village (Greenwich), NY on July 5, 1841. She was the ninth and final child of the Reverend William Arthur & his wife Malvina. She attended the Emma Willard Seminary in Troy, NY.

Mary Arthur McElroy as White House hostess
On July 16, 1861, Mary Arthur married Albany insurance man John McElroy. They had four children. They were married 54 years.

Vice President-elect Arthur's wife Ellen (Nell) died in January 1880, months before her husband was chosen as the running mate for James A. Garfield, the Republican nominee for president. With the assassination of President Garfield, Arthur became the reluctant president, on September 19, 1881, still grieving the loss of his beloved wife. As a widower, Arthur had no one to serve as hostess for the many dinner parties. His sister Mary agreed to travel from Albany, NY to Washington D.C. & stayed at the White House during the social season, to act as hostess. Her eldest daughter, May & Arthur's daughter Ellen assisted.

Mary died in Atlantic City, NJ on January 8, 1917 at the age of 75. She is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.

& here is the shocker. Mary Arthur McElroy belonged to the Albany Association Opposed to Women's Suffrage.
The organized antisuffrage movement had among its flock the sitting lady of the White House, Mary Arthur McElroy, member of the Albany Association Opposed to Women's Suffrage. A woman "of a decisive manner when giving orders... she knew exactly what she wanted, and how she wanted it done; and she never hesitated to express her wishes clearly."*
It's mentioned in her obituary from the Albany Times Union as well.

Anti-Suffrage propaganda^

* Anthony, Carl Sferrazza. First Ladies: The Saga of the President's Wives and Their Power 1789-1961. New York: William Morrow and Co. 1990. (pp 246)

^ Jewish Women's Archive, "Resource Information for Pamphlet distributed by the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage," (January 26, 2012).

1 comment:

  1. Hi ...I too am very interested in suffrage...I cordially invite you to visit my website or to "like" the page "Suffrage Buffs of America" on Facebook.

    Best wishes,

    Nate Levin