Mary Garrett Hay 1857-1928)
Mary Garrett Hay was an American suffragist and temperance reformer.
On August 29, 1857, Mary Garrett Hay was born into a prominent family in Charlestown, Indiana, the eldest of four daughters and a son of Andrew Jennings Hay and Rebecca H. Hay. Mary was especially close to her father, a physician active in politics. She first became interested in the political world by joining him at meetings and entertaining his Republican friends at their home.
Mary Hay briefly attended Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, from 1873 to 1874, where she studied to become a pharmacist and later worked for her father’s pharmacy. Hay chose to return home and involve herself in the two causes near to her heart: prohibition and women’s suffrage. She joined the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and became the secretary-treasurer for her local branch. She also worked as treasurer of the Indiana state WCTU for seven years and by 1885 found herself in charge of one of the departments of the national organization.
At about the same time, Hay joined the local woman suffrage movement and soon advanced to a state office. She met Carrie Chapman Catt, possibly at a National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Convention. Hay formed a close association with Carrie Chapman Catt who was organizing women to campaign in their home states for suffrage amendments. In 1895, Hay assisted Catt with the formation of the Organization Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was soon recognized as Catt’s right-hand woman. That same year, Hay moved toNew York Cityto help with organizing the committee’s offices.The following year, Hay organized California/s suffragists at all levels during the California referendum campaign. In 1896, when California was creating its state constitution, Hay, along with women she organized, worked to have women’s suffrage be included, though the referendum for women to vote was narrowly defeated. Her work in California gave her valuable experience in organizing. Hay created suffrage groups across the country.In November 1895, she and the Rev. Henrietta G. Moore of Ohio organized the state convention that founded the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association.
In 1899, Hay and Catt traveled 13,000 miles, visiting 20 states to organize women’s groups, made numerous speeches and attended 15 conventions. In 1900, Hay resigned from the Organization Committee but continued to work in an unofficial capacity with Catt.In 1905, after the death of Catt’s husband, the two women moved in together, and Hay became active in club work in New York City. Hay served as the president of the New York Equal Suffrage League from 1910 to 1918. In 1912, she was also the president of the group, The Daughters of Indiana!
Hay served as president of the Women’s City Club of New York (WCC). Hay was nominated to the WCC in order to bring a strong leadership role to the civic organization. She was also President of the New York City League of Women Voters between 1918 and 1923.
Hay became one of the first women in the Eastern United States to join a political party when she became a Republican. She served as chair of the Republican Women’s National Executive Committee in 1919 and 1920. Hay ensured that women’s suffrage remained an important plank in the Republican Party of the time. She encouraged other women to join the party.Her influence with women voters had helped her secure the post of chair of the Convention’s strategic platform coming—an unprecedented appointment for a woman—and she obtained a plank that endorsed the federal suffrage amendment. Once the women’s suffrage amendment passed Congress in June, 1919, Hay threw her energies into campaigning for its ratification in state legislatures.
In 1920, Hay and Catt together cast ballots for the first time for President. Having realized the dream of Women’s suffrage with ratification of the 19th amendment, she returned to the cause of prohibition.
While waiting for arrival of guests to her 71st birthday party in 1928, Mary Garrett Hay, died of a heart attack and was found by Carrie Chapman Catt in the home she shared with Catt. Catt created a monument to Hay, where she was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, New York. After Catt died in 1947, she was buried next to Hay. Their headstone reads, “Here lie two, united in friendship for 38 years through constant service to a great cause.”
Last summer Gail Pebworth and Barb Anderson worked together to research Hay for the 100 Year Anniversary of the 19th Amendment.In September 2020, Barb (South Central Indiana League) learned that her grant request to the Indiana Historical Society has been accepted. There will be a historical marker to honor Mary Garrett Hay!
This is a monthly feature. Sue Webster of the Porter County League is coordinating this column on suffragists throughout the state.