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Mary Ritter Beard

This is dedicated to the brave women who were vocal, marched and suffered to help us gain the right to vote. They were strong, dedicated and knew their voice counted and must be heard. Brava to the League of women voters, and enlightened men, who then as now, keep the flame shining brightly. THANK YOU.

Register and VOTE. Your vote and your voice both count.

Mary Ritter Beard was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 5, 1876. When she was merely sixteen, she enrolled in DePauw University, the same school her father and six siblings had attended. She graduated in 1897.

While at DePauw, she met Charles Beard, a fellow student, who became a noted economic historian. In 1900 they married and traveled to England in order for Charles to continue his studies at Oxford. While in England Mary became very involved in the suffrage movement.

They returned to New York City in 1901 and both pursued a graduate degree at Columbia. It was during this time Mary engaged in the growing campaign for women’s suffrage. She quickly joined the Women’s Trade Union League and became the editor of the suffrage publication The Woman Voter. She also focused on social reform for the working woman, publishing two books on the subject in 1915 and 1920.

Mary and her husband both argued that economic and social factors are powerful forces in history. They collaborated to publish The Rise of the American Labor Movement in 1921. Mary challenged the orthodox view that the rise of American and global civilization had both been solely influenced by men. She authored On Understanding Women in 1931, American Through Women’s Eyes in 1933, and Women as a Force in History in 1946, all arguing that women have played an indispensable and critical role in the advancement of civilization that historians can not overlook. She drew a clear connection between a woman’s role as child bearer and caregiver and a woman’s potential as a potent agent for progressive social change. She wanted to correct the mistaken impression that “all history is but the story of the man’s world.”

Mary was always outspoken, determined and often controversial. In the 1930’s she established a World Center for Women’s Archives in New York City to educate the populous and preserve the records of women’s lives. While it did not reach the level of success she had envisioned because of the lack of funds, some of the records are held as part of a collection with the New Jersey Historical Society with other holdings at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, and the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College.

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