Distinguished Women of Past and Present

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Mary Ritter Beard

(1876-1958)

Mary Ritter, a women's rights advocate and a historian, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. in 1876. She attended DePauw University, where she met her future husband Charles Beard. They married in 1900. Mary went to Oxford with her husband where she became involved with the British suffrage movement. Upon return to New York, they both enrolled at Columbia University, but Mary soon became disinterested in academia.

In 1907, she began working for the Women's Trade Union League. From 1910 to 1912, she edited the suffragist periodical The Woman Voter and after that worked with the Wage Earner's League. She also helped to organize women textile workers in New York City. She belonged to the wing of the Suffrage Movement that was headed by Alice Paul. After ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920 that gave the American women the right to vote, she resigned over disagreement about protective legislation. She felt that the Equal Rights Amendment, strongly supported by Alice Paul, would invalidate any protective legislation for women.

In 1915, she published Woman's Work in Municipalities and in 1920 she published A Short History of the American Labor Movement. She collaborated with her husband on a four-volume work The Rise of American Civilization. The first volume appeared in 1927. She published several books in the 1930's: Understanding Women (1931), America Through Women's Eyes (1933), and Laughing Their Way: Women's Humor in America (1934). In 1946, she published Women as a Force in History in which she claimed that women had powerfully influenced the course in history, even in male-dominated societies. The Force of Women in Japanese History appeared in 1953. She died in 1958.

Mary Beard's work was received with considerable resistance throughout her career. Decades later, when interest in women's movement has been revived, her contribution is viewed more favorably.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1996.

Bibliography:
1. American Women's History by Doris Weatherford, Prentice Hall General Reference, 1994
2. Women's World: A Timeline of Women in History by Irene M. Franck and David M. Brownstone, HarperCollins Publishers, 1995
3. Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia

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