Maud Malone: Inspiration

Maud Malone The Salt Lake Tribune Sunday Morning May 4, 1913 Library of Congress Chronicling America Collection
Maud Malone, "The Salt Lake Tribune" Sunday Morning May 4, 1913
Library of Congress Chronicling America Collection.

By Dan Meharg

Maud’s fifteen year battle for women’s voting rights, also called women’s suffrage, occurred when she was between the ages of 32 and 47.[1] Her methods were non-violent, but often involved physical altercations, and her athleticism likely spared her a serious injury in the many altercations she experienced literally fighting for women’s suffrage.[2] Throughout her life people described her as quiet, bashful, but frequently smiling.[3] She had a great sense of humor and was pleasant to be around.[4] In a 1914 directory of American Women, she listed herself as an “Agitator and free-lance for woman suffrage” and her hobby as: “walking.” [5]

Maud Malone believed that if women voted along with like-minded men, a more equal, more feminist America would result.[6] During Maud’s long walks to and from work, she saw that Salvation Army preachers could gather a large crowd by speaking in parks and on sidewalks. Socialist agitators outside of factory yards could also gather throngs of workers. Love them or hate them, preachers and agitators challenged listeners to form an opinion about their message.[7]

However this was essentially what was missing from the women’s suffrage movement. Not only did the women fail to attract male voters to their cause, the suffragists did or said nothing provocative to force men to form an opinion or spark debate and possibly change minds. Maud’s inspiration was to use these Salvation Army and Socialist tactics to reinvigorate the suffrage movement.[8]

Maud had a powerful political tool at her disposal that most politicians did not have: women’s clubs. 1905 was the golden age of women’s clubs. Women of all races, women both rich and poor, attended women’s clubs whenever they were free. Maud loved the clubs because they were places where women could enjoy each other’s company, debate important issues of the day, and help improve daily life through community service. As someone who apparently always volunteered to go first, Maud found herself in leadership roles on the governing boards of many influential women’s clubs throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.[9]

Using her positions on club boards and at her own club, the Harlem Equal Rights League, Maud suggested that women in these clubs adopt Socialist and Salvation Army tactics and win voting rights for women in New York State. She got nowhere. Women clubbers felt that they would lose all respectability by speaking publicly on the street to crowds of men.[10] Respectability allowed women of the era to have a seat at the political and social tables, and they did not want to risk engaging in behavior that would forfeit their place among the “in crowd.”[11] Maud, perhaps because of her secure place among the ‘fighting Malone’ family, had no such fears. Yet, in 1906, women in Great Britain began to implement tactics somewhat similar to those that Maud had imagined. British women calling themselves “suffragettes” decided that since they could not vote, they would attack the political system until they won the right to vote.

English suffragettes created tension among British women working to win voting rights. Suffragists, led by Millicent Fawcett, supported using respectable political techniques such as gathering petitions and meeting with politicians. Suffragettes, led by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, felt that more militant methods were also needed.[12] English suffragettes drew the line at killing, but they were willing to break windows, set fires, whip politicians as they walked in public, or shout them down as they spoke. The women would chain themselves in public places while delivering speeches on women’s rights, driving away the police with dog whips. Prison time was the normal result for these protest actions. [13]

These protests were covered in newspapers across the United States and most American readers were horrified.[14] Maud felt these English tactics could be modified for an American audience.[15]


[1] “Maud Malone: She always set a lofty goal“ The Daily Worker February 18, 1951.
[2] “Personal Glimpses: Militant Maud Malone” The Literary Digest, December 21, 1912. “Maud Malone has never flung a brick or whacked anybody over the head with an umbrella, and yet she has been howled at, booed at, insulted, ridiculed, punched, “pinched” and given free rides in a patrol wagon any number of times. On two or three occasions she has even been locked up. Her only offense, if it be an offense is standing up in political meetings and asking speakers what they think about equal suffrage. Such an act would hardly be noticed in London-or in New York, if the question were about something else, and happened to be asked by a man- but Miss Malone almost invariably receives rough treatment at the hands of the police."
[3] “Militant Questioner Tells How it Feels to be Thrown out of Meetings: Her experiences in jail” New York Tribune, Tuesday December 3, 1912. “Although Miss Malone is known to the public on account of her activities during public meetings, she appears to be particularly quiet voiced, unobtrusive and almost bashful.”
“Candidates must stand ‘Heckling’ by suffragettes” The Evening Telegram-New York Statesman October 5, 1909 “At first glance it is difficult to conceive Miss Malone in the role of candidate baiter, for she is a refined looking woman of quiet demeanor, with a winning smile.”
“Woman Play at Voting: Pretty Pink Ballots” The New York Daily Tribune, November 8, 1905 “In front of this flag stood Miss Maud Malone, of No. 540 West 146th St. secretary of the league and a most attractive talker in support of her rights. “I am in rebellion against the entire country,’ she declared, trying to look fierce through her smiles. “Our forefathers declared that rebellion was proper in a case of taxation without representation. This is a sham republic, and it will never be a true one until the rights of women to vote are recognized.”
[4] Maud Malone Says she is not militant” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 31, 1912 p. 4 “Again Miss Malone gave a laugh. In fact, though she has earned for herself the title of a grim fighter for women’s rights, she mingles a good deal of laugher with her talk.”
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, “Salute to Maud Malone” Daily Worker New York February 14, 1951 “Many who knew Maud Malone, this smiling willing librarian of the Daily Worker office who worked there nearly five years, did not know of her early tempestuous history and her extraordinary contributions to the women’s movement.”

[5] John William Leonard Ed. In Chief, “Women’s Who’s Who of American: A biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada 1914-1915” The American Commonwealth Company, NY p. 535MALONE Maud 231 W Sixty ninth St NY City Librarian. b NY City 1877 dau Edward and Annie Loyola Flynn Malone. ed private schools. Agitator and free-lance for woman suffrage. Pres Harlem Equal Rights League NY City; started the suffragette movement in the US, held the first street meeting in US for woman suffrage. Organized the first parade for woman suffrage in the US 1908. Recreation Walking.”
[6] Malone, Maud “Women who want the Ballot give their reasons: Recent Results Encouraging” The New York Times, November 8, 1908 “Just in proportion as the women learn to relate to the woman suffrage question to the other great questions of daily life, just so will our cause grow, and the industrial question, the economic, and the social question are all inter woven with the suffrage, all those questions will only be cleared up and settled by men and women voting intelligently on election day, and the women of this city are seeing that every day more and more, and it is this which brings them out to vote at our [unofficial voting] polls year after year. The women who work, the women who starve, the women who, in our advanced civilization must sell themselves, will one day stand equal with the men who thrive and the men who buy, and their opinion will count the same as, and more than, that of the driver and the buyer. This is what the Harlem Equal Rights League works for, and this is the very essence of the idea of the women’s [unofficial] polls.”
[7] “Men she can’t reason with: Maud Malone’s Street Canvas for Suffrage,” The Sun (New York) December 10, 1908 p. 2 “I took a leaf from the Salvations Army’s lesson book when I began,” she continued. “I noticed they’d built up a great organization with nothing but street meetings at first. The Socialists, too, have carried on their propaganda largely by means of street work. I noticed that few people would come to suffrage meetings held in halls, and those who did were almost all suffragists already. I decided that if we wanted to vote we had to go to the people and ask for it.”
[8] See previous footnote.
[9] Club Women of New York, 1905-1906: Directory of Members of Women’s Clubs, societies and Associations of New York City and Vicinity, “Maud Malone served on the following boards: Harlem Equal Rights League: President, Brooklyn Library Association: Corresponding Secretary, New York County Women’s Suffrage Association, Vice President and corresponding secretary. Women’s National Single Tax League Corresponding Secretary.
In 1908, she served on the Interurban League board with Carrie Chapman Catt, Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 18, 1908 p. 19.
“What women are accomplishing in the Political, Patriotic, Professional and Suffrage Clubs” New York Herald December 24, 1905 p.9-11 “That the value and charm of club associations are recognized most thoroughly by the modern woman is evidenced by the phenomenal growth both in numbers and size of organizations solely for milady.”
New York Clubs for wealthy women included: The Old Colony Club “Winter Tea Garden Colony’s Clubs New Tea Room an after Luncheon Retreat” The New York Tribune February 9, 1908; The Gotham Club “The Gotham, A new club” The New York Tribune December 7, 1907 p. 12; “Gotham Club’s Quandary” The New York Tribune, February 2, 1908 “We want a refined intelligent aristocrat organization and we mustn’t have any but refined intelligent, aristocratic people in it.”
Clubs for African Americans included: The Northeast Federation of Women’s Clubs, Brooklyn Dorcas Society, Equal Suffrage League: See “Afro-American Notes” Brooklyn Daily Eagle February 26, 1908 p. 11; See Also the “Afro-American Notes” Empire Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs Brooklyn Daily Eagle July 7, 1909 p. 8.

Clubs for working immigrant women: Jewish Garment Workers could join the East Side Equal Rights League see Volume 6, 1910-1911 Club Women of New York; The largest club for working women was Harriot Stanton Blatch’s Equality League of Self-Supporting Women founded in 1907, See Volume 6, 1910-1911 Club Women of New York.
[10] “Women on the Warpath: Suffragette Methods” New York Daily Tribune December 28, 1907. “In the Harlem Equal Rights League, however, Mrs. Wells found material that needed no stirring and was, in fact, ripe for spontaneous combustion. Miss Maud Malone wanted to talk on street corners before she ever heard of a Suffragette and was with difficulty restrained from doing so. The organization of open air meetings in the cause of women suffrage has been hers, and her ambition will at last be realized when she mounts the stump in Madison Square.”
See also: “Did the Cause Good, Dr. Shaw does not approve of Suffragette Ways” The Washington Herald, November 25, 1906 p. 1 “Do you approve of their methods?” “No I do not.” Replied Dr. Shaw after some thought. “I should rather suffrage not come in my time than that our women should do such things…”
[11] Throughout the suffrage movement, women debated the definition of respectability. They debated whether militant action reduced their respectability and whether respect and power came from being an unstoppable political force or from being womanly. This discussion leads to further debates about acceptable female behavior and the definition of feminism. See Rampant Women: Suffragists and the Right of Assembly By Linda J. Lumsden and The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote By Elaine Weiss

[12] “The Suffragette’s fight in England” The New York Times November 18, 1906 “…it really looks as though a few determined British woman suffragists are going to make Parliament give them what they want by means of tactics which, if employed my men would not have the remotest chance of success. The suffragists – Suffragettes they call them in England - are making a deliberate and well-organized attempt to shame and scare Parliament into granting votes to women…."
[13] “Women Raise a Riot: Suffragettes storm British Parliament” Barre Daily Times [Vermont], October 24, 1906 “The autumn session of parliament opened yesterday afternoon. A number of Suffragettes mounted a windowsill of the outer lobby and began haranguing the crowd, but a strong body of police removed them forcibly while they shrieked and protested.”
“Suffragists in Riot: Women start a roughhouse in a political meeting in Northhampton, carried out by the mob.” Times Republican [Marshalltown Iowa] June 16, 1906 “One of the disturbers welds horsewhip and shows flight when officers attempt to carry her from the building. Sir Herbert Asquith Attacked."
“Liberal Victory: Complete Rout of the Unionist Party in England” The Sun [New York] January 14, 1906 “…there have been two features of the lighter side of the campaign which have added gaiety to the fight. These have been provided by women…The women are advocates of female suffrage who have been attending meetings and heckling candidates…At one of Sir Henry Bannerman’s meetings no less than seven women Suffragists, who are now nicknamed Suffragettes had to be removed forcibly.”
[14] See previous footnote
[15] “Justifies their Methods: What Maud Malone says of the Suffrage War in England” The Utica Saturday Globe [New York] February 15, 1913 “We are going to have a very militant movement here in America. We can already see things shaping that way. The street meetings, the hikes, the parades are all militant, only more mildly so than in England. If we are halted here the mildness will fade and something more desperate will take place…”

Part of a series of articles titled Maud Malone - New York City Librarian and Suffrage Powerhouse.

Last updated: July 5, 2019