Maud Malone: Suffrage Pioneer

Mrs. Maud Malone speaking to a crowd. Collections Library of Congress
Maud speaking to the crowd at Madison Square Park, New York City, December 31, 1907. Bain News Service Collection, Library of Congress

By Dan Meharg

The fight to win voting rights for American women began in 1848, but by 1905 the effort was about dead.[1] The movement’s founders were passing away and only four western states allowed women to vote.[2] Maud Malone, a New York City librarian, was determined to revive the dying movement. Each day she walked between her upper west side apartment[3] and a library on the east side of Manhattan.[4] What she saw galled her. Single working women like herself, paid taxes but had no say in how that money was spent.[5] Throughout the city men were paid more than women for doing the same job.[6] America prided itself on being a free country but it was only a democracy for men, and Maud felt men enjoyed rights that women deserved as well.[7]

In many ways early 1900’s America has similar echoes to today’s era. Women worked outside the home in many professions from laborers to teachers, lawyers and medical doctors, but found that they earned less than men.[8] Unemployment wreaked havoc on the poor and Populist movements were on the rise. Wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few, especially after the financial panic of 1907.[9] Recent immigrants formed a large part of the population. Voting rights for African American men were being restricted across the American south.[10] Maud felt that those walks to work at the library each day gave her as much knowledge of New York social conditions as “all the books written on the subject.” [11]

Maud was tall and athletic: she was described as willowy.[12] She was an accomplished dancer who attended Saint Leonard, a private Catholic school in Brooklyn as a child.[13] From a young age her father would take her and her three brothers and two sisters to political rallies on Sunday afternoons at the Cooper Union meeting hall in Manhattan.[14] There she witnessed the rough and tumble nature of American politics.[15] Hoping to make New York City more responsive to the needs of the people, the Malone family opened their Brooklyn home during election season to reformers interested in running for office.[16] The family aided underdogs and were supporters of unpopular causes. Her father Edward Malone was a medical doctor who helped the poor of Brooklyn and headed an anti-poverty league that ran afoul with the Catholic Church.[17] He is often noted in the newspapers at the time as being a friend of all, no matter their “race, color or creed.”[18] Maud’s Uncle Sylvester Malone was a well-loved Catholic priest in Williamsburg Brooklyn who drew frequent criticism for supporting African Americans, Jewish rabbis and non-Catholic causes.[19] Her sister Marcella received her law degree from the University of New York, becoming the first woman of the Catholic faith to get a degree.[20] Like Maud, she eventually became a librarian, rising to be a popular head of the Jamaica Queens branch library.[21] Her brothers Sylvester and Lawrence were also lawyers.[22] Her brother James, like her father, studied medicine and worked in the city coroner’s office.[23] Her sister Annie was known as one of “the most intellectual women in Brooklyn,” but like her father, died of pneumonia. Annie died at the young age of twenty six.[24] Her mother Annie was involved in supporting Irish independence and women’s suffrage causes.[25] The fighting Malones frequently went down to political defeat but were admired all the same.[26] A writer for the Brooklyn Standard Union stated at her father’s death in June 1890 that, “Even among those who bitterly opposed Dr. Malone there were none who did not respect him for his earnest sincerity and the high if sometimes impossible ideals which he sought to reach.”[27]


[1] “Militancy” In America: Miss Malone Thinks it Means Hecklings, Arrest and Jail,” New York Tribune May 6, 1913 p.8 “…From ten to fifteen years before 1908 the suffrage movement in this country was an absolutely stagnant one. The different bodies of women had reached an impasse, and the whole movement was at a standstill, not from lack of enthusiasm but because the work of suffrage education which their generation had done was done and for a younger generation newer methods were needed.” Maud Malone, letter to the editor.
[2] “Progress of fifty years: Women at odds over suffrage question: Advocates of the Ballot for Women Are Bitterly Fought by a League in Opposition” The New York Times March 17, 1907 “Commenting on Miss Anthony’s death, and the point to which women had advanced during her long lifetime of endeavor, one thousand editorials all over the country declared that in so far as the suffrage was concerned, Miss Anthony had failed to convert women to her way of thinking….At the most recent convention of women suffragists in Chicago it was decided to change the methods of work in order to meet changing conditions. At this convention it was decided to organize every primary district in every city in every state…in order thereby some of the strenuous measures of the English “suffragettes” might be adopted for getting at men voters in the primaries on election days.”
[3] “Personal Glimpses: Militant Maud Malone” The Literary Digest, December 21, 1912
“She is fond of walking- for recreation in the country, for observation in the city. She says she learns more of New York conditions walking from her home in West Sixty-ninth street down to her place of business on the east side than from all the books written on the subject.”
[4] The City Record, volume 34 part II November 1906 Evening Recreation Centers upon assignment of duty by the NY Superintendent of Schools: Librarian Maud Malone.
[5] “Women Play at Voting; Pretty Pink Ballots. Equal Rights League Has Election in Harlem, New York Daily Tribune November 8, 1905 p. 14 Maude Malone: “I am in rebellion against the entire country, 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.”
[6] “Men she can’t reason with: Maud Malone’s Street Canvas for Suffrage,” The Sun (New York) December 10, 1908 p. 2. Maude Malone: “It is a curious fact that among all sorts and conditions of men I find an undercurrent of dislike for the idea of equal pay for men and women who do the same work. I should suppose he cannot compete fairly with women so long as they undercut him; that only when both are paid on the same scale can they compete on their merits and the best man win. But I find two undercurrents of feeling, not reason, in the man in the street against equal pay. One is that it hurts their pride to know a woman is getting as much as a man. Another is that they dislike the idea of woman being independent of men.”
[7] “Women play at voting: Pretty Pink Ballots: Equal Rights League Has Election in Harlem” New York Daily Tribune November 8, 1905 “…In front of this flag stood Miss Maud Malone, of No. 540 West 146st Street, 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 the 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.”
[8] Ida Husted Harper, “Calls on Women to Arise: Mrs. Harper Wants Ginger in the Suffrage Fight,” The Sun (New York) June 9, 1907 “Such and an object lesson in the need of a vote as the failure of the bill of the New York city public school teachers for equal pay makes thousands of converts, and women are getting many such lessons nowadays.”
[9] “Say 100,000 want to parade: Permission desired for a big demonstration by the army of unemployed” New York Daily Tribune January 27, 1908.
[10] “To Block Negro Vote: Maryland Amendment Prepared- to be introduced this week” New York Tribune, January 26, 1908 p. 1.
[11] See footnote 3.
[12]Socialist Party Ratifies” The Sun (New York) August 28, 1909 p. 7. “Miss Maud Malone, president of the Harlem Woman Suffrage League, a tall, willowy young woman….”
[13] “Saint Leonard’s Academy: Entertainment by the Students in Knickerbocker Hall” Brooklyn Daily Eagle December 4, 1885. “…Miss Maud Malone, a little daughter of Dr. Malone, gave an exhibition of fancy dancing which secured the plaudits of the audience.”
[14] Lola Paine “Maud Malone: She Pounded the Pavements for Suffrage” Daily Worker (New York Edition) August 26, 1945. “Father used to take my three brothers, my two sisters and me to Cooper Union meetings every Sunday,” She says.” And our house was a hotbed of activity whenever elections or any other political events took place.”
[15] “Maud Malone Says she is not militant” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 31, 1912 p. 4. “My heckling of a candidate is not militant. It is a privilege of free speech. I use it because it is an established method at American political meetings. I have attended more political meetings probably, than most women, because my father always took me along. Other women, as a rule, have seldom attended any but the really ‘nice’ ones, where a few good speakers give well prepared addresses, where everything is conducted about like church. I have been to all sorts and I know the way the American men get their questions before the people and before the candidates is to ask them questions – right out in the meeting as I do.”
[16] Lola Paine “Maud Malone: She Pounded the Pavements for Suffrage” Daily Worker (New York Edition) August 26, 1945. “Father used to take my three brothers, my two sisters and me to Cooper Union meetings every Sunday,” She says.” And our house was a hotbed of activity whenever elections or any other political events took place.”
[17] "In Memoriam Loving Tribute Paid to Dr. Edward Malone," Brooklyn Daily Eagle October 6, 1890 p. 1. “John J Clancy was introduced as a substitute for General James R. Beirne, who was unable to be present…As a neighbor, a husband, father, physician, and an Irishman, loving the land of his birth he was all that a man should be, devoted and true. His broad humanity and his charity were often attested by attending on the sick of and aiding the afflicted. They could now speak of his loss to the nation as a citizen. He always stood by principals without questioning whether it would pay to do so or not, and he lived to see them triumph. Thirty years ago he advocated the freedom of the slave, and at a time when the majority of his countrymen were arrayed in opposition. To-day all believed in the freedom of the colored man. Three years ago, in Cooper Union hall, Dr. Malone started the principle of ballot reform, and to-day both political parties claim credit of having enacted the law…Rev. Dr. Edward Mcglynn made the closing address…’He loved the land of his birth but he knew that he could best serve it by taking in all humanity in the principle involved in its freedom. His belief in God was perfect and in the brotherhood of all God’s children, so he reverenced the Almighty in his images, and most when disfigured or in distress, the poor and the outcast, and in the enslaved race different in color, because they most demanded his sympathy. He advocated the cause of humanity and the freedom of all. His tenderest feeling went out to the poor and afflicted. He dies, alas, too soon…let us take his life as an example and resolve to pursue a like course. It is a part of my creed that we can commune with the dead and that they can sympathize in a celestial way with our joys; that they can, like guardian spirits, ward off evil from us. Dr. Malone’s spirit is around us. Let us live that others can say good words of us over our tomb, as we are now saying of Dr. Malone. He is not dead because his spirit lives. The essence of all religion is the fatherhood of God and all this world His temple, so we should all endeavor to do His work.”
[18]“Praise for Dr. Malone: A memorial Meeting of the Anti-Poverty Society at Cooper Union” The World (New York) October 6, 1890 p. 3. “Dr. Edward McGlynn then addressed the large audience. He spoke of Dr. Malone as a man who was not only an Irishman and an American, but a humanitarian, whose sympathies were not confined to any race, creed or color.”
[19] “Spoke Against Trusts: Reverend Dr. Malone says they are ruining the working classes” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 27, 1897 p. 7.
“Death of Father Malone: The Regent and priest dies from pneumonia at daybreak” New York Daily Tribune December 30, 1899 p. 9. “Father Malone was very liberal minded, and never failed to recognize the good which is apparent in all classes of men, however separate and distinct might be their views on religious questions, and was beloved by both Catholics and Protestants alike for more than half a century. He was an anti-slavery man, and a Republican from the birth of the party.”
Rev. Dr. L. Wintner, “Father Malone” The Jewish Messenger, January 19, 1900. “I sat yesterday for more than two hours in one of the pews at Saints Peter and Paul Church reserved for invited persons of different religions and stations in public life…People of all denominations, rich and poor, enveloped in fashionable garments and clad in plain clothes of the laboring man…Father Malone was indeed revered by his people as the gifted Roman Catholic teacher, by others he was admired for his liberality toward other religious confessors, by others again for his stanch loyal citizenship, and by some for his efforts in behalf of popular education. But aside from the civic and spiritual virtues for which Father Malone was revered and admired, he was loved by all who knew him, Gentile and Jew, rich and poor without distinction, and why? Because of his lovable nature, so rarely combined with the other qualities mentioned; because his life was distinguished by affability, charity, ableness, and childlike goodness; because he embraced mankind in his big heart, and because he adhered in precept and practice to the biblical rule, “Love they neighbor as thyself” (Lev. Xix 18). Truly, I could read upon the faces of the multitude that “one touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” truly, I said to myself, there is not patent right for goodness; no class or creed has sole privilege for loving kindness; it is not sectarian, but universal, as God himself is the universal Father of all. And the great lesson of Sylvester Malone’s life is: Do not squabble over your respective creeds and dogmas. Let Christians and Jews stand upon common ground of God and humanity. Let us teach and practice tolerance, good will, and charitableness toward one another, and mankind’s idea of the future, “the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” will not remain a dream.”
Ed. By Sylvester L. Malone, “Memorial of the Golden Jubilee of the Reverend Sylvester Malone” 1895 pp. 203-205 Father Sylvester Malone’s sermon: ”Memorial Day: An address delivered at Cypress Hills Cemetery May 31, 1869. “…Will I fail to tell you that I always hated slavery? – slavery, that begets hatred between man and man; that degrades the white man as the black; that denies rights the God of nature has conferred on every man; that kills morality and all but blots out the true idea of a good and merciful God! Will I tell you I was among those who prayed for some pacific way of removing the curse from the land? And when all pacific means were unavailing, I thought it no blasphemy to recognize the God of the universe in the mighty hurricane of battle that swept over the land. And now, we have all seen the end of this civil conflict, and we see that in the not distant future the realization of the great fruits of the war, may we not be consoled, as we lay our votive offerings on the shrine, beneath which lie the mortal remains of heroes who fought and died for the noblest cause ever given to any people to maintain? May we not be consoled by seeing men of all creeds, and from all nationalities, united in the same common action in the interest of the same common cause? …Let the past be the past forever; for we as a people shall never asperse each other’s motives again, but with one heart will go on to the realization of the equal rights now happily secured to all, the native, the foreigner, the black man, and the white. In these views let us cultivated a more friendly feeling, and the God of unity will bring us to a most happy life, and I trust also into eternity.”
Ed. By Sylvester L. Malone, “Memorial of the Golden Jubilee of the Reverend Sylvester Malone” 1895 pp. 67-69 Letter from Dr. Edward Malone to a newspaper reporter about his brother Sylvester Malone May 1889. “Strangers and those not of his faith have asked, What is there about this man that makes him such a marked figure in the great city of Brooklyn? He is not as great an orator as Beecher nor is he as learned a man as England. He is not identified with any particular phase of moral social or political reform like some of the other distinguished ministers of all the Christian churches. He is a stanch Catholic who while asserting religious liberty for himself would not impair the liberty of his neighbor in the slightest degree. He is a true American citizen who saw nothing in the enslavement of his African brother but a blasphemous rebellion against the ordinance of God to love one another a radical injustice that in any other land and under any other system of government than our own might have endured for centuries. The bigotry the prejudice and the race hatreds that were and are so prolific of evil to society and so destructive of the Christian virtue of charity never for a single moment found favor in his sight and occasional social antagonisms sprang up from a strenuous and abiding effort on his part to educate his fellow countrymen up to the highest Christian ideal of brotherly love… Father Malone has no pet theory about progress but has always stood and ever will stand firmly to the end for real reformation of abuses of administration in Church and State. In the State he stands firmly for reforms through legislation which tend to purify the source of civil administration and guard and keep sacred the ballot box the palladium of our liberties; and he thinks that true social progress should easily and without much delay produce a state of civilization in which no man who is able and willing to work may be without abundant remunerative employment, thus restricting poverty and dependence on the State to the idle and the incapacitated; and in view of the superabundance of God's gifts to man even in the natural order this belief, this hope and aspiration for the well being of society is not at all unreasonable. He stands for all real reforms and denounces demagogues and boodlers alike no matter what party they belong to; but he reserves his most emphatic rebuke for the man or men of either political party who would play upon the passions and prejudices of the illiterate, or appeal to the religious or race hatreds of bygone days, and he has no language strong enough to excoriate the wretch who would use religion to advance partisan or personal political interests…. In the darkest hour of the nation's trial when her own children treacherously lowered the flag at Sumter scarcely had the news of that saddest and most humiliating event of the century reached Williamsburg ere the Sunday school flag of the Church of Sts Peter and Paul was hoisted triumphantly to the foot of the cross on the spire and there it waved and was never lowered till the order came from Appomattox. It was the first church spire from which the flag floated to the breeze after the fall of Sumter teaching the sacred truth of the indissoluble unity of the States and the indefeasibility of the nation”.
“All morn for Father Malone: He passes away so quietly that a priest is not called: His life is a model” New York Journal December 30, 1899 “He arrived in the village of Williamsburg [Brooklyn] on September 21, 1844. He said of this reminiscence recently, “I knew no one. I wandered about three or four hours before I could find a place to lodge for the night.” His biography since then is allied intimately with the history of Williamsburg. He made the parish of Sts. Peter and Paul, built the church, placed on its steeple the flag of the county at the declaration of war between the States, gave the glad to be carried in battle by the First Volunteers of Williamsburg, visited the South in the turbulent reconstruction period and preached freedom, peace, justice, to the emancipated ardently. He attended the New England dinner, the Purim ball, assemblies where Roman Catholics had never been applauded, and was acclaimed in them. He was one of the Regents of the University of New York. He ws learned, kind, and captivating by the mere expression of his individuality.”
[20] “From the Eastern District: Father Malone Makes his Niece a Bachelor of Laws” Brooklyn Daily Eagle June 3, 1896 p. 4 “In conferring the degree of bachelor of laws and presenting the diploma of the university to Miss Malone, Father Malone said he wanted to congratulate her for two reasons. First because she finished a course at the law school and was about to identify herself with one of the greatest professions and second, because she was the first Catholic girl to complete a course of law studies in this country.”
[21] “Former head of Jamaica Library dies” Marcella Malone, 67 Served 20 years before retiring” Long Island Sunday Press, January 26, 1936 “Miss Malone was born in Brooklyn and educated in the public schools there. She began work as a librarian at the Jamaica Library in 1908 in the original building which was then located on 153rd street and Jamaica Avenue. She held her position until 1928.”
[22] “From the Eastern District: Father Malone Makes his Niece a Bachelor of Laws” Brooklyn Daily Eagle June 3, 1896 p. 4 “Miss Malone besides being a niece of Father Malone is a daughter of the late Dr. Edward Malone, who graduated from the medical department of the university in 1858. Miss Malone has two brothers, both of whom are lawyers. They are Sylvester L. Malone and ex-Assemblyman Lawrence E. Malone.”
[23] “Less pay for coroner’s clerks: Board cuts salaries right and left- appropriations too small they say” The Sun (New York) January 1, 1903 “The board also reduced the salaries of the night clerks, J. Tucker Malone and George W. Cook from $1,500 to $1,400 a year.”
[24] “Funeral of Annie L. Malone” Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 16, 1897 p.2 “A large number of persons were present at the funeral of Annie Loyola Malone this morning in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul. The deceased was a daughter of the late Dr. Edward Malone and a niece of the Rev. Tatten Malone and was regarded as one of the most intellectual women in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 13, 1897 p. 2 “Miss Annie Loyola Malone, daughter of the late Dr. Edward Malone, and niece of Rev. Sylvester Malone of Sts. Peter and Paul church, in the eastern district died at her home 111 South Second street, this morning as a result of an attack of pneumonia, from which she had been suffering since New Year’s day. Miss Malone was well known and highly esteemed in the eastern district….She was not, as was reported today, the niece of Dr. Sylvester Malone, who was recently admitted to the bar, and took part in the presidential canvass.”
[25] “Obituary: Annie L. Malone” The Daily Standard Union Brooklyn New York City July 15, 1916
“During the Civil War, she was active in charitable work and was prominently connected with the great Brooklyn and Long Island Fair in aid of the United States Sanitary Commission, representing the parish of SS. Peter and Paul. She was interested in all public questions and exceedingly devoted to her large family…”
Club Women of New York, 1905-1906: Directory of Members of Women’s Clubs, societies and Associations of New York City and Vicinity, p. 43 “Harlem Equal Rights League Auditor Mrs. A.L Malone.”
Lola Paine “Maud Malone: She Pounded the Pavements for Suffrage” Daily Worker (New York Edition) August 26, 1945. "[Maud] came to the fight for women’s vote by way of a militant family, her father being an Irishman, a Fenian and a physician who devoted his spare time to the trade union movement here. Her mother too was busy in Irish activities."
[26] “M’Glynn and Henry George” Buffalo Evening Standard March 7, 1888 p. 1 “ New York March 7 - Sylvester Malone, son of Dr. Edward Malone, head of the Irish National League of this state…has been expelled from the Catholic Club of this city for presiding over a meeting at which Dr. McGlynn delivered an address on “ The Pope in Politics.” All the Malone family have been ardent sympathizers with Dr. McGlynn in his recent course. “
[27] “The Death of Dr. Malone” The Daily Standard-Union Brooklyn June 17, 1890.

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

Last updated: July 5, 2019