Suffragist of the Month, April 2016

Mary Coffin Ware Dennett – 1872 – 1947

Mary Coffin Ware was born April 4, 1872 in Worcester, MA. She attended Miss Capen’s School for Girls, and later studied at the school of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where she developed her talent for design and decoration. She taught at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, and later opened a cooperative handicraft shop in Boston with her sister, where they displayed her leather and gilt work and other crafts. She marriMary_Dennetted William Hartley Dennett, a Boston architect, in 1900.

Dennett became disillusioned with design work, however, and began working with the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association. She was elected corresponding secretary of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1910. Divorced soon afterwards, she moved to New York with her two children where she was the principal organizer of National American Woman Suffrage Association’s literature department, which produced and distributed millions of copies of numerous pamphlets and leaflets.

In addition to her work for suffrage, Dennett was a firm supporter of the birth control movement, and in March, 1915 co-founded the National Birth Control League. Many activists saw the issues of suffrage and birth control inextricably linked, as both movements sought to secure for women freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies and their lives. After suffrage was won Dennett continued to work for the removal of all federal bans on the dissemination of birth control materials and information, and continued her campaign to encourage the belief that sex was a natural and joyful part of life – a daring concept at the time. She died in a nursing home in NY in 1947.
Happy Birthday, Mary Coffin Ware Dennett!

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