This biographical sketch first appeared on the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States and appears here by courtesy of the publisher, Alexander Street.
By Matthew Gardner, undergraduate, University of Maryland, College Park
Montgomery County native and founding member of the Woman Suffrage Association
Mary E. Thomas was born in Clifton, Montgomery County, Maryland, on October 24, 1838. Her family were members of the Quaker community of Sandy Spring, and she received some of her education in Quaker day-schools. Later, she attended the local Fair Hill Boarding School for Girls, but mostly she learned from governesses and her parents, William John and Rebecca M. Thomas. Mary Thomas had three brothers, Dr. Francis Thomas, Edward P. Thomas, and John Thomas; and two sisters, Sarah T. Miller and Martha T. Farquhar.
Mary Thomas married William Wilson Moore, a lifelong farmer, in October 1858, when she was about twenty. They initially lived together at “Atholwood” in the 5th District of Montgomery County, and in 1860, they had one white laborer and one black servant living with them. Their son Rowland and their daughter Clara, who died in infancy, were born there.
In 1865 Moore moved to “Plainfield,” the Montgomery home of her in-laws, Robert R. and Hadassah J. Moore. They likely made the move because Robert was, according to Mary’s friend Rebecca Miller, “really an invalid” and Hadassah “slight and fragile,” and they needed looking after. Moore lived with them for the rest of their lives. Her two other children, Rebecca Thomas Moore and Sarah Thomas Moore, were born at Plainfield.
In 1889, Moore, along with at least ten other Sandy Spring Quakers, and one non-Quaker, answered the call of her sister, Sarah T. Miller, to meet in her Sandy Spring home to found Maryland’s first long-lasting suffrage organization. The organization they formed was the Woman Suffrage Association. It became the Maryland state chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and Moore was elected treasurer. She served in this capacity for the rest of her life, as she was reelected every year until she died in 1906. She was also elected as one of the delegates representing Maryland in several state and national suffrage conventions. Among those she attended were the national convention in Washington, D.C., in 1896; she likely attended the fourth annual state convention held in Baltimore in 1898, which as treasurer she likely helped organize; the state convention in 1901; the state convention in 1902; and another national convention in Portland, Oregon, in 1905.
Mary Moore was also an active member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WTCU). She was elected vice-president of the Montgomery County Union in September 1889. She represented Maryland in state, national, and world temperance conventions. She attended the sixteenth annual convention of the Maryland WTCU in Baltimore in 1890; a national convention in Buffalo, New York, in 1897; and the world convention in Toronto, Canada, in 1897. Her husband, William, also supported temperance.
In both organizations, Mary Moore moved among a circle of family and fellow Friends. Both of her sisters were charter members of the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association; her mother was a long-time member of the WTCU; and she was related to other Quakers, including Mary Bentley Thomas and Rebecca T. Miller, by marriage. Perhaps these familial bonds strengthened the relationships formed through her suffrage and temperance work, for she appears to have been close with her fellow reformers, given that she toured the country with her sister, Sarah, and her husband, as well as three Magruders, another local Quaker family. Her fellow suffragist, Mary Bentley Thomas, with whom Moore worked for many years, wrote a heartfelt “in memoriam” to her in the Woman’s Journal when she died.
Mary Moore was also, according to Mary Bentley Thomas, “an active and deeply concerned member of the Society of Friends.” She was appointed an elder while still young, and she served as the clerk for Sandy Spring Monthly Meeting. She also served as the clerk for the representative committee, to which she was reelected in 1905.
When Mary Moore died on November 11, 1906, she was considered modest and self-sacrificing. She had been an independent thinker throughout her life, but she reportedly never dismissed the opinions of others. Wise, charming, and charitable, she strongly advocated for woman’s suffrage because she believed the whole human race would benefit. According to her friend, Rebecca Miller, “But the epithet that belongs to her—perhaps more than any other—is ‘faithful.’ She was a faithful daughter, and friend; she was a faithful wife and companion; a faithful mother and grandmother; a faithful neighbor to all, rich and poor, white and [of] color.”
“All for Woman’s Suffrage.” Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, MD). January 25, 1901, p.7. Newspapers.com.
“The Annual Meeting.” Baltimore County Union (Baltimore, MD). December 20, 1902, p.2, col.1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83016368/1902-12-20/ed-1/seq-2/.
Baltimore Woman Suffrage Association of Maryland Meeting Minutes, Second Book, 1904-1910. Digital reproduction. Woman Suffrage in Maryland Collection. Special Collections, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD. Accessed June 10, 2019. https://collections.digitalmaryland.org/digital/collection/scws/id/271/rec/8.
“Fourth Annual Convention of the Maryland State Suffrage Association.” Pamphlet. Baltimore, December 5, 1898. Woman Suffrage in Maryland Collection, Box1, Folder 3. Special Collections, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD. Accessed June 10, 2019. https://collectio-ns.digitalmaryland.org/digital-/collection/scws/id/39.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. “Maryland,” chapter XIX in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pp. 258-76. [LINK]
Harper, Ida Husted and Susan B. Anthony, eds. “Maryland,” chapter XLIV in History of Woman Suffrage, vol.4: 1883-1900. Rochester, NY: Privately published, 1902, pp. 869-74. [LINK]
Miller, Rebecca T., ed. The Annals of Sandy Spring, Or Fourteen Years’ History of a Rural Community in Maryland. Vol. 3. Baltimore: King Brothers, 1909. HathiTrust.
Moore, Eliza N., ed. The Annals of Sandy Spring, Or Twelve Years’ History of a Rural Community in Maryland. Vol. 2. Baltimore: Thomas and Evans, 1902. HathiTrust.
“Mrs. Mary E. Moore.” Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, MD). November 12, 1906, p.10. Newspapers.com.
Spicer, R. Barclay. “Baltimore Yearly Meeting (Continued).” Friends’ Intelligencer 62. November 18, 1905, pp.729-30. ProQuest American Periodicals.
Thomas, Mary Bentley. “In Memoriam.” Woman’s Journal (Boston, MA) 37, no.49. December 8, 1906, p.195. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.
United States Census 1850, s.v. “Mary Thomas, Montgomery County, MD.” HeritageQuest.
United States Census 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, s.v. “Mary E. Moore, Montgomery County, MD.” HeritageQuest.