Maud Wood Park

Woman Suffragist and Feminist

The Signing of the Nineteenth Amendment
The Signing of the Nineteenth Amendment. Corbis/VCG via Getty Images / Getty Images

Dates: January 25, 1871 - May 8, 1955

Known for: first president of the League of Women Voters; credited with organizing success for the Nineteenth Amendment through her lobbying skill

Maud Wood Park Biography

Maud Wood Park was born Maud Wood, daughter of Mary Russell Collins and James Rodney Wood. She was born and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, where she attended school until she went to St. Agnes School in Albany, New York.

She taught school for five years, and then attended Radcliffe College, graduating in 1898 summa cum laude. She became active in the woman suffrage movement, one of only two students in her class of 72 to favor women voting.

When she was a teacher in Bedford, Massachusetts, before she started college, she became secretly engaged to Charles Park, who boarded at the same home she did.  They married, also secretly, while she was at Radcliffe. They lived near Denison House, a Boston settlement house, where Maud Wood Park became involved in social reform. He died in 1904.

From her time as a student, she was active in the Massachusetts Sufffrage League. Three years after graduation, she was a cofounder of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government, which worked both for suffrage and for government reform. She helped organize chapters of the College Equal Suffrage League.

In 1909, Maud Wood Park found a sponsor, Pauline Agassiz Shaw, who funded her travel abroad in exchange for agreeing to work for three years for the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government.

Just before she left, she married, again secretly, and this marriage was not publicly acknowledged. This husband, Robert Hunter, was a theatrical manager who traveled frequently, and the two did not live together.

On returning, Park resumed her suffrage work, including organizing for a Massachusetts referendum on woman suffrage.

She became friends with Carrie Chapman Catt, head of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

In 1916, Park was invited by the National American Woman Suffrage Association to head its lobbying committee in Washington, D.C.  Alice Paul was, by this time, working with the Woman's Party and advocating for more militant tactics, creating tension within the suffrage movement.

The House of Representatives passed the suffrage amendment in 1918, and the Senate defeated the amendment by two votes. The suffrage movement targeted Senate races in several states, and women's organizing helped defeat senators from Massachusetts and New Jersey, sending pro-suffrage senators to Washington in their places. In 1919, the suffrage amendment won the House vote easily, and then passed the Senate, sending the amendment to the states, where it was ratified in 1920.

After the Suffrage Amendment

Park helped turn the National American Woman Suffrage Association from a suffrage organization into a more general organization promoting education among women voters and lobbying on women's rights. The new name was the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization designed to help train women to exercise their new citizenship rights.

Park helped create, with Ethel Smith, Mary Stewart, Cora Baker, Flora Sherman and others the Special Committee, the lobbying arm that won the Sheppard-Towner Act.  She lectured on women's rights and politics, and helped lobby for the World Court and against the Equal Rights Amendment, fearing the latter would do away with protective legislation for women, one of the causes Park was interested in. She was also involved in winning the Cable Act of 1922, giving citizenship to married women independent of their husband's citizenship. She worked against child labor.

In 1924, ill health led to her resignation from the League of Women Voters, continuing to lecture and to volunteer time working for women's rights. She was succeeded at the League of Women Voters by Belle Sherwin.

In 1943, in retirement in Maine, she donated her papers to Radcliffe College as the core of a Women's Archive.

This evolved  into the Schlesinger Library.  She moved in 1946 back to Massachusetts and died in 1955.