Iowa History Daily: On October 17, 1837, a leader in the fight for women’s suffrage was born. Critical in organizing the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs, Mary Newbury Adams helped advance opportunities for women’s education, suffrage, and right to speak out on important issues.
Born in Indiana, Mary Newbury spent her younger years in Ohio and Iowa before enrolling at Emma Willard Seminary in Troy, New York. Newbury graduated at 18 before returning to Dubuque, Iowa, and marrying promising young lawyer and future Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Austin Adams. The family passionately advocated for education, especially the empowerment of women through education.
In 1868, Mary Newbury Adams organized the Women’s Conversational Club in Dubuque to serve women of eastern Iowa as a “nursery for power.” In the following years she helped to organize similar groups throughout the state into the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs. In 1869, an assignment from a Dubuque newspaper sent her to Galena, Illinois to hear notable women’s suffrage advocates including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Upon her return to Iowa she started working to organize the Northern Iowa Women Suffrage Association, the first such organization in Iowa.
Mary Newbury Adams grew to national prominence and spoke throughout the country. Gaining friends including Ralph Waldo Emerson, who once spoke in the Adams’s living room, she also took on interesting challenges including serving as the Chair of the Historical Committee for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Elected into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 1981, Mary Newbury Adams stands as a prominent voice in empowering Iowa’s women. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar