#WCW Maud Malone (1873-1951)

Don’t shush librarian, Maud (Maude) Malone. While often described as a tall quiet woman with a beautiful smile, she was a force to reckon with. Ever the champion of the underdog, she organized the first labor union for public library workers and was militant about getting the right to vote. Malone created open-air public forums for suffrage. She frequently saw male preachers and labor leaders speaking to crowds about their cause. It was one of the few non-violent tactics that British suffragettes were using and Malone and felt that American women should do the same declaring, “I decided that if we wanted to vote we had to go to the people and ask for it.” She also said, “The movement to be truly progressive should recognize no prejudice of race, color, difference in clothes or creed, whether religious or economic…”  

Malone wanted to start open-air public speaking events and tried to convince her fellow club members of the Harlem Equal Rights League and others to join her. Women’s clubs all over the city debated whether a woman speaking in public on the streets of New York would hurt their cause and ruin the reputation of anyone who went out to support her. At that time, a proper woman would speak in a rented hall with appropriate notice of the event to the attendees.

On December 31, 1907, she and three others (two women and one man) spoke about suffrage in an open-air meeting in Madison Square Park. About three hundred men and ten women came out. It was considered to be a huge success. Newspapers reported how the witty Malone kept cheerful banter with the crowd and presented a good case for women’s suffrage and stayed classy while shutting down would-be hecklers.

Malone also suggested the very first American suffrage parade in 1908. Carrie Chapman Catt was against the idea but Malone did it anyway--even without a permit. On February 16, 1908, she and a handful of women started marching up Broadway from Union Square to 23rd street to get to a suffrage meeting and by the time they got there about 2000 men had joined in the fun. No arrests were made. Everyone had a great time and newspapers reported positively on the event.

Because she took the more militant outspoken tactics of the British movement, Malone chose to proudly call herself a “suffragette” not a “suffragist”  The prefered term, like all labels, depended on the lady herself. Both the American suffragettes and suffragists argued with each other about tactics and terms, but ultimately, they were united by their cause, getting the vote.

Malone also started the first union for public library workers in 1915. She would also be among the women arrested for picketing the White House and be sent to the Occoquan Workhouse in 1917 (coming up in Episode 73). Always the fearless fighter, in 1932 she was dismissed from her job at the New York Public Library for her political activities.

Back to Top