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Mary Elliot Flannery

October 13, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Intellectual history, Political history, Social history

          I have decided to do research on Mary Elliot Flannery, Kentucky’s and the south’s first female legislator.  After reading about her, I couldn’t help but wonder where the determination and the will to push through a campaign during a time in which women were not received well in politics or many other aspects of American society comes from?  It’s a significant reason why I chose her.  Also, she is a native Kentuckian and was a public school teacher, something I someday hope to relate to.

            Born in 1867 as Mary Elliot into an affluent family, she attended college at Barboursville College in West Virginia before completing her education at the University of Kentucky.  She then became a school teacher and married a man named William “Harvey” Flannery and moved to Pike County, Kentucky due to her husband’s job.  It was here where Flannery began her career as a writer, writing columns for the Ashland Daily advocating legislation for women’s rights.  Through her articles in the newspaper Flannery was able to muster support for her cause and by 1921, only a year after womens’ suffrage had become constitutional law, won a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives by a 250 vote margin.  She continued her work in politics and journalism until her death in 1933 being an active voice for women in Kentucky, the south, and the entire United States.  She was a member of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, the General Federation of Women club, Daughter’s of the Revolution, and founded a chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  She also had an unsuccessful run at Secretary of State in 1923.  Keep in mind that she was able to accomplish all of this while raising 5 children!

            Mary Elliot Flannery was one of the most influential women of Kentucky and the civil rights and women’s suffrage movement.  Researching the life and work of such a prominent figure will help to highlight a hero and progressive leader of both the commonwealth and women’s history.

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