Woman of the Century/Mary Allen West
WEST, Miss Mary Allen, journalist and temperance worker, born in Galesburg, Ill. 13th July, 1837. Her parents were among the founders of Knox College, one of the earliest collegiate institutions in the Mississippi valley Mary was a healthy, vigorous, studious girl, maturing early, both mentally and physically. She was prepared for college before she had' reached the age for admission She was graduated in her seventeenth year and at once began to teach school, which she then believed to be her life work. MARY ALLEN WEST. She was so successful in teaching and so influential in educational circles that she was twice elected to the office of superintendent of schools in Knox, her native county, being one of the first women to fill such a position in Illinois. She served in that capacity for nine years and resigned on accepting the presidency of the Illinois Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She attended many educational conventions and was a power in them, and continually wrote for school and other journals. She thus discovered to herself and others her marvelous capacity for almost unlimited hard work. Home duties were at that time pressing heavily, including as they did the care and nursing of an invalid mother and sister. She occupied a prominent social position, and her work included Sunday-school teaching. When the Civil War came, she worked earnestly in organizing women into aid societies to assist the Sanitary Commission. Her first editorial work was at long range, as she edited in Illinois the "Home Magazine," which was published nearly one-thousand miles away, in Philadelphia. Later she left the pen and the desk for active work in the temperance cause throughout the State. When the woman's crusade sounded the call of woman, the home and God against the saloon, her whole soul echoed the cry, and after the organization of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union she became an earnest worker in its ranks. She gave efficient aid in organizing the women of Illinois, and in a short time became their State president In that office she traveled very extensively throughout Illinois and became familiar with the homes of the people. It was that knowledge of the inner life of thousands of homes, together with her intimate studies of children in the school-room, which efficiently supplemented her natural bias for the task of writing her helpful book for mothers, "Childhood, its Care and Culture." She has written scores of leaflets and pamphlets, all strong, terse and full of meat, but that is her great work, and will long survive her. While she was State president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, she was often called upon to "help out" in the editorial labors of Mrs. Mary B. Willard. the editor of the "Signal," published in Chicago. Later it was merged with "Our Union." becoming the "Union Signal." under the editorship of Mrs. Willard. Before Mrs. Willard went to Germany to reside, Miss West removed to Chicago, and accepted the position of editor-in-chief, with Mrs. Elizabeth W. Andrew as her assistant. As editor of that paper, the organ of the national and the world's Woman's Christian Temperance Union, her responsibilities have been immense, but they have been carried with a steady hand and an even head. She has met the demands of her enormous constituency in a remarkable degree. A paper having a circulation of nearly one-hundred-thousand among earnest women, many of them in the front rank of intelligence and advancement of thought, and all of them on fire with an idea, needs judicious and strong, as well as thorough and comprehensive, editing. This the "Union Signal" has had, and the women of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union have repeatedly, in the most emphatic manner, indorsed Miss West's policy and conduct of the paper. Soon after she went to Chicago to reside, some Chicago women, both writers and publishers, organized the Illinois Woman's Press Association, its avowed object being to provide a means of communication between woman writers, and to secure the benefits resulting from organized effort Miss West was made president, and is now filling the position for the fifth consecutive annual term. Her work in that sphere has been a unifying one. She has brought into harmony many conflicting elements, and has helped to carry the association through the perils which always beset the early years of an organization. She has been a wise and practical leader, inaugurating effective branches of work, which have been of great value to the association. She is a member of the Chicago Woman's Club. She has no love for city life. Its rush and its roar tire her brain; its squalor, poverty, degradation and crime appall her. She has an unusual capacity for vicarious suffering. The woes of others are her woes, the knowledge of injustice or cruelty wrings her heart. That made her an effective director of the Protective Agency for Women and Children, but the strain of that work proved too great, and she has stepped outside its directorship, although remaining an ardent upholder of the agency. Her heart is in her Galesburg home, the home of her childhood and youth, and when she allows herself a holiday, it is to spend a few days with the home folks, who are, notwithstanding all her public interests, the center of the universe to her. Miss West, in 1892, visited California, the Sandwich Islands and Japan in the interests of temperance work.