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Woman of the Century/Mary Emma Holmes

HOLMES, Mrs. Mary Emma, woman suffragist, born on a farm in Peoria county, Ill., 3rd August, 1839. She is descended from Puritan stock. Her father, Capt. Ira Smith, was born in Hampden, Me., 5th January, 1806. Her mother, Sarah Jenkins Smith, was a native of Thomaston, Me., and was born 20th November, 1813. Her father enlisted in a man-of-war at the age of seventeen. It was the custom, in those days, to deal out "grog" daily to the sailors. This troubled him, and he attempted to give away his allowance or to throw it overboard, but was stopped by the officer in charge. He appealed to the captain, and was allowed to receive two dollars and fifty cents per month instead of the rum. Mr. Smith soon became the master of a merchant vessel. He hung out his sign, which said that he would not allow "grog" except in cases of sickness, and wanted only men who would be willing to go without it. His vessel was the first one that sailed out of Boston with temperance regulations. His men were so faithful that other captains soon followed his example. This reformatory spirit was born in his daughter. Mrs. Holmes was educated in Peoria, Ill., where she lived during her girlhood. Her father a .is a man of means, but she was a teacher in the Peoria public schools for six years. She taught in the poorest part of the city, from choice, and did missionary work at the same time. At the age of twenty-six she became the wife of Rev. David E. Holmes, and moved to his field of labor in Berlin, Wis. The failure of her husband's health during the first year of their married life made a change of business necessary, and both Mr. and Mrs. Holmes taught in the Berlin high school for six years. They were chosen members of the faculty of the Normal School in Oshkosh, Wis., and began their labors there with much promise of usefulness: but another failure of health on the part of her husband made a change to a business life a necessity. Within a year they removed to their present home, in Galva, Ill., where her husband has been successful as a lumber merchant, Mrs. Holmes keeping the books for several years. They have one son, Edward, born in 1874, and an adopted daughter, Emma Holland. Although Mrs. Holmes was always a reformer, the last fifteen years have been crowded unusually full of public work. She MARY EMMA HOLMES.jpgMARY EMMA HOLMES. was for several years president of the county societies for temperance and suffrage. Then she was superintendent of the franchise department for the Illinois Woman's Christian Temperance Union for several years. These positions she resigned after she became president of the Equal Suffrage Association of Illinois. After being president of the State five years, she resigned to rest, but at the end of one year of rest she again accepted the presidency in the annual meeting in November, 1890. By virtue of this office she is also vice-president of the National American Suffrage Association. Mrs. Holmes excels in executive ability and as a presiding officer. She is the treasurer of a fund contributed to obtain a marble portrait bust of Susan B. Anthony, to be exhibited in the World's Fair, in Chicago, in 1893. Mrs. Holmes is also a member of the "government reform" committee of the woman's branch of the World's Congress Auxiliary, and also represents the National American Suffrage Association in the World's Fair as the Committee from Illinois. She belongs to the liberal wing of the Congregational Church and is an active member, having been clerk in the Galva church for many years. She teaches a Sunday-school class of a hundred men and w omen and a society of two-hundred-fifly children, called "Careful Builders." A free public library in her own home has been provided for these charges. She has written a good deal in a local way. and also for educational journals, all through her active life.