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Mary Whitall Worthington papers


Held at: Bryn Mawr College [Contact Us]Bryn Mawr College Library, 101 N. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr 19010

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Bryn Mawr College. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Mary Whitall Worthington was a 1910 graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the president of the Bryn Mawr chapter of the Woman's Equal Suffrage League. She was the niece of Bryn Mawr president M. Carey Thomas, being the daughter of Thomas's sister, Grace Thomas Worthington. She grew up with her mother in England, after her parents' divorce in 1896, and returned to England during the summers while she was in college. Worthington was an ardent suffragist who met with several prominent suffragists of the day, including Anna Howard Shaw. She was highly involved with several on-campus activities, serving as the Secretary and President of the Equal Suffrage League, Vice-President and Treasurer of the Philosophical Club, Secretary of the Science Club, and general member of the Sunday Evening Meeting Committee. After graduation, she attended the Johns Hopkins Medical School, but died as the result of congenital heart failure in January 1912.

The Mary Whitall Worthington papers houses the personal papers and four diaries of Worthington, class of 1910. Her diaries, which cover April 1907 to November 1911, describe her time at Bryn Mawr College from late in her first year to her graduation, and then during her first year of medical school at Johns Hopkins University. They are extensive and eloquent reflections on Worthington's life as a young woman attending college in the early 20th century. Her personal papers range from 1906-1911, and likewise provide insight into the life of an intelligent, perceptive early 20th century college woman.

The collection is comprised of two boxes. The first of these houses the four diaries kept by Worthington during her years at Bryn Mawr, while the second box holds Worthington's personal papers.

Worthington's diaries are arranged chronologically. The first covers her freshman year at Bryn Mawr in the spring of 1907. In it, she describes College traditions, athletic events and plays, and the early stages of working with the Bryn Mawr chapter of the College Women's Equal Suffrage League. She discusses her interest in biology and her advocacy for women's suffrage and social reform. Her second diary covers 1907 to 1908, and gives further description of the College's traditions and her involvement with the College Women's Equal Suffrage League. Additionally, she discusses playing on the hockey team, concern over her grades, her repeated stays in the infirmary, and her relatives (including her aunt, M. Carey Thomas. Her third diary is from her junior year at Bryn Mawr College, in 1908-1909. She describes her travels in England and Ireland over summer vacation. Her passion for women's suffrage flourishes: she describes the meetings of the Bryn Mawr Chapter of the College Equal Suffrage League (of which she was president; her attendance at the 40th Annual convention of the North American Woman Suffrage Association in Buffalo, NY; and the talks she attends regarding suffrage, including one by Anna Howard Shaw. She says, of this convention: "All the great people in the suffrage world were there." She also writes about her friends, family members, and hockey. Her fourth diary dates from her senior year, 1909-1910. She describes her summer vacation, during which she sailed from New York to Europe on board the RMS Lusitania. During her stay in England, Worthington had tea and attended a "suffragette raid" on the House of Commons with Inez and Vida Milholland, leaders in the National Women's Party. This diary also describes Emmeline Pankhurst's later talk at the Merion Cricket Club, and Worthington's subsequent conversation with her. Finally, the diary is filled with talk of her friends, hockey games, club lectures, play and glee club rehearsals, and traditions. Among her best friends were Peggy James, the daughter of William James, and Mary Nearing, the sister of Scott Nearing.

The second box contains Worthington's personal papers: these include a small amount of correspondence from 1906 to 1911, including several letters from M. Carey Thomas; loose jounal pages that were likely intended to be eventually transcribed into a bound volume like the diaries in Box 1; manuscripts of Worthington's speeches on suffrage and other topics; and a handwritten manuscript of an untitled play that takes place on a college campus.

The years during which Mary Whitall Worthington attended Bryn Mawr College were critical for reimagining the role of women in the 20th century. Worthington's attendance at an elite women's college and her involvement with the women's suffrage movement gave her a unique perspective on the capabilities, duties, and possibilities of women. This collection provides an intimate view into the life of a unique individual. It would be of use to any researcher interested in women's education, college women's involvement in the suffrage movement, or Bryn Mawr College during the early 20th century.

The Mary Whitall Worthington diaries have been digitized and can be found on Triptych at

Bryn Mawr College
Finding Aid Author
Cassidy Gruber Baruth
Finding Aid Date
2018 October 2
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17)

Collection Inventory

Diary: Volume 9, 1907 Spring.
Scope and Contents

Mary Whitall Worthington's diary during her freshman year at Bryn Mawr in the spring of 1907. Mary Worthington, M. Carey Thomas's "dear, intelligent niece," recorded descriptions of many College traditions including May Day, her class dinner, a bonfire, and the garden party. She writes about attending athletic events and plays at both Bryn Mawr and Haverford, spending time with friends, and the early stages of working with the Bryn Mawr chapter of the College Women's Equal Suffrage League. This diary also includes a recounting of her summer vacation, giving a good idea of her several groups of friends. In her diary she talks about her interest in biology as well as her advocacy for women's suffrage and social reform. Throughout her diary, Mary Whitall Worthington includes photographs of friends, place cards and programs from events, drawings and poems by friends, and a letter from her brother.

Diary: Volume 10, 1907-1908.
Scope and Contents
Diary: Volume 11, 1908-1909.
Diary: Volume 12, 1909-1910.
Personal papers.

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