Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Margaret Harrington Stanislawsky, b.1869-d.1955
By Mona Reno, Nevada Women’s History Project
President of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society, 1911-1912; Speaker in California at suffrage events, 1911
Margaret Harrington came to the United States in 1882 from Skibbereen, Cork, Ireland at the age of 14. Apparently, she was already a dependable person because she was traveling with 4-year-old Patrick Harrington. It is unknown who met them or where they went upon arrival in New York.
In 1896 Margaret was living in Bellevue, Wash. She had met Henry Stanislawsky and they were married in Blaine, Idaho, on August 31, 1896. Their life together was a series of moves around the western states of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, following Henry’s career in mining. By 1907 they were living in Reno, Nev., with their three young children: James, Henrietta, and Daniel.
Margaret was socially active in the Reno community. She was a member of the Optimista Society of Trinity [Episcopal] Church; The Twentieth Century Club, where she was the leader of the Literary Section; and the Nevada Federation of Women’s Clubs. The women at these events are the leading women in the upcoming suffrage activities. Nevada already had a history of working toward equal suffrage for women beginning in the 1870s. These enthusiastic, but unsuccessful, attempts were to be followed by this new wave of determined women.
By 1911, Margaret was deeply involved in the organization of the Nevada effort to win the vote for women. She was a speaker at a suffrage meeting held in Reno at the Odd Fellows Hall on January 28, 1911, along with members of Nevada’s U.S. and state elected representatives, and Miss Jeanne Wier, the coordinator. At a February 4, 1911, organization meeting, Margaret Stanislawsky was elected president of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society. Within two weeks she was speaking to the Nevada Legislature in support of suffrage. “Mrs. Henry Stanislawsky of Reno made an impassioned appeal to the members, asserting that each party had declared in favor of the referendum, and the women desired the matter submitted to popular vote,” Tonopah Daily Bonanza, February 21, 1911. The Nevada Legislature passed the suffrage resolution in 1911, which would send it to the 1913 Legislature for proposed second passage.
After the successful effort in 1911, Margaret gave speeches on suffrage in the Reno area and in Oakland and the Bay Area in Northern California. On September 15, 1911 she spoke to the Oakland Suffrage Amendment League. Her words were recorded in the San Francisco Call:
“The moral conditions today are the result of but one thing – the indifference of decent, moral women …The respectable, conservative people who want to be ladylike, the women who are afraid to assert themselves and who are self-centered, these are the women we need fear. Every woman influences the man who stands next her, and she is the factor in our campaign. … There seems to be a general misconception as to our reason for desiring the ballot. We do not want it that we may drop a piece of paper in the ballot box. The vote is the outside sign and symbol of that which means our legal and political equality. We would be the peers of men before the law, we who are amendable to it and who are esteemed the law-abiding part of the nation.”
Margaret gave several talks at civic and church groups, mostly in Oakland, between September 14 and 20, 1911 on the moral issues around suffrage. Margaret Stanislawsky was a Quaker, which influenced her life and actions. Further quotes from the September 15, 1911 meeting show her belief in equality. “According to Mrs. Stanislawsky, Plato was the first woman suffragist and his belief in the equality of the sexes was reiterated in the teachings of Christ.”
Margaret’s husband Henry had moved his mining interests to California and Margaret and her children moved to joined him. The February 5, 1912 Nevada State Journal states her reasons for moving. “She would so have enjoyed remaining in Reno another fortnight … but she felt that her immediate duty to her husband and family absolutely required her remaining with them at this time. In obeying this call she has disproven beyond all question the assertion so often made that a suffragist cannot be a good wife and mother.”
Margaret would take her daughter Bonita (Henrietta) with her to suffrage events. Bonita recalled meeting former President Teddy Roosevelt at an event when she was aged 11 or 12. Bonita’s daughter Janet Reist reminisced, “He took her white gloved hand and said, ‘I am de-lighted Miss Stanislawsky.’” She also recalled meeting Jack London at a luncheon.
The Stanislawsky’s first moved to Santa Rosa and then to Berkeley, where they stayed. Margaret was a founding member of the Berkeley Friends Meeting in 1914, an organizer of the Pioneer Farming Company in 1927, a director of the Bay Region branch of the Women’s International League for Peace in the 1930s and following World War II she was involved in the Heifer International project.
Margaret Stanislawsky died on January 14, 1955 in Alameda, Calif.
“A Monument More Enduring Than Bronze: The Woman Suffrage Movement in North Central Nevada,” by Phillip I. Earl. In, The Humboldt Historian, Winter-Spring, 1981.
“Anita Whitney one of Organizers of Farm Company in California.” The Fresno Morning Republican, August 26, 1927, pg. 1.
Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1957.
Ancestry.com. Western States Marriage Index, 1809-2016.
“Calamity Howlers Storm Capitol. Impassioned appeals were made to the representatives by many suffragettes…Final vote to be taken in a week.” Tonopah Daily Bonanza, February 21, 1911, pg. 1.
Harper, Ida Husted. The History of Woman Suffrage. Volume VI, 1922. National American Woman Suffrage Association.
“History of the Suffrage Movement in Nevada, 1900-1913,” by Jeanne Elizabeth Wier, 1920. Nevada Equal Franchise Society manuscript collection, Nevada Historical Society, Reno, Nev.
“Margaret Stanislawsky.” Oakland Tribune, January 16, 1955, pg. 61.
“Mrs. O.H. Mack entertained …” Reno Evening Gazette, September 17, 1910, pg. 6.
Personal communication with Janet Reist, Margaret Stanislawsky’s granddaughter, age 86, March 29, 2021.
“Suffragists Call Women Indifferent: Conservative attitude scored as menace to the success of cause.” The San Francisco Call, September 16, 1911, Pg. 14.
“Rich Nuggets from Bonnie Hydraulic Mining Company.” Reno Evening Gazette, August 10, 1907, pg. 6.
“The History of Berkeley Friends Meeting.” Compiled by Miriam Berg. Berkeleyfriendsmeeting.org/our-history Viewed March 2021.
“The Literary Section of the Century Club…” Reno Evening Gazette, April 30, 1910, pg. 8.
“Woman Suffrage Department, edited by The Nevada Equal Franchise Society.” Reno Evening Gazette, January 27, 1912, pg. 3.