by Mona Reno, Nevada Women’s History Project
Born: March 2, 1875 Somerset, Massachusetts
Death: November 7, 1966 San Fransisco, California
Role in Women’s Suffrage: President of the Sparks Equal Franchise Society, 1913-1914; Corresponding Secretary of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society, 1914; Nevada representative at the national convention of the League of Women Voters, 1923
Mary Manzanita Bowers was born on March 2, 1875 to John B. Bowers and Caroline Chase Bowers, in Somerset, Massachusetts. By 1900 she was married to William Henry Bray, a mining engineer, and was employed as a public-school teacher in Reno, Nevada. They had one son, William B. Bray.
Mary Bray lead the very active Sparks branch of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society. Sara Bard Field writes in Out West, “… public meetings held with prominent speakers to address them, study classes started and prized offered for the best suffrage essays. Beginning with nine members, the society now  numbers over fifty, and enrolls, on its advisory board, ministers, lawyers and business men.” Following an idea from a letter to Sparks from Anne Martin, “the group began studying civic government and American government, so they would be ready to exercise their franchise intelligently.” Mary also assisted in the formation of the Wadsworth, NV branch of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society in April of 1914.
In 1915, following the successful vote for women’s equal franchise in Nevada, the Washoe county Equal Franchise Society organized the Woman Citizens’ Club with a charter membership of 80. Mrs. W.H. Bray was very active in the group which followed and endorsed legislation and continued to inform and train women about the workings of government. In 1919 Mary was the President of that Club. In 1920 the Woman Citizens’ Club would become the Nevada League of Women Voters. Mary represented Nevada at the national convention for the League of Women Voters in 1923.
Mary was living in San Francisco by 1935. Mary Manzanita Bowers Bray died in San Francisco on November 7, 1966 at the age of 91. She is buried in the Saint Helena Cemetery in Napa County, California, beside her mother Caroline Chase Bowers.
- Mrs. O.H. Mack and Bird M. Wilson. “Nevada, 1910-1920. In History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. VI edited by Ida Husted Harper, 1922.
- Out West. “The Clash in Nevada: A History of Woman’s Fight for Enfranchisement,” by Sara Bard Field. August 1914, pg. 49-66.
- Reno Evening Gazette. “Sparks Equal Franchise Society Adopts Plans Suggested in Letter from State Head,” April 21, 1913, p. 7.
- Reno Evening Gazette. “Convention is Ended Today,” February 25, 1914, p. 8.
- Reno Evening Gazette. “Legislative Bills Endorsed by Women,” February 13, 1919.
- U.S. Census, 1920, 1940