Mary Keeler Adams (Newbury) (1837 - 1901) MP

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Birthplace: Peru, Indiana, United States
Death: Died in Dubuque, Iowa, United States
Managed by: William Adams
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About Mary Keeler Adams (Newbury)

Mary Adams (Newbury) (1837 - 1901) was an American advocate of women's rights who was active nationally, but especially in Iowa, where her husband was a member of that state's supreme court. Mary Adams was a member of the National Women's Suffrage Association as well as several archæological and historical societies. Mary Adams was instrumental in the founding of numerous women's societies throughout Iowa. She traveled to Concord, Massachusetts in 1872 to visit Bronson Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and brought these men to Dubuque to speak to the women's clubs she had organized. Among Mary Adams's associates were Julia Ward Howe, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Her principle literary works were in the form of essays, lectures, sermons, and newspaper articles. In 1893 she presented a paper, "Influence of Great Women," before the The Congress of Women, held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago. Mary Adams made a speech in 1895 at NYC's Metropolitan Opera House on the occasion of Stanton's 80th birthday celebration.

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The following biographical profile of Mary was printed with a paper she presented in 1893, "Influence of Great Women," before the The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U.S.A. (Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 342-347. Online: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/eagle/congress/adams.html#note)

"Mrs. Mary Newbury Adams is a native of Peru, Ind. She was born October 17, 1837. Her parents were Rev. Samuel Newbury and Mrs. Mary Ann Sergeant Newbury. She received her early education at home private schools; graduated from Cleveland public schools later, and from Troy, Tenn., Seminary in 1857. She married Austin Adams, Esq., who was afterward twelve years judge of the Supreme Court of Iowa. She takes great interest in the history and study of humanity, particularly woman's work in civilization. Her principle literary works are numerous essays, lectures, sermons, and newspaper articles. Her profession is housekeeper and home-keeper. In religious faith she is a Cosmopolitan Unitarian. Mrs. Adams is a member of the National Women's Suffrage Association and many archæological and historical societies. In personal appearance she is stately, dignified and commanding. Mrs. Adams' parents and ancestors were ministers, judges, physicians, and seven of her grandmothers were daughters of professional men. Her line of thought and work has been inherited, and is not military nor business. Her post office address is Dubuque, Iowa."

There is an archive of Austin and Mary Newbury Adams' papers at Iowa State University.

Louise Moede Lex wrote a scholarly article about Mary : "Mary Newbury Adams: Feminist Forerunner from Iowa," published in a journal of Iowa history, Annals of Iowa, number 43, 5, Summer of 1976, pp 323-341. Here's a link to a pdf of this article (12.5 mb): <http://www.artlex.com/delahunt/Mary%20Newbury%20Adams_Lex_1976.pdf>

You'll read about Samuel and Mary Ann Newbury's service as agents of the underground railway, and the Newburys' pioneering activities in women's education and suffrage. Mary knew Bronson Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson. She brought each of them to Dubuque, and visited Concord in 1872 as part of this activity. She also associated with Julia Ward Howe (author of Battle Hymn of the Republic), Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Mary made a speech in 1895 at NYC's Metropolitan Opera House on the occasion of Stanton's 80th birthday celebration.

Mary and her sister Frances Bagley (Newbury) were both members of the Board of Lady Managers of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. The Chicago History Museum has an archive of documents concerning the activities of the Board of Lady Managers of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.

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Following is a letter Mary Adams (Newbury) wrote (24 years old) to John Judson Bagley (29), her brother-in-law, husband of Mary's sister Frances:

Dubuque Sept 5 [6, 8?] 1861

Dear John,

Your letter was received on Wednesday. You have failed to convince me that you are right in your conclusion. A perfect mind consists in an equal development of every faculty of the mind. Education is the means used to gain that development. We know that children differ even in childhood, some are born with self confidence and determination with a will that cannot be baffled. Others are timid and cautious will go so far and no farther than they can see their way clear. Having no confidence to commence anything till they are certain they can accomplish it. We see those that are guided by their impulses (instincts) These will be changeable in their feelings and actions. In an other duty, what should be done, will hold the reins, these will not do as much, but will accomplish more. Their education will be such that it will develop what each lacks, keeping in check their natural inclinations. [Indecipherable mark] All works harmoniously. For example, Sam [Mary’s elder brother Sam was 26 years old at this time] is all impulse. His pleasure his guide. He needed the discipline which God ordained for the impulses. Work. Reading and study were mere play for him. He should early have been put at work compelled to do something which was unpleasant for him to do. To make him work would have required a firm steady will, which neither of his parents possess. Father has been in a business just as long as there was fun in pushing it forward. As soon as the iclat [?] was over he started for something else. Samuel is his son with an indulgent father.

To expect such a character not to be swayed and rooted [?] up by every wind would be as preposterous as to suppose an elm with its wide spreading, swaying limbs would remain upright without its proportionate growth of wide spreading roots. What theologians have taught was depravity is nothing but an overabundance of this earthward growth: a due proportion is necessary to produce the perfect development of the upward tendency. Work was not sent as a curse but as the means whereby man was to learn self control. We can all see that Samuel is a failure. I think it is owing to his training which was poison to his mind. It is the food [good?] another may need. Egbert [Mary’s younger brother Egbert was 18 years old at this time] is the extreme opposite to Sam — has no self confidence, would not attempt to make out a receipt till he knew he could do it, and do it well. He delights in doing what should be done. Another’s treasure, not his own, is his guide. He requires an education (as similar [?] circumstances will allow) to give him confidence in himself. He writes poorly, therefore will not write at all. If an obstacle presents itself, he takes another course rather than disturb it. He must be taught to reserve [?] he never will attempt till he feels competent. I would make him competent. You are of a temperament that cannot readily appreciate the feelings of one of Egbert’s temperament. You think what came naturally to you would to him. An education for you like S. would have been your [suicide?]. Egbert needs to mingle with those of his own age and learn to write a good hand. Anyway I care not how, only that it is attained. A knowledge of book keeping he must have to be a business man even, he needs a knowledge of its form to start him, to give him confidence to start on his own hook. You say “a boy of any gumption will acquire a commercial practical education quickly and will never forget it. If he has no gumption, school teaching won’t furnish it.” Now if you mean by gumption fearlessness, self confidence without much regard for the opinions of others so long as you feel yourself right, then it is true. But if a character lacks these then circumstances must be shaped to develop them. You can “teach him to act, think, and speak for himself.” “Teach him he must be self-reliant.” That is exactly what I want. But he will not act, think, or speak till he is confident he is capable. As to Nettie [Mary’s sister Jeanette was 14 1/2 years old at this time], she is very much the same temperament as Sam. What is pleasant for her to do she will do and do nicely. What is not pleasant she will not attempt. To be in school with the girls, dress well, live well, have the studying play, and she would do it. To thus gratify her inclination would do for her what college did for Sam. Never was a girl better situated than she is this winter and has been for three years with nearly all her time at her own disposal, with quiet, with books, with a tutor right in the house. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s father paid a high price for a gentleman to devote his time to his daughter. Nettie has it all in a father. But to study because she should is work. To go to school would be play. Unless this discipline is now administered she will be as useless a woman as Sam is a man. I think that the orthodox creeds teach some of the most pernicious principles that could be taught a child. They teach to lie back and let Providence direct. That is, let circumstances direct one’s course instead of making circumstances shape to ones wishes. That there are two sets of influencing spirits surrounding one, the person a mere shuttlecock between them. If one does well good angels guided him. If he is tempted and yields, the devil and his angels pulled him their way. (What is temptation but the voice of a fully developed desire, and if one yields is it not because judgment. Will. Their higher self was not sufficiently developed to counteract the influence. The devil is but excess personified. Nothing is evil except in excess or misplaced. In an age when there was no language to convey accurately these truths, and when every power was personated[?], when but little was known concerning mind and its faculties, it was the only way of conveying to them this knowledge that we must follow goodness and avoid what led to evil. It leads to error[?] alching[?] to it when the necessity for its use has ceased. A child should be taught that they are the carvers of their own characters. Faculties grow by use: they should use those in which they are deficient. Develop the traits by the various means which God has given. Work gives strength; suffering sweetness. All things work together for our good if we but rightly understand them. We but need the knowledge how to use circumstances and things. Let us use this knowledge as fast as we acquire it. Good night.

This morning I hardly know whether it is best to commence another sheet on the affairs of the day or not. I believe I will attempt it and write it as I have this with the care of a creeping crying baby on my hands [Annabell, Mary’s first child, was three years old at this time; Eugene, her second child, was eight months old], write a sentence and run however no excuses. I am after the truth of this matter and not its dress that can be perfected by a copyist.

Affectionately, Mary [Newbury Adams]

[Mary squeezed a long line of writing perpendicular to the rest of her text along an edge of her page two and another along the left edge of her page three:]

P [a capital P Mary drew with two vertical lines; with this P, perhaps Mary signifies “paragraph” or “postscript”] Working by himself is play to him. He should be made to play to get the work which is discipline.

[and:] Austin [Mary’s husband] has just read my letter and thinks it needs remodeling. It can’t get it. More when I get a sf are home. [?]

[Notes: Mary’s sister Frances married John Bagley in 1855. John Bagley was 29 years old in 1861, a prosperous Detroit businessman, who was involved in politics. John Bagley helped Egbert obtain employment years later, in the 1870s. John was elected governor of Michigan in the 1870s too.

America’s Civil War began with the assault on Fort Sumter in the spring of 1861. The next major battle, the First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas, was in July. It ended in a setback for the Union’s forces, the Confederate army driving them back to Washington, D.C.. Mary refers to none of this in her letter. The next major battle would occur in the spring of 1862.]

Source: The original of this letter, penned by Mary on paper, is in the possession of Michael R. Delahunt, who has made this transcription and pasted it here (2011).

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Mary Adams (Newbury)'s Timeline

1837
October 13, 1837
Peru, Indiana, United States
1857
September 8, 1857
Age 19
United States
1863
1863
Age 25
1865
1865
Age 27
1901
August 5, 1901
Age 63
Dubuque, Iowa, United States