Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Dr. Mary Gamble Cummins, 1869-1943
By Melissa Ziobro, Specialist Professor of Public History, Monmouth University
President Woman Suffrage League of Patterson, President of Patterson Woman's Political Union
Reverend Francis Markoe Cummins and his wife, Susan Caroline Seely, welcomed daughter Mary into the world in Goshen, Orange County, New York, on June 28, 1869. Francis Cummins served as a captain in the Mexican War and then as a colonel in the Civil War. Mary attended Miss Hogarth's school in Goshen, followed by the Englewood, NJ Collegiate School for Girls (1885-1886, 1889) and Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York (1889-1890). She then attended Hahnemann Medical College, graduating in 1893 as a Doctor of Homeopathic Medicine. (Today, Drexel University College of Medicine “represents the legacies of two historic medical schools of Hahnemann Medical College and the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania.”)
Dr. Cummins practiced medicine in Davenport, Ohio from 1893-1895, and later in her hometown. By 1896, she had a practice in Paterson, NJ. She continued her studies with post-graduate work in New York City in 1900. Despite having her own thriving practice in Paterson, at various times Dr. Cummins was an associate member of the staff at St. Mary's Hospital in Passaic, NJ, a member of the NJ State Homeopathic Medical Society and NJ State Medical Association, and an associate of the alumnae society of the New York Medical College and Hospital for Women. She was in practice until at least 1925.
She was the first woman appointed to the Paterson Board of Education, and gave a course on sex education at the Paterson Young Women's Christian Association. Her political service included acting as Vice-Chairman of the Women's Division of the Passaic County Republican County Commission.
Details of Dr. Cummins's suffrage work are fleeting; this is unsurprising given that so few details of her life were documented. In a 1914 letter to Lucy Stone, Lillian Feickert praised Dr. Cummins as a very effective president of the Woman Suffrage League of Patterson. On April 29-May 1, 1915, she participated in a three-day automobile tour; the first of many held throughout New Jersey. She rode in organizer Florence Halsey's automobile along with Lillian Feickert, Mary Colvin, and Emma Funck (of Maryland). The group made stops in many towns along the route which ended in Camden, New Jersey for the Suffrage Day celebrations there. A 1915 newspaper article written in advance of a vote on a women's suffrage amendment to the NJ State Constitution identifies Dr. Cummins as the President of the Paterson branch of the Woman's Political Union and cites her as saying, “There will be a big vote tomorrow, and both Paterson and Passaic County will give a large majority for the suffrage amendment.” That proposed amendment would be voted down. Undeterred, suffragists like Dr. Cummins pressed on. She was listed as a New Jersey Women Suffrage Association delegate present at the 48th Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association held September 1916 in Atlantic City, NJ. As of 1919, she was an executive committee member of the New Jersey Suffrage Ratification Committee. She regularly attended suffrage rallies in NJ and Washington, DC.
A 1920 history of Paterson (the most comprehensive source of information on the doctor) spoke of her large practice and said of Dr. Cummins, “She combines with her professional activities those of a public-spirited citizen, associating herself intimately with suffrage.”
Dr. Cummins died on August 19, 1943.
“Drexel University College of Medicine History,” Drexel University, https://drexel.edu/medicine/about/history/. Accessed 8 November 2018.
Felice D. Gordon, After Winning: The Legacy of the New Jersey Suffragists, 1920-1947, (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1986).
Dodyk, Delight W., "Education and Agitation: The Woman Suffrage Movement in New Jersey,” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Rutgers University, 1997), pg. 630.
Nelson, William, Charles Anthony Shriner, History of Paterson and its Environs, (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1920), pg. 425.
“Jersey Women See Suffrage Victory,” Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia), 20 September 1919.
“Suffrage Campaign is Carried to the Polls,” New York Times, 19 October 1915.
“Suffrage Auto Campaign Begins on April 29th,” The Daily Home News, 22 April 1915, pg. 9.
“Suffragists to Aid Nation in Crisis,” Perth Amboy Evening News (Perth Amboy, NJ), 13 February 1917.
“Will Ask President to Endorse Suffrage,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), 15 November 1913.
William Harvey King, editor, History of homeopathy and its institutions in America, Volume 4 (New York: Lewis Publishing , 1905), 331.
William Nelson and Charles A. Shriner, History of Paterson and Its Environs (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1920), 425.
Hannah J. Patterson, editor, The Handbook of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the 48th Annual Meeting (New York City: National Woman Publishing Company, Inc. 1916), 212.
Vassar College Alumni file, Mary Gamble Cummins.
The Woman Citizen (New York), 7 June 1919.
“Women of Both Parties Meet,” Perth Amboy Evening News (Perth Amboy, NJ), 1 March 1921.