When the 19th Amendment finally passed the Senate, Marie Stuart Edwards, Peru, IN said: "... we rejoice that this has come just now to the women of America at the dawn of this wonderful reconstruction period. Women are to “sit in” at the remaking of the world. I believe women will bring to our body politic an independence of action, a clarity of thought, unhampered by precedents, and an inspired desire to vote for the best interests of human society. We are calling on all women of the state to study, to carry through their plans for educational work along civic and citizenship lines. We are urging them to put loyalty to humanity, loyalty to country and to state above all ideas of party loyalty, since these new voters have yet to participate in party councils.
“I am glad to see this amendment pass. I am anxious to see it ratified. Most of all, am I anxious to see this great new force in action.
Marie Stuart Edwards, 4 Jun 1919

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Visiting Evangelist-Suffragist Emma Molloy

While looking for answers as to what became of the women’s rights movement in Miami County between 1864 (after Lizzie Bunnell retired The Mayflower) and 1914 (when the Peru Franchise League was organized), I came across something in the Peru Republican of 7 May 1880.

Bunker Hill Letter - Mrs. Emma Molloy, occupied the M E pulpit Sunday morning and delivered one of the best sermons it has been our privilege to hear for a long time.

At 2pm she spoke to the children, giving them an illustrated lecture on the effect of alcohol on the human system. At 7 o’clock in the evening she again addressed the people on the subject of temperance to a crowded house.  It has been said that the temperance subject is old and stale, and that its advocates can present nothing new on the subject.  This was not the case with Mrs. Molloy, her theme was a new one replete with the strongest arguments of prohibition.  The suffrage and prohibition petitions proposing an amendment to the State constitution, were circulated in the audience and quite a number of signatures of voters were obtained.  Mrs. Molloy is accompanied by her little son, Frank[1], 10 years old, who is also working among the boys in the temperance work.”[2]

Curiosity got the best of me.  Who was Emma Molloy?  She was not from Miami County, Indiana, that much was easy to establish, but I never dreamed the story would take the turn it did!

According to the Ness City Times[3], Emma was born about 1838 not far from South Bend, IN, where she grew up. “She was farmer’s girl, very smart and precocious.  At the age of 14 she married a man who died of delirium tremens while their only child was lying sick with scarlet fever.”

They continue describing her as teaching school and doing various things before meeting Edward Molloy.  Contrary to what the paper reports, Edward Molloy was not quite a bit older than Emma. 

On 28 November 1867[4], Emma F Pradt married Edward Molloy in South Bend, IN.  He was a newspaperman.  He published a Democrat sheet in South Bend until he moved to LaPorte where he published the LaPorte Herald[5] with his wife as his assistant.  The 1870 census lists her as “editress”.

It is unsure what happened to their relationship but Emma discovered she was a good speaker and as she became interested in temperance work, “she took to the rostrum as a red ribbon lecturer.  She traveled all over this country and addressed large audiences in Europe.”[6]

The Ness City Times continues: “He – her husband – was an excellent man and one of the best journalists of that day in the state.  Although they were not congenial and lived unhappily, she went to work and learned the printer’s trade.  She was an expert and rapid type-setter…  She continued in this walk of life until the crusade movement struck the country in 1873.”

Apparently this life suited her well and she is reported organizing women in Elkhart and Fort Wayne and storming saloons.  She left Edward Molloy to throw herself completely in social activism.

The ribbon movement began in 1877 and it provided the ultimate channel for her.  Thanks to Schuyler Colfax, a zealous Methodist, she was introduced to and received the endorsement of prominent clergymen.  She brought her personal experience to the topic of temperance because of her first husband and she could tell the story in vivid details[7].  After she returned from Europe she secured a contract with the Good Templars of Indiana and became a traveling lecturer.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel account depicts her in kinder words - maybe out of respect for her husband - than the other papers where she is described as lacking moral character.

The fact remains that her social activism led her to work in prison reform and that is how she became acquainted with a certain inmate named George Graham[8] who was serving a term for grand larceny[9].  His wife Sarah had divorced him after he was sent to prison. Emma Molloy managed to bring them back together and they remarried after his release. 

Emma Molloy gave the couple financial support as she established the Morning and Day of Reform paper in Washington, KS. 

In April 1882 Emma Molloy also rescued three sisters, Cora, Ida and Emma Lee by adopting them.  There were scandalous rumors but otherwise the whole little clan seemed to get along splendidly, until Sarah took her two sons and returned to Fort Wayne, IN.  Her chief complaint seemed to be that George was nicer to Cora Lee and to Emma Molloy than he was to her.

Cora and George married, after the first divorce papers were presented – there had not been a second divorce – and George made his way back to Fort Wayne to retrieve his sons.  Sarah came along.  The newspapers don’t tell whether Sarah was told about the bigamous marriage or not but she never made it to the Molloy home that day.  The boys had been left at the depot and George returned to the house after dark.

Sarah’s body was found 5 months later, at the bottom of a well half a mile from the house.  George was indicted. So were Cora Lee and Emma Molloy.  George was acquitted but the mob lynched him.  The women survived 2 years’ worth of trials but the ordeal took its toll on them of course.

Cora Lee took her own life in December 1888[10] at Norwalk, OH where she resided.

Emma Molloy is found in Port Townsend, WA in 1900, married to Morris Barrett[11], a retired printer.   She died on 14 May 1907 in Cedarville, CA.  She rests in the Redmens Cemetery[12] at Port Townsend, WA. 

And that is where I found her maiden name: Barrett. 

She was born on 17 July 1839, in South Bend, the daughter of William Lovell Barrett and Harriet Newton.   

She came to Bunker Hill to preach temperance and promote Women’s Suffrage and support for the already then hoped for amendment to the state constitution.  It was in May 1880.

[2] Peru Republican of 7 May 1880

[3] Ashland Clipper, 11 Mar 1886, Ashland, KS; Ness City Times, 18 March 1886,

[4] "Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-8BLN-9MC5?cc=1410397&wc=Q83F-4G3%3A963089101%2C963123701  : 21 January 2016), St. Joseph > 1861-1868 Volume 5 > image 308 of 329; Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis.

[5] The South Bend Tribune, 18 Mar 1914, South Bend, IN – death notice; The South Bend Tribune, 21 Jan 1893, South Bend, IN: “Mr. Molloy’s journalistic experience began in 1866 when he purchased the south Bend Union, which he retained until 1872 then going to Cortland, NY.  The same year he returned west and started the Elkhart weekly Observer, and a morning paper in 1874.  After that he was variously engaged until 1878 when he succeeded to the editorship of the LaPorte Chronicle, Hon. Jasper Packard, now of the New Albany Tribune, retiring. Since then he has been connected with Laporte journalism.  “Mr. Molloy’s paper this afternoon will be “The Limitations of Journalism” and a treat is promised.”

[6] The Fort Wayne Sentinel, 4 Mar 1886, Fort Wayne, IN

[7] Ashland Clipper, 11 Mar 1886, Ashland, KS; Ness City Times, 18 March 1886

[8] The Fort Wayne Sentinel, 4 Mar 1886, Fort Wayne, IN

[9] The Leavenworth Times, 8 Jun 1887, Leavenowrth, KS

[10] Washington Weekly Post, 27 Dec 1888, Washington, KS, page 4

[11] Aberdeen Herald, 19 Jan 1903, Aberdeen, WA – death notice – Port Townsend, Was – Jan 14 – Morris Barrett, a pioneer in the printing business of the Northwest, is dead.  He was born in Aurelia, NY in 1835.  While foreman of the government printing office at Washington, he married the adopted daughter of William h Seward, Lincoln’s famous secretary of state.  On the death of his wife Mr. Barrett moved to Oregon, where in 1889 he married Emma Molloy, well known in religious circles as an evangelist.  He had lived in Port Townsend for ten years.

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