Mary Evelyn Ransom Strong
- Advocate for women’s suffrage and integral in 1912 legislation making Kansas the eighth state to enact voting rights for women
- Influenced her husband to create the Dean of Women position at the University of Kansas
Mary Evelyn Ransom Strong, wife of former KU Chancellor Frank Strong, had a significant role in shaping Kansas and KU history. Born March 18, 1870, Strong campaigned throughout her life for women’s suffrage, especially in her home state. In a speech at the Kansas Day Club (Topeka, KS), she said, “a woman should be herself, true to her own nature.” A gifted orator, Strong attended meetings and rallied support for the cause in Kansas. After her speech at an annual meeting of the Equal Suffrage Association (Leavenworth, KS; April 18th, 1912), the group started their own women’s club to contribute to the movement. Strong’s efforts were rewarded after the passage of legislation in 1912, making Kansas the eighth state to enact voting rights for women.
Women’s clubs were one of the few options available for women at this time to take an active role in politics and advocate for social change. Strong was involved in many local groups, serving as a discussion leader for the Kansas State Social Science Federation, Vice President for the Lawrence Federation of Women’s Clubs and assisting with her daughter’s sorority, Theta Epsilon.
Her influence on KU, as well, had a lasting impact. Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle, in her dissertation research on Deans of Women, speculated that Mary Ransom Strong’s feminist/suffragist ideology had an influence on then-Chancellor Strong’s naming the first Dean of Women at KU – Frances Marley Brown. Strong had a role in garnering interest among local women's organizations to encourage the creation of the dean of women position. One such organization, in fact, was the Kansas State Federation of Women's Clubs, of which Mary Strong was Vice President. Referring to the positive climate of which his wife undoubtedly had a hand in creating, Chancellor Strong wrote to the new dean Florence Marley Brown, on her appointment: "I feel sure that you will have the cordial cooperation of all our people.." Mary Ransom Strong died at the age of 83. Her efforts and actions helped to change the status of KU and Kansas women, making her a Pioneer Woman.