American Journalist & Social Reformer


Mary Livermore was an American journalist, philanthropist, and lecturer during the nineteenth century. During the Civil War, she worked in hospitals, was a correspondent for numerous journals, an author, and edited her husband’s newspaper. She was the only woman reporter at Lincoln ’s nomination. After the Civil War she was active in temperance, suffrage, and abolitionist movements.

Born Mary Ashton Rice in Boston on December 19, 1820 , Mary was of Welsh descent. She graduated from the Boston public schools at fourteen and then attended the Female Seminary in Charlestown , Massachusetts . She graduated from there in two years instead of the allotted four, and upon graduation became a member of the faculty, teaching Latin and French.

In 1845 Mary married Rev. Daniel P. Livermore. Her husband was called to Chicago to become manager and editor of the publication, The New Covenant and Mary became his associate on the paper and was an invaluable asset to him in this work.

When the Civil War broke out, Mary went to the front lines as a nurse and was often under enemy fire. There was strong prejudice against women as army nurses, and she experienced much opposition in her work. Mrs. Livermore also founded The Sanitary Commission and the association was largely indebted to her for its organized efforts. When money came in slowly, she instituted the great Chicago Soldiers’ Fair, which raised $100,000. As an author she wrote “My Story of the War” that reached a sale of more than fifty thousand copies.

At the close of the war she turned her energies in the direction of women’s rights. In 1868 she organized the Chicago Woman Suffrage Convention and established “The Agitator”, a feminist journal, for the advocacy of temperance reform and woman suffrage. In 1870 “The Woman’s Journal” was started and she became the editor, her own paper becoming absorbed in the new journal. She also was one of the leaders in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

For thirteen years Mary Livermore delivered on an average of one hundred and fifty lectures per year. She spoke on a variety of topics including biography, history, politics, religion, temperance, and other reforms. She died on May 23, 1905 .


Excerpt from History’s Women – The Unsung Heroines, by Patricia Chadwick, PC Publications, 2002. To purchase this eBook, visit

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