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Civic worker, political campaigner, and advocate of civil rights, birth control, and women's rights, Martha (Ragsdale) Ragland was born in Paducah, KY in May 14, 1906, the daughter of Joseph Senter Ragsdale and Viva Jane (Troutt) Ragsdale . MRR graduated from Vanderbilt University (B.A. 1927, M.A. Economics 1928). From 1929 to 1933 under a grant with the National Records Council, MRR was a researcher in Washington D.C., for Ellsworth Huntington, and co-authored a book on eugenics with him. She returned to Tennessee and married Thomas Ragland in 1932; they had two children: Thomas, born November 24, 1934, and Sandra Jane (married David Demson ), born October 28, 1937. Thomas, Jr. graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1957 and Sandra from Radcliffe College, magna cum laude, in 1958. Thomas Ragland, Sr. was president of the Mountain City Mill Co. while the family lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 1950 when TR became the manager of the Knoxville branch of the Ragland Bros. Co., a state-wide family wholesale grocery, the family moved to Knoxville . A year later, they moved to Nashville . TR was active in Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal political group. In 1946, MRR taught economics at the University of Chattanooga to a class of 150 freshman war veterans.

During the 1930s and early 1940s MRR helped organize Planned Parenthood groups at the local and state levels, and in 1938 organized a speaking tour for Margaret Sanger in Tennessee . She was a very outspoken proponent of women's participation in politics. MRR and Dorothy Stafford were responsible for reviving the Tennessee League of Women Voters (LWV), which had disbanded in 1920 after women received the vote. She held offices in the LWV at the local, state, and national levels (president, Tennessee LWV, 1945-46; Nashville LWV, 1946-47), where she worked for better housing and health services, children's issues, and for tax equalization and reform of the Tennessee constitution.

MRR headed the women's division of the Democratic Party in the 1948 general election, and chaired the women's division in the Estes Kefauver (1948) and Albert Gore (1952) campaigns for U.S. Senate. In the 1956 presidential campaign she was vice-chair of National Volunteers for Stevenson-Kefauver. MRR was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and member of the Platform Committee in 1952, a member of the Democratic National Committee (1952-56), and Tennessee delegate to the National Women's Conference in Houston (1977). MRR was president of the Tennessee Political Caucus ; and, with the help of Carleen Waller, organized the Volunteer Women's Roundtable (VWR) which spawned the Women's Political Caucus (WPC). MRR worked tirelessly to promote women, motivating and encouraging many to work in politics or run for office. She often suggested names of women she thought were good candidates for positions in politics.

MRR was also very interested in civil and human rights, education, and women's rights. She served as a U.S. delegate to the Atlantic Congress of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries in London (1959); a delegate to the White House Conference on International Cooperation (1965); the Tennessee Citizens Committee for Better Schools (board member, 1949-50); Tennessee Commission on Children (vice chair, 1950); Tennessee Library and Archives Commission (chair, 1951-52); Federal Advisory Council on Employment Security (1963-69); Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (chair, 1963-69); Southern Regional Council (board member, 1965-); Citizens' Research Foundation (trustee, 1976-83); Tennessee United Organizations for Education ; Tennessee Representative of the National Committee for Support of the Public Schools ; Tennessee Council on Human Relations ; and the Tennessee Friends of the Libraries . MRR was also a member of the American Library Association and the American Political Science Association. In 1995, MRR was inducted into the YMCA's Academy of Women of Achievement. Still active in her 80s, she died on Jan. 18, 1996.

From the guide to the Papers, 1928-1996, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Papers, 1928-1996 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Abernathy, Virginia person
correspondedWith Adlai Stevenson person
correspondedWith Albert Gore person
correspondedWith Albert Gore, Jr. person
correspondedWith Alexander, Lamar person
associatedWith Al Gore, Jr. person
associatedWith Al Gore, Sr. person
correspondedWith Allen, Lee person
correspondedWith Americans for Democratic Action corporateBody
correspondedWith Anna Lord Strauss person
correspondedWith Bode, Ken person
associatedWith Bowles, Chester, 1901- person
associatedWith Browning, Gordon, 1889- person
correspondedWith Carole Stanford Bucy person
correspondedWith Carol Lynn Yellin person
correspondedWith Charlie Neese person
correspondedWith Chester Bowles person
correspondedWith Children's Bureau corporateBody
associatedWith Church Center for the United Nations corporateBody
correspondedWith Citizens' Research Foundation corporateBody
correspondedWith David Lilienthal person
correspondedWith Davis, Margaret Thomson person
associatedWith Democratic National Committee (U.S.). Women's Division corporateBody
associatedWith Democratic National Convention corporateBody
associatedWith Democratic Party (Tennessee) corporateBody
associatedWith Democratic Party (U.S.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Democratic Women's Club corporateBody
correspondedWith De Pierri, Kate person
correspondedWith Derian, Patricia person
associatedWith Derian, Patricia M. person
correspondedWith Douglas, Paul H. person
correspondedWith Dykeman, Wilma person
correspondedWith Edmund Orgill person
correspondedWith Edwards, India person
correspondedWith Ellsworth Huntington person
correspondedWith Estes Kefauver person
correspondedWith Frieda Miller person
correspondedWith Gordon Browning person
associatedWith Gore, Albert, 1907- person
associatedWith Gore, Pauline La Fon person
associatedWith Gorman, Joseph Bruce person
correspondedWith Griffith, Elisabeth person
correspondedWith Guy Irving Burch person
correspondedWith Harvie Branscomb person
associatedWith Jane Williamson person
correspondedWith Jeannette Rankin person
associatedWith John F. Kennedy person
associatedWith Kefauver, Estes, 1903-1963 person
associatedWith League of Women Voters corporateBody
associatedWith League of Women Voters (Chattanooga, Tennessee) corporateBody
associatedWith League of Women Voters (Nashville, Tennessee) corporateBody
associatedWith League of Women Voters (Tennessee) corporateBody
correspondedWith Lee McLean person
associatedWith Lilienthal, David Eli, 1899-1981 person
correspondedWith Lucile Myers person
correspondedWith Madeline Gray person
correspondedWith Margaret Sanger person
correspondedWith Mariko (Mako) Miller person
correspondedWith McGrory, Mary person
associatedWith McGrory, Mary, 1918- person
associatedWith McKinnon, Edna Rankin, b. 1893 person
associatedWith Miller, Frieda person
associatedWith Miller, Mariko T. (Mariko Terasaki), 1932- person
associatedWith National League of Women Voters (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Municipal League corporateBody
associatedWith National Women's Political Caucus (U.S.). Tennessee Chapter corporateBody
associatedWith NATO corporateBody
associatedWith Orgill, Edmund person
correspondedWith Pannell, Lord Charles person
associatedWith Planned Parenthood corporateBody
associatedWith Planned Parenthood Federation of America corporateBody
correspondedWith Population Reference Bureau corporateBody
correspondedWith Rudy Olgiati person
associatedWith Sanger, Margaret, 1879-1966 person
correspondedWith Sarah Lander person
associatedWith Scott, Anne Firor, 1921- person
associatedWith Southern Regional Council corporateBody
correspondedWith Stafford, Dorothy person
associatedWith Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights corporateBody
correspondedWith Tennessee Advisory Committee to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights corporateBody
correspondedWith Tennessee Citizens' Commission for Better Schools corporateBody
correspondedWith Tennessee Commission on Children corporateBody
correspondedWith Tennessee Council of Democratic Women corporateBody
associatedWith Tennessee Democratic Women's Council corporateBody
correspondedWith Tennessee United Organization for Education corporateBody
correspondedWith Theodore Brown, Jr. person
correspondedWith Thomas L. Stokes person
correspondedWith Tom Ragland person
correspondedWith Volunteer Women's Roundtable corporateBody
correspondedWith William Clinton person
correspondedWith Wilma Dykeman person
correspondedWith Winston Churchill's person
correspondedWith Women's Political Caucus corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Birth control--Tennessee


Birth 1906

Death 1996

Related Descriptions


Ark ID: w6pd6frp

SNAC ID: 17126947