Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1963

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Mary Dreier (September 26, 1875 - August 15, 1963) was a New York social reformer.

Mary Elisabeth Dreier was born in New York city New York, on September 26, 1875. Her parents, Theodor Dreier, a successful businessman, and Dorthea Dreier, were both immigrants from Germany. Her mother's maiden name was Dreier and her parents were cousins from Bremen, Germany, where their ancestors were civic leaders and merchants. Theodor came to the United States in 1849 and became partner at the New York branch of the English iron firm of Naylor, Benson and Company. He married Dorthea in 1864 during a visit to Bremen and brought her back with him to the United States, and they lived in a brownstone house in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

Mary had a brother and three sisters; her sister Margaret was also a labor reformer, while her sisters Dorothea and Katherine were painters.

Mary was educated by private tutors for the early part of her life, and later took courses at the New York School of Philanthropy. Her initial financial support came in the form of a trust fund left by her father. She and her sister Margaret worked hand-in-hand throughout her career.

She never married, but shared a home with fellow reformer Frances Kellor from 1905 until the latter's death in 1952. She lived alone for the rest of her life until dying of a pulmonary embolism on August 15, 1963, at her summer home in Bar Harbor, Maine, she and her partner Frances Kellor are buried together at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. Mary Elisabeth Dreier represents the involved philanthropist of the early twentieth century. From a financially secure family, she constantly contributed time, funds, and organizing talents to a variety of feminist causes, most notably women workers and the suffrage movement. Her social prominence and social commitments led to her service on local and regional boards and commissions, particularly those dealing with labor and with penal reform.

It was her strong religious background that motivated Dreier to take up religious reform. She focused on working women, women suffrage, and social and civic improvement.

In 1899, she met Leonora O’Reilly, who was a former garment worker and head of a local settlement house at the time. Leonora was the one to connect Mary and her sister Margaret with the settlement house. They joined the New York Women's Trade Union League (NYWTUL), a coalition of female workers and middle- and upper-class women reformers founded in 1903 to organize working women and educate the public about urban labor conditions. Dreier served as president of the NYWTUL from 1906 to 1914, as acting president in 1935, and remained active until it disbanded in 1950. During a 1909 strike of shirtwaist-makers, she was arrested during a demonstration. However, after that she became a leading spokeswoman for labor reform for women workers. During her presidency, the New York group was particularly active among garment workers, supporting their organization in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and assisting them in strike activities.

From 1911 to 1915, she served on the New York State Factory Investigating Commission, which provided evidence for the passage of factory reform legislation. She also wrote articles for the WTUL’S journal, Life and Labor, to encourage unionization. In 1915, Mayor John Mitchell appointed her to the New York City Board of Education, but she resigned all posts in 1915 in order to participate completely in the final drive to achieve the vote for women.

In 1917, Dreier became chairwoman of the New York State Committee on Women in Industry of the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense. After the war she was a member of the executive committee of the New York Council for Limitation of Armaments (1921-1927) and headed the Committee for the Outlawry of War of the WTUL.

Dreier became an ardent supporter of suffrage and women's rights and chaired New York City's Woman Suffrage Party due to the negative attitude of the male trade unionists towards women workers. On the national level she often supported Progressive Party nominees, including Robert M. La Follette and Henry A. Wallace, and she later became an enthusiastic backer of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal.

Dreier served on several government and private committees concerned with labor and women. Later in her career, she devoted more of her attention to international issues and American foreign policy. Between the world wars she supported Soviet-American friendship and was an outspoken opponent of the regime in Nazi Germany. Following World War II she opposed nuclear proliferation. In the 1950s the FBI investigated her politics.

In 1914 she wrote Barbara Richards, a novel about working women that remained unpublished. In 1950 she published a biography of her sister, Margaret Dreier Robins: Her Life, Letters and Work.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Elizabeth Robins Papers, 1803-1963 Fales Library & Special Collections
referencedIn O'Reilly, Leonora, 1870-1927. Papers, 1886-1927 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn American Association for Labor Legislation. Series 1, Subseries 2, part a. Correspondence (A-G) 1910-1915. [microform]. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Papers of the Dreyer family, 1778-1928 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1965. Papers, 1797-1968 (bulk 1897-1968) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Beard, Mary Ritter, 1876-1958. Papers, 1935-1958 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964. Papers, 1918-1960 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1963. Papers, 1797-1963 (inclusive), 1897-1963 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Bureau of Vocational Information. Records, 1908-1932 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Robins, Raymond, 1873-1954. Papers, 1878-1956. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn National Women's Trade Union League of America. Records, 1903-1950. [microform] Cornell University Library
referencedIn American Association for Labor Legislation. Series 1, Subseries 1, part a. Correspondence (A-H), 1905-1910. [microform] Cornell University Library
referencedIn Kingsbury, John Adams, 1876-1956. John Adams Kingsbury papers, 1841-1966 (bulk 1906-1939). Library of Congress
referencedIn Dorothea A. Dreier papers, 1881-1941, bulk 1887-1923 Archives of American Art
creatorOf Dreier, Mary E. Letters, 1954, to Lewis Mumford. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn American Association for Labor Legislation. Series 1, Subseries 6. Correspondence, 1930-1935 [microform]. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Miller, Frieda S. Papers, 1909-1973 (inclusive), 1929-1967 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1889-1957, n.d. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Frieda S. Miller, 1909-1973 (inclusive), 1929-1967 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Guide to the Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Papers, 1896-1964 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn George Moses Price files and scrapbook, 1883-1952 [bulk 1912-1942]. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives
creatorOf Dreier, Dorothea A., 1870-1923. Dorothea A. Dreier papers, 1881-1941, bulk 1887-1923. Archives of American Art
referencedIn National Women’s Trade Union League of America Records, 1903-1950 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Bureau of Vocational Information (New York, N.Y.). Records, 1908-1932 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn John Adams Kingsbury papers, 1841-1966, (bulk 1906-1939) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn National Women's Trade Union League of America. Records of the National Women's Trade Union League of America, 1903-1950. Library of Congress
referencedIn Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Albums, 1861-1962 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Kunitz, Joshua, 1896-. Joshua Kunitz papers, [ca. 1930]-1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Newman, Pauline. Papers, 1903-1982 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Albums, ca., 1861-1962 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Newman, Pauline, ca. 1890-1986. Papers, 1900-1980 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Price, George Moses, 1864-1942. George Moses Price files and scrapbook, 1883-1952, bulk 1912-1942. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Guide to the Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Papers, 1896-1964 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Whitehouse, Vira Boarman, 1875-1957. Papers, 1889-1957 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
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associatedWith Dreier, Dorothea A., 1870-1923. person
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associatedWith Dreier, Ethel Valentine, 1874-1958 person
associatedWith Dreier, Henry Edward, 1872-1955. person
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associatedWith Dreier, Katherine Sophie, 1877-1952. person
associatedWith Dreier, Theodore person
associatedWith Dreier, Theodore. person
correspondedWith Dreyer family family
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associatedWith Morgenthau, Henry, 1856-1946. person
associatedWith Morgenthau, Rita Wallach, 1881-1964. person
associatedWith Morris, Newbold, 1902-1966. person
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associatedWith National Women's Trade Union League corporateBody
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associatedWith Nestor, Agnes, 1880-1948. person
associatedWith Newman, Pauline, 1887-1986 person
associatedWith New York Women's Trade Union League corporateBody
associatedWith O'Brien, Agnes person
associatedWith O'Brien, Agnes. person
associatedWith O'Day, Caroline Goodwin, 1875-1943 person
associatedWith O'Day, Caroline Goodwin, 1875-1943. person
associatedWith O'Gorman, Alice, 1891?-1965. person
associatedWith O'Reilly, Leonora, 1870-1927. person
associatedWith Paret, Bertha person
associatedWith Paret, Bertha. person
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associatedWith Pauling, Ava. person
associatedWith Pauling, Linus, 1901- person
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associatedWith Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965. person
associatedWith Perutz, Helen person
associatedWith Perutz, Helen. person
associatedWith Polier, Justine Wise, 1903-1987. person
associatedWith Price, George Moses, 1864-1942. person
associatedWith Robins, Elizabeth, 1862-1952. person
associatedWith Robins, Margaret Dreier, 1868-1945 person
associatedWith Robins, Raymond, 1873-1954. person
associatedWith Roche, Josephine A. (Josephine Aspinwall), 1886-1976. person
associatedWith Rockefeller, Nelson A. (Nelson Aldrich), 1908-1979. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor person
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correspondedWith Ruth Speiker person
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associatedWith Stearley, Nan Dreier person
associatedWith Stearley, Nan Dreier. person
associatedWith Stein, Gertrude, 1874-1946. person
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associatedWith Swartz, Nelle. person
associatedWith Swartz, Nelle, 1882? -1952 person
associatedWith Swing, Raymond Gram, 1887-1968. person
associatedWith Switzer, Mary Elizabeth, 1900-1971 person
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associatedWith Von Borowsky, Lisa Pauline Amman, 1904- person
associatedWith Von Loon, Hendrik Willem, 1882-1944 person
associatedWith Voorhees, Dorothea Dreier, 1909- person
associatedWith Voorhees, Peter, 1902-1964 person
associatedWith Wagner, Robert F. (Robert Ferdinand), 1877-1953. person
associatedWith Wald, Lillian D., 1867-1940. person
associatedWith Whitehouse, Vira Boarman, 1875-1957 person
associatedWith White, William Allen, 1868-1944. person
associatedWith Williams, Albert Rhys, 1883-1962. person
associatedWith Williams, Lucita Squier, 1889?-1980. person
associatedWith Wise, Stephen S. (Stephen Samuel), 1874-1949. person
associatedWith Women's Trade Union League of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith World Congress of Mothers. corporateBody
associatedWith YMCA corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York City NY US
Subject
Textile workers
Working class
Sweatshops
Spiritualism
Family records
Women's rights
Strikes and lockouts
Labor unions
Labor laws and legislation
Pacifism
Artists
Women--Suffrage
Disarmament
Occupation
Artists
Social reformers
Activity

Person

Birth 1875-09-26

Death 1963-08-15

Female

Americans

English,

German

Information

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SNAC ID: 85589648