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Mary Williams Dewson was a feminist and political activist. Head of the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee in 1932 after an active role in the New York Consumer's League.
Born: 1874, Quincy, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 1962, Castine, Maine, United States
Education: Wellesley College
Lived: Moss Acre, Castine, ME, USA (44.38886, -68.79895)
171 West 12th Street
Buried: Castine Cemetery, Castine, Hancock County, Maine, USA
Buried alongside: Polly Porter
Find A Grave Memorial# 11094134

From the 1920s through the 1950s, the building at 171 West 12th Street was home to a number of lesbian couples, an extended network of friends and comrades-in-arms that included artist Nancy Cook and educator Marion Dickerman; activist Polly Porter and Democratic Party official Molly Dewson; and Grace Hutchins and her partner Anna Rochester, both leaders in the Communist Party. Many of these women, particularly Dickerman and Cook, were good friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, who had apartments of her own at 20 East 11th Street from 1933 to 1942 and at 29 Washington Square West from 1942 to 1949. Since her young adulthood, Roosevelt had been pan of a circle of women reformers, many of them in long-term relationships with other women. When Franklin D. Roosevelt became president, Eleanor became a fierce champion for women in government, and many of her friends got government positions during the New Deal. Molly Dewson served as director of the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee and as a member of the Social Security Board. Among President Roosevelt's other appointees were Frances Perkins, the secretary of labor from 1933 to 1945 and the first woman cabinet member, and Grace Abbot, who was chief of the Children's Bureau. From within the government, these women could press for action on the issues they had pursued for years, such as wages and hours' legislation, workers' compensation requirements, and child labor laws. Roosevelt herself had an intimate relationship with another woman. In 1932, an Associated Press reporter named Lorena Hickok was assigned to file stories on the new first lady. They quickly became fast friends. Hickok would eventually come to live in the White House. The nature of the Hickok-Roosevelt relationship has been hotly contested by biographers and historians, but their letters reveal a passionate intimacy—in 1933, for example, Hickok wrote to Roosevelt: “I've been trying today to bring back your face, to remember just how you look, most clearly I remember your eyes, with a kind of teasing smile in them, and the feeling of that soft spot just North-east of the corner of your mouth against my lips. Good night, dear one, I want to put my arms around you and kiss you at the corner of your mouth. And in a little more than a week now, I shall.”

Queer Places, Vol. 1 edited by Elisa Rolle
ISBN-13: 978-1532901904
ISBN-10: 1532901909
Release Date: July 24, 2016
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Moss Acre was built In 1895, on the Morse's Cove road, about two and one-half miles from the village, in what was formerly known as Hatch's woods, the largest and probably one of the finest houses in this vicinity of the time. It was owned by Mr. W. D. Porter, of Chicago. It had an extensive view up and down the Penobscot river. The grounds were very spacious, and were to be elaborately laid out.
Address: Castine, ME, USA (44.38886, -68.79895)
Type: Private Property
Who: Mary ("Molly") Williams Dewson (February 18, 1874 - October 21, 1962) and Mary ("Polly") G. Porter (1884-1972)
Molly Dewson was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, to Edward Henry Dewson and Elizabeth Weld (Williams) Dewson. After earning her A.B. degree from Wellesley College (1897), Dewson was hired as secretary of the Domestic Reform Committee of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union in Boston. She left this position in 1900 to become the superintendent of parole at the Massachusetts State Industrial School for Girls, Lancaster, where she remained until 1912. There she met Polly Porter. Porter, a student at the Boston School for Social Workers, began an internship under Dewson's supervision in 1909. When her internship ended, she withdrew from school, choosing to remain at the Industrial School as a volunteer. By 1910, Dewson and Mary G. Porter had come to think of their relationship as a "partnership"; it was to last for 52 years. After a brief stint running a small dairy farm with Porter, Dewson returned to reform work, a field that occupied her for the next two decades. She was particularly active in the woman's suffrage movement, and in the National Consumers' League's campaign to secure passage of minimum wage laws for women and children. During World War I Dewson and Porter spent 15 months with the American Red Cross's Bureau of Refugees in France. Between 1917 and 1938 the two women lived in New York City, spending summers at the Porter family's house in Castine, Maine. Dewson and Porter, Eleanor Roosevelt’s friends, had a co-op apartment in Greenwich Village, across the hall from two other of Roosevelt's favorites, Marion Dickerman and Nan Cook. From reports the whole building was filled with a few singles but mostly pairs of women. While Dewson was working in various reform movements, the independently wealthy Porter bred and raised Sheltie dogs at a kennel she owned in Connecticut. By the late 1920s, Dewson became convinced that needed reforms could best be accomplished from within organized political parties; she therefore initiated efforts to increase the number of women active in the Democratic Party. She organized women to work in Alfred E. Smith's presidential campaign (1928); and for Franklin D. Roosevelt's New York State gubernatorial race (1930), and his subsequent bids for the presidency. In 1933, thanks to the influence of Eleanor Roosevelt, her political ally and personal friend, she was appointed to head the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee. She is credited with securing leadership positions for many women within the Democratic Party and the Roosevelt Administration. In 1937 she was appointed to the Social Security Board, but she resigned from the position the following year. Dewson and Porter spent the early years of their retirement in Castine, Georgetown (Connecticut), and New York, but eventually established permanent residence in Castine (1952), where Dewson died in 1962. They are both buried at Castine Cemetery.

Queer Places, Vol. 1 edited by Elisa Rolle
ISBN-13: 978-1532901904
ISBN-10: 1532901909
Release Date: July 24, 2016
CreateSpace Store:
Amazon (print):
Amazon (kindle):


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