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Butte writer Mary MacLane a pioneer in early women's suffrage

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Posted at 8:17 AM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 10:17:49-04

BUTTE — Mary MacLane was not a typical woman of the early 20th century.

“She went to New York and was one of the first women reporters for the New York World. She was a silent film star. She lived in Chicago and shocked people in Chicago as well,” said Ellen Crain with the Butte Public Archives.

Born in Canada in 1881, MacLane moved to Butte when she was young. Living in a home on Excelsior Street, she would write her provocative book, "The Story of Mary MacLane." The book was extremely controversial and made her famous as well as infamous.

“She talked a lot about sex, which was a topic that was never discussed at that time. The library board met five or six times about whether to ban her book and didn’t ultimately ban the book,” said Crain.

As a journalist, she reported on the mistreatment of the poor, immigrants, and the environment.

“She raised social issues to a point that people did have to start paying attention,” said Crain.

Butte actor Rob Cox remembers being a part of a local play held in Butte 10 years ago about MacLane.

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“She was very interesting. She actually seems like the kind of person that I would have hung out with, you know, she defied all of the social norms,” said Cox.

Mary MacLane certainly was provocative in her writing, but there was more to her than just being controversial and saying things that good girls shouldn’t.

“She spoke about women should have the right to work and the right to be paid equitably. Mary really pushed the envelope on every social mores on the time she lived in,” said Crain.

She died alone and broke in Chicago in 1929. MacLane would turn 140 years old on May 1.

Controversial Butte writer Mary MacLane a pioneer in early women's suffrage