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Mamie (Shields) Pyle  

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Collection Summary

Title Mamie (Shields) Pyle
Span Dates 1910-1968
Bulk Dates (bulk dates, 1916-1923)
Quantity 4.5 linear ft.
Printed Material Printed Materials are located in Boxes 6 and 7.
Location     Archives and Special Collections, University Libraries, University of South Dakota.
Summary

A pioneer leader of the women's suffrage movement in South Dakota, Mamie Shields Pyle became president of the State Equal Suffrage League in 1910, which became the South Dakota Universal Franchise League the following year. Pyle's determination, along with that of her colleagues, allowed the women of South Dakota to claim victory in 1918, when state lawmakers and voters passed the equal suffrage amendment. Pyle also led the campaign for state ratification of the national suffrage amendment, which occurred on 4 December 1919.

Mary Isabella Shields was born on 28 February 1866 in Orange, New Jersey. After her seventh birthday, the Shields family moved from New Jersey to Pleasant Grove, Minnesota. In the fall of 1882 the family relocated to Miller, Dakota Territory. Pyle stayed with her uncle in Brookings County and taught school in Richland Township. Eventually she settled with her family in Miller, teaching at a rural school south of the town. On 26 May 1886, Pyle married John L. Pyle, a prominent, young lawyer and state Attorney General. John died in 1902, leaving thirty-six year old Pyle a widow with four children. Despite limited finances, Pyle managed to send each of her children to Huron College. Her daughter, Gladys Pyle, served South Dakota as the first female state legislator, Secretary of State of South Dakota and state congressional representative. Gladys Pyle also served as a member of the U.S. Senate in 1938.

The Dakota Territorial Legislature first passed an amendment in support of suffrage for South Dakota women in 1885, subsequently vetoed by Governor Gilbert A. Pierce. In 1889, the state Constitution allowed women to vote in school elections. South Dakota voters defeated the suffrage amendment another six times before it eventually passed. As president of the South Dakota Universal Suffrage League, Pyle coordinated volunteers, country chairs, campaign tours, and media campaigns. She served as a delegate to the National Suffrage Convention in Washington, D.C. in 1915 and 1917, and the convention in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1919. Pyle's contributions placed her on the Honor Roll of the National Woman Suffrage Association on 20 February 1920.

In addition to her campaign for suffrage, Pyle served for forty-six years on the board of trustees for Huron College. In 1911, she secured a $100,000 contribution for the college's successful endowment campaign. Pyle also became the first woman in South Dakota to be nominated as a presidential elector. She served as a member of the Electoral College in Washington, D.C. in 1920.

In 1947, South Dakotans named Pyle, at eighty-one, Mother of the Year. After an extended illness, Pyle died on 22 December 1949 at her home in Huron.

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