My grandmother, Marguerite ‘Mimi’ Muleady Hayes, was born in 1895 in Decatur, Illinois. She was the 2nd of 14 children (eleven surviving) in a big Irish Catholic family. Her father was a tailor, in business for himself. She grew up in a musical family; all of the Muleady children played the piano and sang. She married my grandfather, Edward Arthur Hayes, in 1917. It was a wartime wedding. He wore his Navy whites. They exited the church beneath an Arch of Sabers.
By August 18th,1920, the date when the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote would pass, Mimi had a two-year old daughter and three more girls to come. The youngest would be my mother, Catherine Angela Hayes Stahl. My grandmother turned 25 on August 21, 1920. Ina bit of symmetry, my daughter turns 25 on August 19th, 2020, almost exactly 100 years later.
I imagine what it would have been like for my grandmother. My family was dedicated to service then and now. She would have been well aware of the women’s suffrage movement. As a military wife and mother, she had much responsibility. My grandfather, a genuine Lincoln scholar, was Assistant Attorney General of Illinois. He was elected National Commander of the American Legion. He fought and lobbied for the restoration of disabled veteran’s benefits after the Great Depression. He was in the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) during WWII.
My mother remembered, as a girl, her father traveled constantly during WWII. He would get a phone call and quietly start packing his bag. Then a conversation between my grandparents would ensue. My grandmother would say, “Are you going somewhere?” His response, “Yes.” “Can you tell me where?” “No.” “Can you tell me when you will you be back?” No.” And off he would go, to war. Every day that he was gone, Mimi would receive a phone call at 5 pm from the ONI. An officer would say, “Mrs. Hayes?” “Yes?” “Your husband is alive and well.” That’s it. That’s all she would know, often for weeks at a time.
Why do I write about my grandfather when discussing the 19th Amendment? In 1920, in a traditional family such as mine, a woman’s place was in the home. Mimi’s role was incredibly important, raising the family and providing support to her husband and, in so doing, providing support to our country’s war effort. Brave women, the Suffragists, did the dangerous and difficult work to make the vote possible for my grandmother, and for you and me. Paving the way for the benefits that you and I now enjoy. Now, a woman’s place is in the House and the Senate. And soon, the White House! In 2020, my daughter can vote for me! I know when she fills out her ballot, Mimi’s spirit will be with her.
“Why do I write about my grandfather when discussing the 19th Amendment? In 1920, in a traditional family such as mine, a woman’s place was in the home.”
Mimi Hayes, circa 1935