Suffragists Gordon and Safford

Mar 25, 2020  | 2 min 28 sec  | Ep 2020

Unitarian ministers and lifelong friends, Eleanor Gordon and Mary Safford served as presidents of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association in the early 20th century.


Together, Eleanor Gordon and Mary Safford formed a group of women Unitarian ministers known as the “Iowa Sisterhood.”

As lifelong friends, both women served as ministers in northwest Iowa during a time when most of their male counterparts didn’t welcome women.

Known as “Queen Mary,” Safford was a popular preacher, so much so that she worked at two parishes in separate towns at the same time before taking charge of a newly established church in Sioux City.

Gordon began her career in education, working as a principal in Centerville and Humboldt before moving to Sioux City with Safford,transitioning from a teacher to a preacher.

“While I loved to teach, I felt the need of a lesson to teach greater than I found in a school textbook”- Eleanor Gordon

As they aged, both women became more involved in fighting for suffrage and women’s rights, both serving as president of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association in the early 20th century .

Safford moved to Florida in her later years, but served as president of the Florida Woman Suffrage Association and was on the board of directors for the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association.

Gordon remained in Iowa for the rest of her life, leading the charge in one of the first woman suffrage parades in the United States, held in Boone in 1908.