Women We Celebrate
1870 - 1936
Maud Younger was born into a prosperous San Francisco family in January 1870. She attended private schools in California and New York City, and frequently traveled to Europe. During her travels to New York City, Younger’s eyes were opened to the poverty experienced by many of the nation’s immigrants. On her way to France in the early 1900s, she made plans to stay for a week in a New York settlement house, developing an interest in the College Settlement on Rivington Street. Seven days turned into five years, and Younger’s settlement house experience became the blueprint for a lifetime of advocacy and social reform work. She left New York City a dedicated trade unionist, working woman’s advocate, and suffragist.
During her time in New York City, Younger worked as a waitress and became a member of the local waitresses’ union. Upon her return to San Francisco in 1908, she again took a job as a waitress. When she discovered that there was no local waitresses’ union, the charismatic Younger organized and led the first waitresses’ union in California. Nicknamed the “Millionaire Waitress,” she became the president of the union she helped establish. In addition, Younger became an advocate for the passage of multiple labor laws, including California’s eight-hour workday law for women, passed in 1911. Originally an advocate for protective laws for women, Younger later changed her position, advocating instead for workplace protection based on the work itself—and applying to both women and men.
Younger also lent her considerable skills and energies to the emerging California suffrage movement. Younger’s strategy of targeting male working-class union members to drum up support for women’s suffrage was both brilliant and successful. She helped establish the Wage Earners’ Equal Suffrage League for Working Women, made speeches to unions, and wrote extensively on women’s rights. One of her more memorable publicity stunts was her participation in the 1911 San Francisco Labor Day parade. Not only did she help create a float representing the Wage Earner’s Equal Suffrage League; she also drove the float (the first woman to ever do so in a parade), an elaborately decorated wagon pulled by six white horses.
Her work on behalf of women in California resulted in an invitation from Alice Paul to join the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU), later the National Woman’s Party (NWP). By 1916, Younger was lobbying Congress, organizing protests and demonstrations, and traveling throughout the country speaking on behalf of women’s suffrage. Younger also helped develop and maintain the Congressional Voting Card files—a detailed record-keeping system that tracked lobby efforts on behalf of the suffrage amendment. She later served as chairman of the NWP lobbying committee (1917-1919) and legislative committee (1919). Younger succeeded founding NWP chairman Anne Martin as Legislative Chairman and held the position for nearly 18 years.
A noted orator, Younger chaired the program and made the keynote speech at the NWP’s founding convention in Chicago in June 1916, advocating (as a voting woman): “The Woman’s Party has no candidates and but one plank, the enfranchisement of the women of America through a federal amendment. There is no higher service in which we can use our votes than this. We have come to realize through the many appeals to us in state campaigns that the struggle of our sisters in other states is our struggle; that their cause is our cause; and that we cannot rest content in our own enfranchisement until the women of this entire nation will share it with us.” She also spoke at the memorial service for Inez Milholland Boissevain that same year.
After passage of the 19th Amendment, Younger served for 15 years as Congressional Chair of the NWP, and for many years as a member of the National Council. She also continued her work with the Women’s Trade Union League, the National Consumers’ League, and the Women’s Bureau. In 1923 she was instrumental in the Equal Rights Amendment’s introduction to Congress, and headed the legislative efforts for the Amendment, including lobbying Members of Congress on behalf of the Amendment. She also set up a new card index to track lobby work.
In 1928 she helped found the Inter-American Commission of Women, the first international entity devoted to ensuring women’s civil and political rights. Younger also worked for the NWP’s efforts to win equal nationality laws for women marrying foreign spouses, serving as a legislative representative and lobbyist for the campaign to amend the Cable Act. Younger also worked on campaigns for jury service for women in the District of Columbia, and against employment discrimination towards married women in government positions. Maud Younger remained active in the women’s movement and in social reform movements until her death from cancer in 1936. Younger was also a writer, and died while penning her memoirs.