Photo of Emma Barrett Molloy
Emma Barrett Molloy




“There is something for the wives and mothers to do in this grand age besides

sit and wring their hands in agony over the slaughter of the innocents.”

When women’s suffrage is discussed, certain names tend to be repeated – Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucy Stone. One name that should be mentioned is Emma Barrett Molloy. Born in 1839 in South Bend, Emma was inclined toward literature and began publishing essays and articles at the age of 15 or 16, the same age she began teaching in a one-room school house. Throughout her life Emma would publish hundreds of articles, essays, stories, and poems, both locally and nationally. As she matured Emma became an outspoken suffragist, temperance advocate, and feminist – speaking on all sorts of issues, including taking a controversial stance on the right to divorce: “The day is dawning when legal marital slavery must be abolished in America, when the laws will recognize the right of a woman to free herself from a besotted husband as sacred as that of a man similarly situated.” Her stance was undoubtedly inspired in part by her first husband, a habitual drunk, who also inspired Emma’s strong support of temperance. She grew to be an international advocate of temperance and in 1877 formed the South Bend Reform Club, one of many Ribbon temperance groups she helped found in the United States and England.

Not content to “sit on a pedestal,” Emma was the first female newspaper editor in northern Indiana at the South Bend National Union and later founded the Elkhart Observer with her second husband, where she tirelessly advocated that women should have rights equal to men, including the right to vote.  Emma participated in all aspects of the newspaper from writing to managing the business to finding creative ways to increase circulation. Her words from an essay published in 1873 in the Elkhart Observer continue to inspire: “In these days of reform and of the agitation of the woman question, girls begin to learn the fact that to be practical is to be independent, and to be independent is to instill new vitality to woman.”

  • South Bend Hall of Fame
  • Secretary, St. Joseph County Historical Society
  • Co-editor, South Bend National Union
  • Co-founder, Elkhart Observer
  • Worthy Matron of the Eastern Star, Elkhart
  • Member, Independent Order of Good Templars
  • Delegate, International Temperance Conference, Chicago
  • Delegate, American Woman Suffrage Association, New York
  • Leader, Woman’s Crusade, Elkhart
  • Founder, South Bend Reform Club
  • Internationally recognized speaker

Information compiled from various newspaper articles and Emma Speaks Out: The Life and Writings of Emma Molloy (1839-1907) by Martha M. Pickrell; Guild Press 1999.