In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look back at early Tri Delta trailblazers—women who were the “firsts” in their fields.
Mary Thompson Denman, Pittsburgh, was an advocate for women, social innovator and a catalyst for change. She was at the forefront of social issues which helped form policies that are still in place today.
To list a few of Mary’s extraordinary accomplishments, she was one of the first women to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh Law School in 1922, one of the first women to be elected as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, serving from 1930-1932, and legislative chairman of the State Federation of Pennsylvania Women and of the state’s Business and Professional Women.
Influence and Issues
Mary realized she could apply her legal expertise and persuasive personality to champion underprivileged women and children in her home state of Pennsylvania. She started to encourage women voters to use their voices and by doing so, she ultimately helped shape much-needed policies.
Pioneer for Equality
Mary was an advocate for equality, authoring Pennsylvania’s first minimum wage bill. As a recognized legal authority on the state’s public welfare programs, she was a key figure in drafting much of the legislation that created the Department of Public Welfare. Using skills she developed in the House, she later became a legislative analyst for the Community Services of Pennsylvania, a coalition of social welfare organizations. She lobbied for the National Child Labor Association of New York. In 1966 she was honored for her many years of public service as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania.
A sought-after speaker on women’s issues, Mary had the natural ability to simplify and bring clarity to complex issues such as women’s property rights and solutions to community problems. She encouraged women to use their voting power to foster change in their communities.
Mary was a member of the Pennsylvania Citizens Council, Pennsylvania Citizens Association and Pennsylvania Public Charities Association. She served as a trustee of the Community College of Allegheny County. In addition to her civic involvement, she was an active leader of several local charitable organizations.
Mary married fellow attorney David Nelson Denman in 1924 in her hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and they had two sons together. Mary Thompson Denman died in 1975.
It is our honor to remember Mary and her influence across so many social issues which have resulted in positive reforms for so many people.