Logan, Mary (Simmerson)Cunningham
LOGAN, Mary (Simmerson)Cunningham
Born 15 August 1838, Petersburgh, Boone County, Missouri; died 22 February 1923, Washington, D.C.
Wrote under: Mrs. J. A. Logan
Daughter of Captain John M. and Elizabeth La Fontaine Cunningham; married John A. Logan, 1855 (died 1886)
Mary Cunningham Logan was born to parents of Irish-French ancestry. Logan's maternal grandfather, La Fontaine, owned many slaves and large tracts of land in Missouri, and her paternal grandfather was a slave owner in Tennessee. Shortly after her birth, Logan's parents moved to southern Illinois, where her father became registrar of the land office as well as an army officer.
Logan, the oldest of thirteen children, had little formal education except that provided by itinerant teachers. When Logan was fifteen, she studied for a year at St. Vincent's Academy near Morganfield, Kentucky. After graduation, she returned home to marry a friend of her father's. Logan wrote in the preface of her autobiography, "To tell my own story is to tell that of my own famous husband, General John A. Logan. Our marriage was a real partnership for thirty-one happy years."
Logan traveled with her husband and assisted him by drawing up the forms for indictments and helping draft briefs. When Logan ran for Congress, Mary was by his side throughout the political campaign.
After the Civil War, both General Logan and his wife were concerned about the welfare of returning veterans. They were enthusiastic participants in the development of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Mary Logan was also closely associated with the women's auxiliary of the GAR: the Women's Relief Corps. The Logans were responsible for the establishment of Memorial Day as a national holiday. In 1868, Mary noted that the graves of Confederate soldiers in a cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, were marked by small Confederate flags and flowers. As a Senator, Logan effected passage of legislation to perpetuate Memorial Day as a national holiday.
After the death of General Logan, Mary was forced to earn a living for herself and her two children. The Home Magazine was started especially for her to edit and was successful for seven years. However, her political influence and good works continued. President Harrison appointed her to the board of the Lady Managers of the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition. In 1919, four years before her death, Logan received the Belgian medal of Queen Elizabeth for work during World War II.
Logan's first book was The Home Manual (1889), which bore a direct relationship to her magazine. A compendium of etiquette, nostrums, recipes, stories, and games, its focus was self-improvement and self-help. In one chapter, "Society Small Talk," Logan writes, "It is true that the newcomer into society often discovers that his or her greatest difficulty lies in finding just the right thing to say at the right time."
Thirty Years in Washington (1901) and Reminiscences of a Soldier's Wife (1913) manifest Logan's pride in the city of Washington and in being the wife of a famous general and statesman. Thirty Years is composed of a series of vignettes that describe the many agencies and offices of the national government. Logan's descriptions of her privileged access to behind-thescenes workings of the government make this work an interesting source of information. That there are inaccuracies in the work does not detract from the general interest provided by rich details and Logan's general enthusiasm.
This same enthusiasm is apparent throughout Logan's best work, the autobiographical Reminiscences. Logan's eyewitness narration of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, her husband's political campaigns, and battle scenes of the Civil War provide a moving, personal view of those well-known events.
Using the resources of the Library of Congress from 1902 to 1909, Logan and her daughter, Mary Logan Tucker, prepared a compendium of biographies of American women. The Part Taken by Women in American History (1912) contains two thousand biographical sketches varying in length and organized under rubrics such as Aboriginal Women, Pioneers, Women of the Revolution, Suffragists, etc. Like many other compendiums of the time, effusive encomiums based on scant factual material abound. However, this work is valuable for its great number of biographies of worthy women.
Throughout her life, Logan was accorded equal praise with her husband. However, she lived 37 years longer than he, and forged a career of her own as an editor and writer. Logan's works, especially the autobiography, exhibit her enthusiastic appreciation of the historic times through which she lived.
The Logan family papers are in The Library of Congress.
Busbey, K. G., "Concerning the Author, Mrs. John. A. Logan," in The Part Taken by Women in American History (1912).
AW. NCAB, 4. NAW (1971).
American Historical Review (Oct. 1902). Independent (14 June 1919). NYT (23 Feb. 1923).
—DOROTHEA MOSLEY THOMPSON