Mulry, Thomas Maurice
MULRY, THOMAS MAURICE
First president of the Superior Council of the U.S. Society of st. vincent de paul, and businessman; b. New York City, Feb. 13, 1855; d. there, March 10, 1916. Of Irish–Dutch extraction, he was the second of 14 children born to Thomas Mulry and Parthenia (Crolius) Mulry, of New York City. He was educated in parochial schools and at De La Salle Academy and as a young man took night classes at old Cooper Union. In 1872, after the family's second brief venture into farming in Wisconsin, he became associated with his father as an excavation contractor in the firm of Mulry and Son, New York. In 1880 Mulry married Mary E. Gallagher, a Hunter College graduate and teacher in New York public schools. The couple had 13 children; four of them joined the Society of Jesus, and one became a Sister of Charity. The contracting business of Mulry and Son prospered, with the younger Mulry eventually taking over active management. As a moderately successful businessman, he expanded his interests to include banking, insurance, and real estate, becoming president of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank in 1906.
After becoming a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at 17, Mulry continued throughout his life to exercise this layman's charitable vocation, accepting offices from the presidency of St. Bernard's Parish Conference, 1880, to the presidency of the Superior Council of the U.S., 1915. Under his leadership, Vincentians relinquished an earlier position of aloofness and entered into cooperative effort with other public and private welfare agencies. Mulry permanently influenced the Catholic charities movement in the U.S. He fought the abuses inherent in almshouse care of dependent children and, notably, succeeded in improving conditions and standards of placement care. His plea for moderation all but ended the long controversy between advocates of institutional care and proponents of foster home care. The Government in Charity (1912), his principal publication, vigorously affirmed the state's responsibility to encourage and work cooperatively with private charitable agencies, but opposed excessive secularization of social welfare work. Under his direction special programs were initiated: summer outings and camps for needy boys and girls; the Catholic Home Bureau, which stimulated Catholic home placement programs; and the Catholic Boys' Club movement. National unification of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, attributable in part to Mulry's leadership, was achieved with the establishment of the Superior Council of the U.S. in 1915.
Although principally identified with the Vincentian organization, Mulry achieved recognition in the broader welfare community. He was among the founders and served as a vice president of the National Conference of Catholic Charities, helped establish the Fordham School of Social Service, founded St. Elizabeth's Home for Convalescent Women and Girls, and was a member of the Board of Governors of the New York Catholic Protectory. In 1907 he was elected president of the National Conference of Charities and Correction. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt named him to be one of a committee of three to organize the first White House Conference on Children (1909).
Bibliography: j. w. helmes, Thomas M. Mulry: A Volunteer's Contribution to Social Work (Washington 1938). d. t. mccolgan, A Century of Charity, 2 v. (Milwaukee 1951).