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Seymour, Mary F. (1846–1893)

Seymour, Mary F. (1846–1893)

American entrepreneur and journalist. Born Mary Foot Seymour in Aurora, Illinois, in 1846; died inNew York, New York, on March 21, 1893; daughter of Ephraim Sanford Seymour (a lawyer and writer) and Rosette (Bestor) Seymour; educated in private schools in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and Somerville, New Jersey, and completed her education at the Twelfth Street School in New York City.

Established the Union School of Stenography in New York City (1879), and ultimately three other firms; launched the bimonthly Business Women's Journal (1889), which later became the American Woman's Journal.

Mary F. Seymour was born in Aurora, Illinois, in 1846, the daughter of Ephraim Sanford Seymour, a lawyer and writer, and Rosette Bestor Seymour . Following Ephraim's death in a gold-mining town in Nevada City, California, in 1851, Rosette relocated to Wilbraham, Massachusetts, with her four children, to be near her married sister. The family later moved to Jersey City, New Jersey. Mary attended private schools in Wilbraham and Somerville, New Jersey, and graduated from the Twelfth Street School in New York City in 1864.

Seymour wrote verse and stories for children and was briefly a grade-school teacher in New York City and Jersey City. She suffered from poor health, however, and during periods of enforced rest, learned shorthand, and later became a court stenographer. When Remington's first efficient typewriters came on the market in the late 1870s, Seymour realized that there would be a demand for typists (or type-writers as stenographers were then called) and started the Union School of Stenography in New York City in 1879. The enterprise was a success, and she soon expanded her business to four schools, a company that employed 25 stenographers, and an employment bureau, the Union Stenographic and Typewriting Association.

In January 1889, Seymour launched a bimonthly publication, the Business Women's Journal, which included stories of successful women, news of women's organizations, and tips of the trade. That same year, she organized the Mary F. Seymour Publishing Company to produce the journal. The enterprise sold stock, and its officers were all women, including May Wright Sewall , Isabella Beecher Hooker , Frances E. Willard , and Lady Henry Somerset (Isabella Somerset ). In October 1892, Seymour introduced the American Women's Journal, which incorporated the Business Women's Journal, in an effort to reach a wider audience.

Seymour became an advocate of woman suffrage and used her skills to support various women's groups, including the International Council of Women in Washington, D.C., in 1888, and the First Triennial Council of the National Council of Women in 1891. In 1893, age 47, she died of pneumonia at her home in New York. The American Women's Journal lasted only three years after her death.


Bird, Caroline. Enterprising Women. NY: New American Library, 1976.

James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

Read, Phyllis J., and Bernard L. Witlieb. The Book of Women's Firsts. NY: Random House, 1992.

Deborah Conn , freelance writer, Falls Church, Virginia

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