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Sherman, Mary Belle (1862–1935)

Sherman, Mary Belle (1862–1935)

American clubwoman who lobbied on behalf of the national-parks movement. Born Mary Belle King on December 11, 1862, in Albion, New York; died of cerebral thrombosis on January 15, 1935; daughter of Rufus King and Sarah Electa (Whitney) King; educated at St. Xavier's Academy and Park Institute in Chicago; married John Dickinson Sherman, on February 10, 1887 (died 1926); children: John King.

Selected writings:

Parliamentary Law at a Glance (1901, later retitled Parliamentary Law and Rules of Procedure).

Born in 1862 in Albion, New York, Mary Belle King was educated in Rochester, New York, and Chicago. At age 25, she married newspaper editor John Dickinson Sherman. The couple had one son, John, whose upbringing was Sherman's primary occupation during his early years. Encouraged to become a member of the Chicago Woman's Club by her mother-in-law Louise Dickinson Sherman , she became increasingly active in this group and other clubs, serving as recording secretary for the Chicago Woman's Club and the General Federation of Women's Clubs. After a parliamentary-law study group met at her home and piqued her interest, Sherman became enough of an expert on the subject to write a handbook entitled Parliamentary Law at a Glance (1901) and to serve as an instructor in the field at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. She also acted as parliamentarian for the Illinois Federation of Women's Clubs.

Sherman ascended to the position of vice-president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs in 1908, but an illness contracted while on a tour of women's clubs in the Panama Canal Zone severely crippled her effectiveness. She retreated to the family's vacation home in Estes Park, Colorado, to recuperate. She became convinced of the salutary nature of the wilderness, and thereafter dedicated herself to the conservation of land for national parks. She sufficiently regained her strength to become the chair of the conservation department of the General Federation in 1914 and began lobbying for the formation of the National Park Service. This goal was accomplished in 1916, and she was responsible for the creation of a number of park areas in the Grand Canyon and in parts of the Rocky Mountains. Known as the "National Park Lady," Sherman was an advocate of nature study at the elementary-school level and pushed for the planting of trees along highways.

From 1924 to 1928, Sherman served as president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. She was also appointed vice-president of the American Forestry Association and a trustee of the National Park Service, in addition to holding a number of other advisory positions. Several months after being struck by a bus, she died of cerebral thrombosis in 1935.


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

Ginger Strand , Ph.D., New York City

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