Mamie Shields Pyle

Honored by:Pyle House Museum
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South Dakota's pioneer leader of the women's suffrage movement.

In 1911, she was elected president of the Equal Suffrage Movement and fought for women's suffrage in South Dakota until its passage in 1918.

Mamie Pyle was born Mary Isabella Shields to Harry and Sarah Jane Shields in Orange, New Jersey, in 1866. From there, her family headed to Pleasant Grove, Minnesota, where she grew to womanhood. She also resided in Brookings City & Miller, Dakota Territory, before making Huron her permanent home in 1889 until her death in 1949.

Her earlier years saw her as a teacher in the Richland Township and in Miller. A school south of Miller honored her for her dedication to the profession by naming the Golden Shield School after her. In 1886, she married the town's prominent young lawyer and state attorney, John L. Pyle. Together they raised four children: John Shield, May, Nellie and Gladys, who later became South Dakota's first female legislator and the first woman Republican in the U.S. Senate.

Mamie Pyle was a remarkable woman both as a mother and as a citizen. Her much admired philosophy of homemaking and child rearing earned her the South Dakota Mother of the Year honor in 1947. Mrs. Pyle was then 81 years old. "Family play and entertainment should be blended with a good bit of Sunday School and church, plus a well-rounded education and a touch of obligation and responsibility for the problems of humanity, flavored with love and devotion," she told reporters after receiving the award.

Widowed at a tender age of 36, she single-handedly raised her children and saw them through Huron College, which she and her husband had helped established in town. An ambitious and civic-minded citizen, she served on the College Board of Trustees for 46 years. She was also instrumental in making the school's 1911 endowment campaign a success by securing $100,000 from a Chicago benefactor.

Among her most distinguished public achievements was her able leadership in the National State Equal Suffrage Movement. Undaunted by repeated defeats of the Equal Suffrage constitutional Amendment in the early 1900's, Mrs. Pyle led a group of women in their fight for the right to vote to a victorious win in 1918 when state lawmakers passed it and voters approved it. She gained national recognition as a result of the victory. In 1915 and 1917, she was a delegate to the National Suffrage Convention in Washington, DC, and in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1919.

On February 16, 1920, for her distinguished service to the cause of Woman Suffrage in America, she was placed on the Honor Roll of the National Woman Suffrage Association. The certificate bore the signature of Carrie Chapman Catt, President.