Remembering Mary Brady

by Kathy Wagenknecht

At the inaugural program for our celebration of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial in October 2019, a woman wandered into our meeting at the Bennington Library as Cassandra Peltier was beginning her lecture on Susan B. Anthony.  I spoke with this woman after the meeting, discovering her name was Mary Brady, she had just moved to Wilmington from Baltimore, she found the announcement of our program in the Wilmington newspaper, and she had an unusual voice.

Shortly afterwards, Mary joined our organization and began making herself known. She was eager to participate, and soon began sending me ideas of things we might do to celebrate: a parade dressed in long white dresses, a re-enactment of a Susan B. speech, a full-blown theatrical presentation. Ideas poured out. I tried to tamp her down. Not an easy chore. Her standard response to “I don’t think we can do that” was a heartfelt “Why not?”

Then the Pandemic hit. We had to totally adjust our planned programs for the Centennial, and Mary joined the Program Committee. That was when her energy and creativity really showed itself. She envisioned, staffed, managed, and produced the outstanding video From Corsets to Combinations and its Premier on the Lawn at the Park-McCullough House, the highlight of the summer for the Branch and the community. Many others facilitated Mary’s ideas to make them a reality, but they were her ideas and her projects.

On Monday, April 26, those of us who participated in the April program, “Tea with Jackie,” and viewed Jackie’s newest video about the making of From Corsets to Combinations, met at Jackie’s Dollhouse Museum for an “actual, face-to-face afternoon tea.” Mary brought the scones. They were a success. She died of a massive heart attack the following day.

Mary taught us about living with gusto despite the handicap of spasmodic dysphonia, the vocal cord dysfunction that caused her high-pitched voice. She taught me to listen to outlandish ideas that just might work. And I think she taught everyone who knew her to appreciate all that can be achieved by a “squeaky” little ball of fire.

If you haven’t seen it, now would be a good time to watch Suffrage Sing-Along, Jackie Marro’s video on the making of From Corsets to Combinations that features an introduction by Mary. That would be a fitting way to honor Mary’s outsized contribution to our Branch.