Born in Newport, Kentucky to Peter and Catherine Alphonse Taney on May 15, 1861, Mary Florence Taney was educated at the Academy of the Immaculata. She grew up in the shadow of her famous ancestor, Supreme Court justice, Roger B. Taney. She researched and wrote his biography for the American Catholic Historical Society that offered a noble picture of the author of the Dred Scott decision that pointed toward duty and the law over sentimentality. Similarly, her work in song and narrative stressed the same themes. In 1893 she published Prose Sketches of Noted Pioneer Women with a Commemorative Poem Following Each Sketch which served to offer a view of early white elite Kentuckians as noble and patriotic role models to emulate.
On November 10, 1895, for Kentucky Day at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, her lyrics for the "Kentucky State Song" were set to music by Professor Andrew J. Boex (later published as sheet music in 1906 - the song is available for viewing at the University of Louisville's Archives and Special Collections). The song's lyrics emphasize patriotism and at the same time glorify the role of industry in Kentucky's potential:
"O beautiful State, how glows my heart
With pride and love for thee!
Millions lie in thy forest mold; ...
Thy mountains, rich in iron ore,
Await the touch of a master hand;
For countless fortunes and wealth galore
Are hidden in this Promised Land..." (Kentucky State Anthem, 55)
She founded three national societies for women dedicated to patriotic efforts:
- National Society of the Colonial Daughters of America (1907)
- National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century (1915)
- National Society Dames of the Court of Honor (1921)
In the entry for the National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century in the 1917 Annual Report of the American Historical Association, it is reported that the organization's purpose was "to establish chairs of historical research in colleges and universities and a college of heraldry active in patriotic work (186)." In the same report, the Colonial Daughters of America, National Society, located at Nelson Place in Newport, Kentucky, was described to offer "great activity in regard to preparedness; patriotic meetings; Red Cross work."
According to the Woman's Who's Who of America in 1914, Taney also wrote an operetta: "Truth, The Guardian Spirit of History, Poetry, Music and Song" as well as a "Hymn to St. Francis of Assisi." It was this 1914 biographical entry that states she "favors woman suffrage" (801).
She never married and, according to a National Society Colonial Dames website, earned a wage as the "first woman to become private secretary to the Collector of Internal Revenue during the Harrison administration." In addition, she was "the first woman in Kentucky to become licensed as a Notary Public, being appointed by Governor Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr. in 1889." At some point, Taney was appointed president "of a commercial college" (Logan, 822) and served as assistant editor of the Woman's Club Magazine. She also contributed articles to Form (a journal in Great Britain published between 1916-22), The Angelus, and The Colonial Magazine. Her entry in the American Catholic Who's Who in 1911 indicated that she was a member of the Filson Club, the Indo American League, Covington Art Club, and Catholic Ladies of Columbia. Her address listed here is "The Woodford, Covington, Ky. (Taney, 645)." In 1927, she was listed as president of the Audubon Society while living at 309 E. Third Street in Covington (Directory, 6).
*** Resources ***
"Directory of Officials and Organizations Concerned with the Protection of Birds and Game: 1927." Miscellaneous Publication 6. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1927.
"Kentucky State Anthem, by Mary Florence Taney." All That's Kentucky: An Anthology. Edited by Josiah Henry Combs.
(Louisville, Ky.: John P. Morton, 1915): 55
Logan, Mrs. John A. The Part Taken by Women in American History. Wilmington, Del.: Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, 1912.
"Mary Florence Taney" Faces and Places: Northern Kentucky Photographic Archives. Photograph-Black & White. Image ID: di25724. Kenton County Public Library, Covington, Kentucky.
"Taney, Mary Florence." The American Catholic Who's Who, Volume 1. Compiled and edited by Georgina Pell Curis. St. Louis, Mo.: B. Herder, 1911.
Taney, Mary Florence. "Roger Brooke Taney" pp. 33-42 in Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, Vol. 11. Philadelphia: American Catholic Historical Society, 1900.
Taney, Mary Florence. Kentucky Pioneer Women, Columbian Poems and Prose Sketches. Cincinnati, OH: Press of R. Clarke and Co., 1893.
Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. Edited by John W. Leonard. New York: American Commonwealth Co., 1914.
NOTE: This biographical sketch is to support the development of the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Project. Additional contributions from H-Kentucky subscribers are heartily encouraged.