Woman of the Century/Mary A. Saunders
SAUNDERS, Mrs. Mary A., business woman, born in Brooklyn, N. Y., 14th January, 1849. Her father, Dr. Edward R. Percy, was descended from the old family of Percys, who came from the Northumberland line in England, and her mother, an English woman of excellent family and education, died early in life. Her father was married again to a very worthy American woman, and after the children had grown to be young women, he removed to the West, settling in Lawrence, Kans., where he ceased to practice medicine and took up the study of the growth and culture of the grape and the manufacture of wine. Mary A. Percy became the wife of A. M. Saunders, and was left a widow with a baby after two years of married life. Being too independent to rely upon her MARY A. SAUNDERS. father for support, he not being in prosperous circumstances, she began to support herself. She was hindered in her endeavors to earn a livelihood on account of her infant, and after receiving instruction on the pipe-organ, in the hope of obtaining a position as organist in one of the churches in Lawrence, and making several efforts to obtain music pupils, she at last accepted the invitation so oft repeated by letter from her husband's relatives, who were Nova Scotians, and with her baby started on a week's trip to reach an unfamiliar land. She found a hearty welcome on her arrival, and succeeded in obtaining a pleasant means of livelihood by teaching both vocal and instrumental music. After two years of that life she concluded to leave her little girl with her relatives and returned to her native city, New York, to continue the study of music. At that time her attention was drawn to a new invention, the typewriter. She was introduced to G. W. N. Yost, the inventor of typewriters, and received a promise from him that, as soon as she could write on the typewriter at the rate of sixty words per minute, he would employ her as an exhibitor and tales woman. In three weeks she accomplished the task required, and was engaged in January, 1875, by the Typewriter Company. She is one of the first women who dared to step out and travel down town for the purpose of earning a livelihood in the walks generally presumed to belong to the sterner sex. The typewriter offered her a field and business which seemed to suit her exactly, and to-day, out of the three first typists, she is the only woman remaining in the business. She assisted in arranging the first keyboard of the Remington typewriter, which is now, with slight alterations, used as the key-board on all typewriters. After a few months of experience in the office in business methods, she took a position as general agent. She traveled all over the West, and sold and inaugurated the use of the first typewriters in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago, Indianapolis. Detroit and other cities. After three years she decided she would prefer to settle in New York, and she obtained the position of corresponding clerk in the Brooklyn Life Insurance Company. She then studied stenography. When the head book-keeper died about two years later, she applied for the vacancy, which was given to her at an advanced salary, and she not only attended to all the correspondence and bookkeeping, but examined all the policies and had charge of the real-estate accounts. After nearly thirteen years her failing health warned her that a change was necessary. In the spring of 1891 the Yost Typewriter Company, Limited, of London, England, was about being formed, and they offered her a fine position with them in London as manager and saleswoman, under a contract for a year. She accepted and sailed from New York in April, 1891, accompanied by her daughter. Her position as manager of a school enrolling more than a hundred pupils gave her ample scope to carry out her life-long scheme of aiding women to be self-supporting in the higher walks of life. She has had the pleasure of obtaining positions for some sixty young men and women. At the expiration of her contract she decided to return to New York and undertake the management of the company's office in that city. As a slight mark of their appreciation of her efforts in their behalf, a reception was given to her the evening before her departure. An overture, "The Yost," especially arranged for the occasion, and other musical selections followed. The chief feature of the evening was the presentation of a beautiful diamond brooch, as a farewell token of respect and esteem, from pupils and members of the staff. She will now carry on the same line of work in New York that was so entirely satisfactory' in London, and will use the same methods of teaching.