MARY DAISY ALLEN WILLIAMS WHITE
The information below has been compiled from a variety of sources. If the reader has access to information that can be documented and that will correct or add to this woman’s biographical information, please contact the Nevada Women’s History Project.
At A Glance:
Born: March 31, 1873, Churchill County, Nevada
Died/Buried: January 19, 1958, Churchill County, Nevada
Maiden Name: Mary Daisy Allen
Race/Nationality/Ethnic Background: Caucasian
Married: Edward J. Williams, James Abernathy White
Primary City and County of Residence and Work:
Fallon and Fairview (Churchill County)
Major Fields of Work: Hospitality, Business owner
Other Role Identities: State Assemblywoman, November 1924 – November 1926, Wife
Ten years after Nevada women were granted the right to vote and hold office in 1914, Daisy, as she was called throughout her life, was one of the first women to serve in the Nevada Legislature. She was elected in 1924, representing rural Churchill County. Her election showed the growing acceptance of electing women to political office.
Her life was a blend of tradition and modern values. In some ways, she followed the traditional ways of a pioneer family, but in others, she broke the mold and helped pave the road for modern women.
Mary Daisy Allen was born March 31, 1873, the sixth of nine children of Lemuel L. Allen and Sarah Ann Peugh Allen, from Ohio, who settled in Churchill County in 1872. The family owned ranches and raised thoroughbred horses. Daisy helped her father by doing bookkeeping.
In one account, Daisy broke a tradition by sometimes riding her father’s prized race horses, with his permission. She even entered a race in Sacramento, California, in spite of the fact that horse racing was then restricted to men. “Dressed in jockey attire and with her hair tucked up in a cap, the disguise worked well, until a gust of wind blew her cap off revealing her long flowing locks.”
She was employed as an enumerator during the 1900 U. S. Census for Churchill County, including St. Clair, where the family ranch was, White Rock, Alpine, Hot Springs, New River, Stillwater, Dixie Valley and the American Indian population in Dixie Valley.
She married Edward J. Williams in 1906. The couple operated businesses and built a hotel in Fairview, a mining boom town. Daisy and her sister Bess ran The Home Restaurant in a tent. According to one account, the wind and show made it so cold inside the tent that “they often had to put one foot at a time into the ovens to keep from getting frost bite, all the while cooking on top of the stove.”
Ed Williams, in partnership with A. E. Hammond, formed a transportation company, ferrying passengers in large automobiles, including a Pope Toledo and a 1907 Thomas Flyer, from Hazen to Fallon to Fairview.
Daisy and Ed, with another couple from Reno, had a frightening experience in July, 1910, in one of the automobiles on a pleasure trip across unmaintained roads headed for Calgary, Canada.
The party was stranded for over a week near the Idaho border when Ed broke the car axle as he gunned the vehicle across a small river bed. While he walked miles to an American Indian camp to borrow a horse and rode to the nearest railroad tracks, Daisy and her friends made a makeshift camp and waited a week for him to return, living on provisions they had with them. One night horses circled the camp “with great fury” and Daisy feared it was an Indian raid; but when day broke, it became clear it was wild mustangs that had scared the party.
Ed waited beside the railroad tracks until a railroad engineer stopped for him. The engineer agreed to procure a new axle for the car and deliver it back to Ed who waited beside the track. Then Ed rode the horse back to the car with the axle. After the adventure, Daisy developed a life-long dislike for travel, according to the account.
The Williamses moved from Fairview and lived in Reno on Cheney Street for a time, then traveled to Butte, Montana, where Ed and Daisy divorced. She returned to Churchill County to her family.
Her election to the State Assembly in 1924 came as a surprise because she ran and won as a Democrat. According to an article in the Reno Evening Gazette, earlier representatives from Churchill County had been Republicans. In one sense, she was a beacon for other women to seek office.
On the other hand, she came to politics as a natural result of her family’s involvement. Her grandfather, Cranston Allen, D-Churchill County, served in the State Assembly from 1872 to 1874. Her father, Lemuel Allen, who was not only a rancher but an attorney, served in many state roles, including County Prosecuting Attorney, three terms as a member of the State Assembly, Speaker of the Assembly, and Lieutenant Governor in 1903-1907.
In the Assembly, Daisy served on the Judiciary, Counties and City Boundaries and State Institutions Committees. She was chair of the State Institutions Committee. She was a co-sponsor of an act to Amend Public Highways which was approved on March 21, 1925. None of the bills she introduced were made into law, and she declined to run for a second term. After leaving the Legislature, she returned to the business of running the Allen Hotel on Carson Street in Fallon.
In February, 1929, she married a mining engineer, James Abernathy White, who was manager for the Mercury Mines Co. in Ione, Nevada. Although White worked in Ione, Daisy lived in Reno and they often drove to Fallon to spend time together.
Tragically, James was killed in an accident nine months later, on Thanksgiving Day, on a commute from Ione to Fallon to Meet Daisy.
She moved from Reno back to Fallon to her sister’s home. On March 31, 1953, her 80th birthday, Daisy was proclaimed the oldest Churchill County native. She lived five more years, died on January 19, 1958, and was buried in the family plot in the Churchill County cemetery.
Researched by Patti Bernard and written by Janice Hoke. Posted to the Web Site May, 2016.
Sources of Information:
- “Daisy Allen White,” vertical file, Churchill County Museum and Archives, article and photo, miscellaneous notes, biography.
- “Mrs. Daisy White Celebrates 80th Birthday Tuesday,” The Fallon Eagle, Saturday, March 28, 1953.
- “Churchill Elects Woman Legislator,” Reno Evening Gazette, Nov. 6, 1924.
- “Honorable Lemuel Allen Biography,” Nevada Genealogy Trails, www.genealogytrails.com/nev/washoe/allenlemuel.html
- “Women in the Nevada Legislature,” http.//www.leg.state.nv.us/Division/Research/Publications/Bkground/BP95-01.pdf