Mary Florence Taney

Historical Marker #2555 is dedicated to Mary Florence Taney. Born on May 15, 1856 in Newport, Kentucky, Taney grew to be an educated young woman, attending the Academy of Immaculata, a branch of Nazareth Academy. She utilized her studies to focus on writing, often publishing under the nom de plume “Frederick Stanhope Grant.” At as early as sixteen years old, Taney’s work appeared in the Free Press and the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette.

She was the first Kentucky woman to become a Notary Public under Governor Simon Bolivar Buckner. She also served as a private secretary to the Collector of Internal Revenue under President Benjamin Harrison. Taney is noted for breaking barriers for White women in the government sector. She also is quoted as supporting White women’s suffrage, although the degree of suffrage rights remains unclear.

Taney was related to Francis Scott Key who wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. Her connections to such influential men led her to pursue genealogical research, especially concerning her great-great uncle Chief Justice Taney. Her interest in genealogy lead her to create three national patriotic societies: The National Society of the Dames of the Court of Honor, the National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century, and the National Society of the Colonial Daughters. Each group focused on patriotism, community outreach, and proof of ancestral connections to individuals from specific eras of United States history.

Taney wrote a biography of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney for the American Catholic Historical Society. Chief Justice Taney was well known for writing the majority decision of the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) supreme court case. Though her great-great uncle ruled that no Black person could claim U.S. citizenship or present their case in a federal court, and argued the Missouri Compromise legislation was unconstitutional, Mary Florence Taney was quick to defend her ancestor. In the biography, she describes Roger B. Taney with an idealized perspective, noting his religious and pious lifestyle. When referring to the Dred Scott decision, Taney attempted to rationalize Justice Taney’s actions through racist ideologies including positing that Black Americans were “an inferior order of beings .”

After her retirement form government work, Taney wrote as a consultant for multiple periodicals such as the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune. She continued to write prose and poetry and completed a book entitled Kentucky Pioneer Women and even wrote a state song entitled, “State Song—Kentucky”, as well as an operetta entitled, “Truth, the Guardian Spirit of History, Poetry, Music and Song.”

Historical Marker #2555 is outside of Mary Florence Taney’s house in Covington, Kentucky. Located in what is now known as the “Licking Riverside Historic District,” this building served as Taney’s last home. Other homes within this neighborhood include President Ulysses S. Grant’s childhood home, where he would keep his family during the Civil War. Taney died October 9, 1936.

During her lifetime, Mary Florence Taney contributed to the progression of White women in the predominantly male sphere of politics and writing. She also helped to promote genealogy research as a way to build camaraderie amongst women as well as service within her community. Still, Taney’s writings regarding her ancestor Roger B. Taney and her focus on researching the genealogies of White colonists and Revolutionary War soldiers also reflected her personal worldviews clouded by racism and classism.

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