Stuart v. Board of Elections, 266 Md. 440 (1972)


Attorneys: Arnold H. Ripperger & Assistant Attorney General E. Stephen Derby
Issue: May a married woman register to vote in her birth name?
Summary: Stuart v. Board of Elections is the case of Mary Emily Stuart, a married woman who retained and registered to vote in her maiden name.  After refusing to complete a "Request for Change of Name" form for the Board of Elections, Stuart's voter registration was cancelled in 1971.  Stuart promptly challenged the Board's decision on the basis that, under English common law, a woman could assume her husband's name, retain her own, or be known by any other name that she wished, so long as the name was never used for fraudulent purposes. Stuart argued that, even after her marriage, her maiden name continued to appear on all legal documents, and that she had never used the name with fraudulent intent.  However, when the court denied petitions to correct the voter registry and restore her name, Mary Stuart appealed her case.

During the appeal, an order to dismiss the petitions was vacated, and an evidentiary hearing was held before Judge T. Hunt Mayfield in May of 1972.  The case was argued by E. Stephen Derby, Assistant Attorney General for the State Administrative Board of Election Laws, Charles E. Hogg, attorney for the Board of Supervisors of Elections for Howard County, and by Ann Llewellyn McKenzie, Kathryn Scates Levedahl, and Mary Ellen Brooke, attorneys for Mary Emily Stuart. The appellant's attorneys argued that Stuart and her husband had a mutual agreement that she would maintain her birth name after marriage, and since she underwent no name change, she merely had to show the Board of Elections that she had consistently and honestly used her birth name, and not her husband's surname,  following marriage.  In an opinion filed May 10, 1972, Judge Mayfield concluded that Mary Stuart had the right to be known by any name that she chose, had amply demonstrated that she had not used her maiden name with any fraudulent intent, and that her registration should be corrected and restored by the Board of Elections of Howard County.

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s) 

Standard 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties 

Standard 4B: The student understands the women’s movement for civil rights and equal opportunities. 

5-12: Identify the major social, economic, and political issues affecting women and explain the conflicts these issues engendered. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue] 

Primary Resources

  1. COURT OF APPEALS (Miscellaneous Papers) Sep.: Nos, 76-79, 81, 83-84, 87, 90-92, 94-96, 98-103, 105-108, 110, 12-113, 115-116, 118-125, No. 105, Stuart v. Board of Elections, MSA S 397-269, MSA SC 2221-24-6-1.

  2. COURT OF APPEALS (Opinions), Sep., various numbers, No. 105, Stuart v.Board of Elections, MSA S 393-357, MSA SC 2221-24-6-2.

  3. COURT OF APPEALS (Briefs), 1972, Nos. 100-106, No. 105, Stuart v. Board of Elections, MSA T2088, MSA SC 2221-32-6-3.

  4. GOVERNMENT PUBLICATION, COURT OF APPEALS (Maryland Reports), Vol. 266, pp. 440-455, Stuart v. Board of Elections, 1972, MSA J856, MSA SC 2221-24-6-4

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