Mason was born in Alexandria on July 26, 1882, one of the five children of Reverend Landon Mason and Lucy Ambler Mason. Descended from one of the most illustrious families in Virginia, she was related to George Mason, John Marshall, and Robert E. Lee, the latter of whom was her father's second cousin. Landon Mason was an Episcopal clergyman who passed his strong social convictions on to his daughter.
After a conventional education at one of Richmond's most exclusive private school for girls, Mason worked briefly as a legal stenographer before becoming industrial secretary of the Richmond Young Women's Christian Association in 1914. She was appointed general secretary in 1923, and developed a range of innovative programs aimed at improving the lives of young women, both black and white. She was especially effective as a publicist for the YWCA's activities, and eventually her work attracted the attention of several of the nation's female reformers, including Florence Kelley, secretary of the National Consumers League, or NCL, who chose Mason as her successor. Mason was appointed NCL's General Secretary in 1932, and, accordingly, moved to New York, the only time in her life that she lived outside the South. Mason served with the NCL for five years, working closely with social workers recruited to staff the myriad New Deal relief and welfare agencies. During this period Mason met First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), with whom she developed a lifelong friendship.
Mason was also committed to ending white supremacy in the South. She was a founding member of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare, a frequent speaker at interracial gatherings such as those held at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, and an ideological ally to such southern liberals as Clifford and Virginia Durr and Aubrey Williams in their fights against segregation and anticommunism. Eleanor Roosevelt honored her in the foreword to Mason's 1952 autobiography, To Win These Rights, noting in particular the "courage" of "this mild looking, soft spoken gentlewoman" with "a fiery fighting spirit." Mason retired in 1953 and died six years later in an Atlanta nursing home.
July 26, 1882 - Lucy Randolph Mason is born in Alexandria.
1914 - Lucy Randolph Mason becomes the industrial secretary of the Richmond Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA).
1923 - Lucy Randolph Mason is appointed General Secretary of the YWCA in Richmond.
1932 - Lucy Randolph Mason is appointed secretary of the National Consumers League (NCL).
1937 - Lucy Randolph Mason becomes the public relations representative of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).
1952 - Lucy Randolph Mason's autobiography To Win These Rights, which includes an introduction by her devoted friend Eleanor Roosevelt, is published.
1959 - Labor activist Lucy Randolph Mason dies six years after retiring from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Salmond, J. Lucy Randolph Mason (1882–1959). (2014, March 6). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Mason_Lucy_Randolph_1882-1959.
- MLA Citation:
Salmond, John. "Lucy Randolph Mason (1882–1959)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 6 Mar. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: February 11, 2008 | Last modified: March 6, 2014