Mary Edna Cruzen — Efficient Labor Leader

In 1935, Mary Edna Cruzen served on the state labor commission and was director of the Missouri State Employment Service. Her home is at… “Gallatin, MO, seat of what was formerly known as the famous Gallatin dynasty. This appellation originated from the fact that Gallatin has produced more prominent personages in state and national history than almost any other county seat town in Missouri.”

In 1935, Mary Edna Cruzen served on the state labor commission and was director of the Missouri State Employment Service. Her home is at… “Gallatin, MO, seat of what was formerly known as the famous Gallatin dynasty. This appellation originated from the fact that Gallatin has produced more prominent personages in state and national history than almost any other county seat town in Missouri.”

Mary Edna Cruzen, the mother of Rear Admiral Richard Cruzen, is shown here at her home in Gallatin located at 201 East Berry Street. Mrs. Cruzen served as a State Labor Commissioner (1932-36). Source: State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia.

Her first lessons in practical politics was learned from Alexander Monroe Dockery — a Gallatin doctor and banker elected to Congress representing the Missouri 3rd District for a number of years. “As a congressman, he became a national figure, not because of oratorical flubdubbery but rather because of his practical work on behalf of the people. As a watch dog of the treasury, he had a head for figures that made him a public benefactor to the taxpayers.”

Mrs. Cruzen was a little girl when Dockery was becoming a congressional star but in her more mature years she developed an interest in good government and things political in general, and Dockery found her to be an apt pupil. At that time women were not permitted to vote, but with the coming of sufferage, Mrs. Cruzen, thanks to Dockery, was equipped with a splendid background of information as to the principles of good government and also a keen knowledge of political expediency.

Dockery elevated from his congressional berth to the governorship of Missouri and his name is written high on the scroll of honor in this state’s history. He later occupied a cabinet position in Washington, D.C., and later died while living a few years in retirement.

Another prominent figure from Gallatin was Judge Joshua Alexander, who succeeded Dockery in Congress and served with distinction — eventually called by President Woodrow Wilson to serve in his cabinet as Secretary of Commerce. Judge Alexander was a personal friend of Mrs. Cruzen. Besides Dockery and Alexander, others who went out into the world to bring Gallatin fame were attorney Ed Yates, and Ed Howe known as the “Sage of Potato Hill.” In addition, Mrs. Cruzen was the wife of a prominent Democratic lawyer, who was personally interested in her political success. So, from this rich political background came Mary Edna Cruzen, an interesting and charming woman and a capable executive.

Mary Edna Cruzen

Mrs. Cruzen received her appointment as labor commissioner from Gov. Park on March 14, 1933, in recognition of her work as a member of the Democratic County Central Committee since the time women were given the right to vote.

As a member of the state committee, she was elected vice-chairman and worked seven weeks at the Democratic headquarters in St. Louis during the 1932 campaign. She was called to New York by Mary Dewson, national director of the women’s activities in the interest of the Roosevelt campaign. Later Mrs. Cruzen was appointed director of the Missouri State Employment Service which responsibility is tied up with her work as State Commissioner of Labor.

The industrial inspection department of Mrs. Cruzen’s administration has supervision of inspection of all industrial hazards to employees, enforcemtn of the child labor law, 9-hour law for women, regulating fee-charging employment agencies, and the organization and administration of the Missouri State Employment Service.

Mrs. Cruzen is the author of the better betting bill which is before the legislature at the time of this writing. This proposes to eliminate the use of second hand materials in bedding and upholstering. She became interested in this particular feature of this work during the sleeping sickness epidemic in the City of St. Louis and in St. Louis County in 1933, at which time she carried on correspondence with noted medical men who were studying the cause of sleeping sickness and suggested that investigation had shown that a great amount of second hand material went into bedding sold throughout the state.

The bill regulating fee-charging employment agencies was introduced at her instigation. A desire to protect those seeking employment from excessive fees prompted this bill which seeks only to regulate fee-charging agencies and not to eliminate them.

Under the administration of Mrs. Cruzen, the Missouri State Employment Service, affiliated with the U.S. Employment Service, was developed and when Washington set up the program for placements under the CWA, all placements in Missouri were made through this service. Mrs. Cruzen went to Kansas City and supervised personally the placement of over 9,000 men and women in gainful employment. She did much to increase the efficiency of industrial inspection which reduces to a minimum industrial accidents and loss of life.

The Jefferson City Central Missouri Review described Mrs. Cruzen as follows: “Optimism is one of the chief characteristics of the vivacious Mrs. Cruzen. She has the happy facility of seeing the silver lining in every cloud. She radiates sunshine and inspires cheerfulness in those with whom she is associated. Governor Park is to be congratulated for the splendid judgment he exercised in appointing Mary Edna Cruzen to the responsible place she now occupies in the state government of Missouri.”

Reprinted from the Apri 25, 1935 edition of the Gallatin North Missourian