Mary Ritter was one of seven children born in Indianapolis, Indiana, to a veteran of the U.S. Civil War and his wife. She attended public schools and graduated as valedictorian of her high school class. She was president of her class at DePauw University, where she met her future husband, Charles Austin Beard. After graduating in 1897, she worked as a German teacher while Charles traveled to England for graduate studies at Oxford University. In 1900, they married and she accompanied him back to England. She became friends with a wide variety of influential radicals and progressive leaders, including Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, and Peter Kropotkin. Mary Ritter Beard began to write history, and became involved in labor organizations and the women's suffrage movement, joining the Women's Trade Union League. The Beards returned to the USA in 1902, after the birth of their first child, settling in New York City. She became a leader of the New York City Suffrage Party (NYCSP) and edited its publication, The Woman Voter. She left the NYCSP in 1913 to join the Congressional Union, later known as the National Woman's Party), where she became editor of its weekly magazine The Suffragist. She helped plan strategy, organized and participated in demonstrations, lectured, wrote articles, and testified before Congress. Following the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, she concentrated on her writing and on developing her philosophy concerning women in history, which was that women have always played a central role in all civilizations. With Rosika Schwimmer, she founded the World Center for Women’s Archives (WCWA) in 1935. Her books on women's role in history included On Understanding Women (1931), America Through Women's Eyes (1933), and Woman as Force in History: A Study in Traditions and Realities (1946). In addition, she collaborated with her husband on several major works, most notably The Rise of American Civilization (1927).