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Maryland State Motto

Fatti Maschii Parole Femine Language:Italian
Translation:Strong Deeds, Gentle Words Adoption:1776

State mottoes may be said to reflect the character and beliefs of the citizens of the state, or more accurately, the citizens of the state when they were adopted. State mottoes can help us gain insight into the history of a state. [What is a motto? ]

Adoption of the Maryland State Mottoes

Historic Annapolis Days Passed
Historic Annapolis Days Passed

The Maryland motto, Fatti Maschii Parole Femine, has not specifically been adopted as a state motto. Rather, it has been accepted as a state motto because it was adopted as an element of the Great Seal of Maryland.

The motto dates back to the Great Seal of the Province of Maryland, which included the arms of the Lords Baltimore (Calvert family). Fatti Maschii Parole Femine appeared on this seal.

At the Convention of 1776, the Great Seal of the Province was adopted as the Great Seal of the State until a new seal could be devised. It remained in effect until 1794, when a new seal and a new motto, Industry the Means and Plenty the Result, were approved. The 1794 seal served the state until 1817 when another new seal was adopted. The 1817 seal consisted of the coat of arms of the United States encircled by the words "Seal of the State of Maryland".

By 1874, after over 55 years of service, the official Seal of the State of Maryland was worn out and needed replacement. Governor Enoch Louis Lowe suggested that the coat of arms of the United States should be replaced with the arms of Maryland on the new seal. In response, the former Great Seal of the Province was called into service as the Great Seal of the State, replacing the 1817 seal. A new seal was ordered, but a series of errors and political tricks delayed delivery. In 1876, the Legislature issued and approved these resolves.

WHEREAS, Senate Joint Resolution No: 9, "In Relation to the Great Seal of the State," passed by the General Assembly at its Session in 1874, instructing the Governor to have the Great Seal of the State so altered, that it should conform to the Arms of Lord Baltimore, as represented on the title page of Bacon's Laws of Maryland, printed in 1765, by Jonas Green, was passed, under the impression that the said representation was accurate.

And whereas, Investigation has shown that said representation of the Arms of Lord Baltimore is imperfect.

And whereas, A complete and accurate description of the Seal of the Province, is to be found in the Commission of Cecilius, Lord Baron of Baltimore, that accompanied the said seal, when sent to the Province in 1648; therefore--

First. Be it Resolved by the General Assembly of Maryland, That Senate Joint Resolution No. 9, "In Relation to the Great Seal of the State," passed by the General Assembly at its Session in 1874, be, and the same is hereby, rescinded.

Second. And be it further resolved, That the Governor of the State is hereby authorized and empowered to have the Great Seal of the State altered, so that it shall bear the Arms of Maryland, as represented upon the Seal furnished the Province in 1648 by Cecilius, Lord Baron of Baltimore; which Arms are described as follows, viz: Quarterly, first and fourth paly of six or and sable, a bend counter-changed; second and third quarterly argent and gules, a cross battony counter-changed: Crest, (which is placed upon a helmet showing five bars, over a count-palatine's coronet,) on a ducal coronet proper, two pennons, dexter or, the other sable; staves gules: Motto, "Patti maschii, parole femine."--Supporters, a plowman and a fisherman proper: a mantle deubled, with ermine, surrounding the arms and supporters; upon a border encircling the Seal shall be engraven this legend : "Scuto bonae voluntatis tuae coronasti nos," The diameter of the Seal shall be three inches.

And so it was, that in 1876, the seal that had served as the Great Seal of the Province of Maryland over 200 years before, was once again serving as the Great Seal of the State of Maryland.

About the Maryland State Motto

State Capitol, Annapolis, Maryland
State Capitol - Annapolis, Maryland

The Great Seal of Maryland is unique among the seals of the states. Unlike any other seal, it is of strictly heraldic design. Heraldry is the practice of "...devising, blazoning and granting armorial insignia and of recording and tracing genealogies". The design of the seal is, in fact, the family arms of the Lords Baltimore (Calvert family).

The translation of the motto has varied over the years. In 1993, State Archivist, Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse presented his translation in response to charges that the motto, as transcribed in law (see below) was discriminatory.

A sampling of translations are listed below:

  • "Deeds are men, words are women" (Lord Calvert's day, 1622)
  • "A woman for words and a man for deeds" (Maryland Manual, 1905)
  • "Womanly (Courteous), words and manly deeds" (Maryland Manual, 1905)
  • Strictly, "Deeds are males, words, females" (Maryland Manual, 1939)
  • "Deeds are manly, words are womanly" (Unnamed State Archivist, 1969)
  • "Manly deeds, womanly words" (State Legislature, 1975)
  • "Strong deeds, gentle words" (Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, 1993)

We have offered Dr. Papenfuse's translation above, "Strong deeds, gentle words", even though the legal translation remains "...loosely translated, 'Manly deeds, womanly words'."

The Maryland Statutes

Like many states, Maryland's state motto was adopted as an element of its official seal. The following information is excerpted from the Maryland Statutes, Title 13, Subtitle 1, Section 13.102. Note the abundant use of heraldic terms in the statute.

Section 13-101 of Subtitle 1 states that "(b) Use.- The reverse of the State seal shall be used officially. The obverse has not been used officially."

Additional Information

State Motto List: List of all of the state mottoes.

Archivist's Corner: Ed Papenfuse: Original version of an article on the Calvert family motto published in the [Baltimore] SUN on Maryland Day, 2001. Scroll down to "ARCHIVIST'S CORNER" section.

State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002

State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: A Study based on historical documents giving the origin and significance of the state names, nicknames, mottoes, seals, flowers, birds, songs, and descriptive comments on the capitol buildings and on some of the leading state histories, Revised Edition - George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938 (Reprint Services Corp. 1971)


Source: Maryland Statutes, (http://mlis.state.md.us/cgi-win/web_statutes.exe), March 22, 2005
Source: ARCHIVIST'S CORNER - Ed Papenfuse, (http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/refserv/bulldog/bull93/html/bull93.html), March 29, 2005
Source: Merriam-Webster Online, (http://www.m-w.com/), March 3, 2005
Source: State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002
Source: State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: Revised Edition (Reprint)- George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938

 

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