Mary Ankeny was born on January 1, 1870 to Sarah Irvine Ankeny and Rollin Valentine Ankeny. The youngest of five children, Ankeny's mother died when she was nine years old. In 1892, Ankeny married Fred Heaton Hunter, son of pioneer suffragists Eliza Heaton Hunter and Dr. Andrew Oliver Hunter. Upon her marriage, Hunter joined the Polk County Woman Suffrage Society, later the Political Equality Club, and remained a member until the organization disbanded in 1919. Hunter was also a member of the Des Moines Women's Club, the Des Moines Federation of Women's Clubs, the PEO, the Iowa League of Women Voters, the Votes for Women League and the Polk County League of Women Voters. Beginning in 1922, Hunter served as secretary of the Iowa Suffrage Memorial Commission for six years, followed by a year as vice president, and then six years as president. In addition to working for the enfranchisement of women for many years, Hunter was a prohibitionist, worked for the Red Cross during World War I, and was an activist for world peace.