Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Dr. Adelaide Brown, 1868-1940

By Nicole de Silva, graduate student, UC-Santa Barbara

Vice-President of the College Equal Suffrage League of California, medical doctor

Adelaide Brown was born in Napa, CA on July 19, 1868 to the physician and surgeon Charlotte Amanda Blake Brown and her husband, Henry Adams Brown. Her mother had moved from Philadelphia to California in 1851, where she gave medical care to women in the California Missions and founded the Children's Hospital of San Francisco.

Adelaide Brown attended Smith College for her undergraduate work, graduating with an A.B. degree in 1888. She continued her education at Cooper Medical College in San Francisco, where she earned her M.D. in 1892. Cooper had begun graduating female students in 1877, making it one of the first institutions in the state to do so. In 1899, Brown became an obstetrician at the Children's Hospital of San Francisco.

As it did for her mother, medicine offered Brown "the great opportunity for self expression." She served as secretary to the Medical Milk Commission of San Francisco County from 1907-12, becoming president in 1912. She also had a place in the Members Association of Collegiate Alumna; (Cal. branch), San Francisco Civic Centre, Society for Prevention of Blindness, Committee for Prevention of Infant Mortality, the Baby Hygiene Society, and the Milk Improvement Association. By 1919, she served as chairperson of the California woman's committee of the Councils of National and State Defense. She was also passionate about education, and began a nationwide Campaign for Better Babies and "Back to School Movement" in 1919.

Brown served as the first vice-president of the College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California. Organized in 1909 to promote educational work among college women, the league became invested in the suffrage amendment upon its proposal in 1911. In July of 1914, the League joined a coalition of other California-based suffrage organizations to form the "Central Campaign Committee." Within six months, the College League distributed 900,000 leaflets, put on plays and pageants, and hosted anywhere from 1,3000 to 10,000 attendees at each of its 50 public meetings. Thanks to the work of the College League, papers such as the Los Angeles Express, Sacramento Bee, and San Francisco Bulletin gave favorable press to the suffrage work of the "Central Campaign."

Dr. Brown was also active in a wide range of social clubs, and her name can be found throughout the Society pages of such California-based papers as the San Francisco Call, the Los Angeles Herald, and the Sausalito News. She died in San Francisco, CA, on July 29, 1940.


Adelaide Brown, "The History of the Development of Women in Medicine in Calif.," Calif. and Western Medicine, May 1925.

San Bernardino Daily Sun, Vol 44, No 105, 2 January 1919, p. 7

Ida Husted Harper, "Chapter 4: California," in History of Women's Suffrage, vol. 6 (New York, NY: National American Women Suffrage Association, 1922), 48.

"California Death Index, 1940-1997," database, FamilySearch ( : 26 November 2014), Adelaide Brown, 29 Jul 1940; Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento.

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