Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1940
Biography of Katharine Kennedy Brown, 1891-1986
By: Mason Bruner, undergraduate, and Stephanie Hinnershitz, faculty sponsor, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio
Member and activist, Woman Suffrage Party of Montgomery County
Katharine Louise Kennedy Brown was born on July 16, 1891, in Dayton, Ohio. Her father, Grafton Claggett Kennedy, was a noted lawyer in Dayton and a politically active Republican. Her mother, Louise Kennedy (also known as Francis Louise Archey), was a genealogical researcher and a founding member of the Jonathan Dayton Branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Katharine Kennedy and her younger siblings were raised in their father's family home in Dayton, known as the Duncarrick Mansion, which would remain her lifelong home.
Due to her family's wealth and social position, much of Katharine Kennedy's childhood was spent mingling with some of the most powerful individuals in her community. She spent her childhood travelling abroad in Europe, and she received early education from governesses in both France and Germany. After her travels, Kennedy returned to Dayton and completed her education through Dayton Public Schools and Dana Hall in Wellesley, MA.
Katharine Kennedy married Kleon Thaw Brown in 1921. Kleon Brown was the son of Reverend William Kennedy Brown, an important figure of the temperance movement in the late-nineteenth century. The couple had one child, who died in infancy. The child's death was shortly followed by the abrupt death of Kleon Brown in 1925. Katharine Brown never remarried.
Katharine Kennedy Brown was actively involved in the suffrage movement in Montgomery County. She was a member of the Woman's Suffrage Party of Montgomery County. She attended lectures on suffrage; she wrote, printed and distributed suffrage literature; she participated in parades and marches at both the local and state levels. She raised money, helped to educate others, and polled individuals and groups, all regarding woman's suffrage.
In 1920, Katharine Kennedy Brown began her career in politics. She followed in her father's footsteps and became a member of the Montgomery County Republican Executive Committee, even though she was initially denied membership because she was a woman. She helped establish the Montgomery County's Women's Ward and Precinct Organization, and she organized the first Republican Women's Club in Montgomery County. Brown became a member of the Republican State Committee of Ohio and represented the 3rd Congressional District in 1928. By 1932, she became the Republican National Committee woman for Ohio and was re-elected to the position every two years until 1968.
Those achievements were just the beginning of Katharine Kennedy Brown's active political career. In 1940, she was central to the reactivation of the Ohio Federation of Republican Women (OFRW). The organization was originally created in 1929, but it remained relatively dormant until 1940, when Brown organized a meeting with the Republican State Central and Executive Committee. In the meeting, she successfully pushed for the revival of the OFRW. Shortly after, she was elected president of OFRW and served in the position for thirty-one years, from 1940 to 1971. In 1940, when the OFRW was officially accepted by its parent organization, the National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW), the ORFW had 6,000 members across 200 different clubs. During her time as the president of the organization, Brown helped boost those numbers to 40,000 members and 369 clubs by 1970.
Katharine Kennedy Brown was elected to the Executive Committee of the Republican National Committee as the vice chairman in 1944 and held the position until 1952. Eight times throughout her career, Katharine served as a Delegate-at-Large to the Republican National Convention and served on the Arrangement Committees of the Republican National Conventions of 1940 and 1944. Katharine served as an advisor to many politicians, including Senators John W. Bricker and Robert Taft, as well as President Richard Nixon. Brown was the only female member on Bricker's and Taft's National Strategy Committees. She served on the Advisory Council of the Woman's National Republican Club of New York, and she was a member of both the League of Republican Women and the Capitol Hill Republican Club. She was also a member of the Colonial Dames of America, and, like her mother, of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Katharine Kennedy Brown died in 1986 at the Kettering Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. She was 95 years old.
"Brief Biographical Sketch," MS-146: Katharine Kennedy Brown Papers. Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University. Accessed June 29, 2017. https://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/collectionguides/files/ms146.pdf.
Gingerich, Sharon. "OFRW History." The Ohio Federation of Republican Women. Accessed April 4, 2018. http://theofrw.org/ofrw-historical.
"Katherine K. Brown," obituary. New York Times. November 13, 1986, p. D27. Accessible online at http://www.nytimes.com/1986/11/13/obituaries/katherine-k-brown.html.
Ohio History Central. "Katherine K. Brown." Accessed April 4, 2018. http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Katherine_K._Brown.
Schweickart, Michelle. "Through the Eyes of Pioneers: Accounts of the Women's Suffrage Movement in Dayton, Ohio (1890-1920)." Master's thesis (Dayton, Ohio: Wright State University, 2015), pp. 7-8. Accewssible online at https://corescholar.libraries.wright.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1015&context=humanities