Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Margaret J. Brandenburg, 1884-1961
By: Coleen Hall Dailey, attorney, East Liverpool, Ohio
Secretary, Ohio Equal Suffrage Association, editor
Margaret Johnston was born March 25, 1884 in Topeka, Kansas. She was the daughter of Chief Justice William A. Johnston and Lucy B. Johnston. Her father served on the bench for more than half a century and most of those years as chief justice of the Appellate Court. Margaret Johnston attended Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, an institution that emphasized a liberal arts education. In 1974, Western College merged with Miami University of Ohio.
In 1907, Johnston married Samuel J. Brandenburg, and they moved to Dayton, Ohio, where he was a teacher at Dayton High School. In 1908, she gave birth to a son, William J. Brandenburg.
By 1912, Margaret Brandenburg became active in the suffrage movement. The October 12, 1912, Topeka Daily Capital reports, "The three generations of the Johnston family are busy in the suffrage work this week, Mrs. W.A. Johnston, her daughter Mrs. Margaret Brandenburg, and grandson of Oxford, Ohio, are touring the First District with Miss Laura Clay of Kentucky." Young William had become the mascot of the group and often helped take up collections. Later that month, Margaret Brandenburg attended a Kansas Baptist state convention, where the suffrage amendment was endorsed. She continued traveling through Kansas in support of suffrage during 1912.
In January 1916, suffragists of Montgomery, Preble, and Butler counties in Ohio held their District meeting in Dayton. Margaret Brandenburg presided at the meeting of the Third Congressional District of the State Association. In 1916, she was also serving as Secretary of the Ohio Equal Suffrage Association.
In May 1917, Margaret Brandenburg spoke at the Mississippi Valley Victory suffrage conference in Columbus, Ohio. Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt also spoke at this meeting. This was reported in both the newspapers of general circulation but also in The Remonstrance, an anti-suffrage newsletter.
In September 1918, Mr. Brandenburg was granted leave from his job at Miami University to go to Columbus to become a special representative of the Ohio branch of the Council of National Defense in charge of County organization. It appears from his registration card, that Margaret stayed home in Oxford. At this time, she was working as editor of the woman and home department of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
In 1919 the Western College for Women announced that Margaret J. Brandenburg, editor of the woman and home department of the Cincinnati Enquirer, was appointed assistant professor of English. During the 1920 census, both Brandenburgs listed occupations as College Teachers.
After the passage of the suffrage amendment, the Brandenburgs settled into a normal life. They move to Worcester, Mass., where once again Mrs. Brandenburg became an editor of the Telegram and Gazette. They traveled to England several times. During the 1940s, they lived in Washington D.C., where Mr. Brandenburg continued his teaching career.
The Brandenburgs retired to Florida, where Margaret died on March 21, 1961. In her obituaries, she was remembered as the daughter of a former Kansas Supreme Court Justice, editor of a newspaper, and a native of Kansas. No mention is made of her work as a suffragist or college professor despite both being memorable parts of Margaret Brandenburg's life.
U. S. Census Bureau, Census Records, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940.
"Johnston-Brandenburg" in Society, Topeka Daily Capital, August 6, 1907.
"Kansas Baptists Endorse Equal Suffrage Move," The Topeka Daily Capital, October 20, 1912, p. 8B.
"Suffragists of Third Ohio District Meet in Dayton," Hamilton Evening Journal, January 21, 1916, p. 9 (Part 2, p.1).
"Suffragists to Meet in Sioux Falls Next Year," Pittsburgh Press, May 15, 1917, p. 20.
"Suffragists at Meeting Tell How Victories Won," Leavenworth Times, May 20, 1917, p. 9.
"Oxford College Appointments," Indianapolis News, September 8, 1919, p. 6.
"Margaret J. Brandenburg," obituary, Kansas City Times, March 22, 1961, p. 4K.
"Margaret J. Brandenburg," obituary, Orlando Sentinel, March 22, 1961, p. 11B.
"Western College for Women," Ohio History Central, accessed April 4, 2018, www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Western_College_for_Women.