Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Marguerite Martyn, 1879-1948
By Jamie Campbell, Graduate Student, Tulane University
Marguerite Martyn (or Martin) was born in 1879. Her father, an employee of Frisco Railroads, died when she was five, leaving her mother to raise Marguerite and her two brothers alone. Her mother learned telegraphy and took the children to live in Springfield, Missouri, where her mother's family had lived for many generations, to work for the Frisco Railroad Company there. Marguerite attended art school at Washington University in St. Louis where she developed artistic talents that she later put to great use in her career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Initially employed as an illustrator, Marguerite soon began to conduct interviews with the subjects of her drawings, and over time her illustrated stories and interviews became a popular feature of the newspaper. During her thirty-six-year career at the Post-Dispatch, Marguerite wrote on many different topics including sporting events, political conventions, fashion, and theater. However, suffrage for women was a recurring theme of her work.
Marguerite, in noting the inclusion of women on key national political committees in 1912, described the women's suffrage movement as “the most exciting campaign of our times.” She reported on the speaking engagements of prominent St. Louis suffragists such as Miss Charlotte Rumbold, and through her interviews Marguerite helped to promote the suffrage cause by bringing the ideas of the suffragists to a wide audience. Indeed, she provided a platform for suffrage leaders to refute the claims of those who opposed voting rights for women such as prominent theologian Reverend Doctor R.A. Holland. Furthermore, her illustrations provided a witty and thought-provoking commentary on the people and ideas of those who supported and opposed women's suffrage. Ever eager to use her talents in the service of suffrage, she competed in a competition to have her design be the official poster of the Equal Suffrage League as part of its campaign for an equal suffrage amendment to the Missouri constitution in the run-up to the 1914 elections.
In addition to her work on suffrage, Marguerite highlighted issues that affected women. In 1912, she published an expose on “lid clubs” in St. Louis in which she described how these clubs, disguised as debate clubs or athletic and social organizations, allowed the continuation of prostitution in the city under the guise of respectability. Her work led to a city investigation, a grand jury report, and the closing of many of the clubs she featured in her articles.
Marguerite met and married Clair Kenamore, the Sunday magazine editor and telegraph editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in 1913. However, she retained her maiden name as her professional name, publishing as Marguerite Martyn until she retired in 1939. She died in her home in Webster Groves, Missouri, in April 1948 at the age of 68.
Information about Marguerite Martyn's career as a journalist and illustrator can be found in Notable Women of St Louis, 1914 (St. Louis: Woodward, 1914). Her thoughts on women's suffrage can be gleaned from her stories and illustrations in the St Louis Post-Dispatch, and further details about her involvement with the suffrage movement can be found in newspapers including the St Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Star and Times.
Photograph of Miss Marguerite Martyn. Notable Women of St. Louis, 1914. St. Louis, Woodward, 1914, p. 136.
Illustration by Miss Marguerite Martyn depicting her thoughts in relation to the anti-suffrage arguments of Dr. R. A. Holland, St Louis Post-Dispatch (August 8, 1909), p1.
Image of Marguerite Martyn's 1912 submission competing to be the official poster of the Equal Suffrage League, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (November 24, 1912), p. 57.