Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Margaret B. Dobyne, 1870-1922

By Lauren Eberle, Austin Faires, Breanne Pedigo, and Emma Pikula, BA students, and Monica Burney, MA Student, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois

Press Representative, Secretary Illinois Equal Suffrage Association; Press Chairman, Ant-Traction Ordinance Committee, Political Equality League; Chairman of Seventh Ward Suffrage Alliance in Chicago; Member of the Woman's City Club.

Margaret Bell Dobyne was born on October 2, 1870, to James B. and Calista J. (Evans) Dobyne in Litchfield, IL. Named after her paternal grandmother, she had two sisters and a brother. Her father served in the Civil War in the 1st battalion of Pennsylvania Volunteers and was a Republican, so he might have influenced Margaret's determination to reform society.

Margaret was educated in Chicago public schools before going on to study at the Illinois Woman's College in Jacksonville, Illinois. During her time at the college, Dobyne was involved with the Phi Nu Society. Phi Nu was concerned with “conscientious” literature and self-betterment. Margaret completed her college education and supported herself through her writing and music publication during her full life of political activism. Throughout her life, Margaret served as Press Representative and Secretary of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association, Press Chairman of the Anti-Traction Ordinance Committee and the Political Equality League, and as the Chairman of the Seventh Ward Suffrage Alliance in Chicago. Additionally, she was a member of the Women's City Club and a contributor to the Music News publication in Chicago.

Dobyne was active in politics, locally as well as nationally, and agitated widely for suffrage. In 1913, Jane Addams and 45 other women (including Dobyne) petitioned Woodrow Wilson to halt the deportation of British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Dobyne was a supporter of Marion Drake, the Chicago progressive candidate for Alderman in 1914, and complained that the opponent, John Coughlin, had supporters including state senator Frank Bradley who rushed the polls in an effort to frighten off women voters. Drake did not win the election.

Dobyne was elected Secretary of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association in 1914.1 She held that role until 1916 when she left the association because she had come to believe that the organization was “a menace to the cause of Suffrage in Illinois.” Records indicate that a new president, Mrs. L Bracket Bishop, asked for Dobyne's name to be removed from the rolls, though she would return in 1917. Bishop may have seemed too radical for Dobyne, who was a more conservative member of the group. Bishop had made national headlines when she announced her intention to adopt fifteen children from different racial groups in late 1913.

Dobyne continued her writing and editorial work throughout her time with suffrage movements and was outspoken on issues we might deem modern, once advising daughters to confide in their mothers about domestic abuse in the wake of a young woman's murder at the hands of her boyfriend in 1916.

In 1920, the U.S. Census reported that Margaret lived in St. Louis with her father and her 22-year old cousin, Geo Dobyne, as well as her brother-in-law, John Roach. Several sources, including her death certificate, report that Margaret never married, so despite her efforts as a writer, she might have moved in with her father out of economic necessity.

Margaret Dobyne died on November 4, 1922, in St. Louis, Missouri, at the age of 52. The primary cause of death was chronic interstitial hepatitis, which today is known as cirrhosis of the liver.


Burnett, Emma. “The Phi Nu Society.” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 6, 1917: 10.

“Dobyne, Margaret B.” In Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, ed. by John William Leonard. New York, NY: American Commonwealth Company, 1914, 249.

“Margaret Drake, Candidate for Alderman, 1914,” Encyclopedia of Chicago, last modified 2004,

Marquis, Alber Nelson (ed.). The Book of St. Louisans: A Biographical Dictionary Of Leading Living Men Of The City Of St. Louis And Vicinity. Chicago: A.N. Marquis & Company, 1912.

“Music News.” Google Books,

Missouri Secretary of State - IT. Missouri Death Certificates, 1910 - 1966,

United States Census, 1900, 1910, 1920,

back to top