Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Margaret Hunt Brisbane, 1856-1925
By Heaven Smith, instructor of History, Louisiana State University, Alexandria, Alexandria, Louisiana
Poet and Charter Member of the Women's Suffrage Party of Louisiana
Margaret Hunt Brisbane was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1856. Her parents were Colonel Harper P. Hunt and Margaret Tompkins, both originally of Kentucky. In 1883, she married Dr. Howard Brisbane from New York. The couple had three children, Sherard Brisbane, Miles Brisbane, and Mrs. David Comers, Jr., and later moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. According to a 1925 New Orleans Item article, Brisbane also had an adopted son, Hunt Capers, although no other sources corroborate this. Brisbane's husband died in March 1922. Brisbane herself died just three years later on January 5, 1925 in New Orleans, Louisiana of typhoid fever.
Brisbane was a member of the Portia Club, the first women's suffrage organization in Louisiana founded by Caroline E. Merrick in New Orleans in 1892. Brisbane was also a member of the New Orleans Women's Club and the 76th Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In 1913, Brisbane was listed as a charter member of the newly created Woman's Suffrage Party of Louisiana. After the death of Brisbane's husband, she lived with Miss Florence Huberwald, a music teacher in New Orleans, at 1537 Sixth Street. Huberwald also served as a charter member of the Woman's Suffrage Party and founded the Equal Rights Party in New Orleans in 1916. Brisbane and Huberwald's friendship had been established much earlier as evidenced by Miss Huberwald's reading of “The Confederate Dead,” a poem written by Brisbane, for the celebration in New Orleans in 1901 of the 93rd anniversary of the birth of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America. Brisbane is also listed as one of the members of the Entertainment Committee for Jefferson Davis Monument Association.
Brisbane was an accomplished poet. In her youth, she wrote poetry with the pseudonym Johny Hunt. After experiencing life in Vicksburg during the Civil War, Brisbane contributed a piece of written work entitled “Silhouettes” to the book In and About Vicksburg. An illustrated guide book to the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi published in 1890. “Silhouettes” detailed her memories of the war during the Siege of Vicksburg. Her vivid recounting of the period unquestionably reflects her dedication to and love of the South. When she married in 1883, she sometimes wrote under the pseudonym Mrs. Johny Hunt Brisbane, using the surname of her husband. She was also a member of the Mississippi Press Association and frequently contributed her writings to various newspapers in Mississippi, including the Vicksburg Herald, before making her home in New Orleans.
In New Orleans, she contributed poems and short stories to newspapers and periodicals, including the Times-Democrat. Brisbane also contributed “A Poem of Welcome” to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, a labor organization that began in the late nineteenth century. The Brotherhood gave Brisbane credit for her work, stating that “we tender the talented lady our best evidences of appreciation and assurances of esteem for the kindly remembrance and the fitting expression of sentiment so well set forth in the production so appropriately offered to the Brotherhood.” Though she was apparently unable to be in attendance, Brisbane also contributed a poem to The Fourth Biennial Convention of the Brotherhood of the Railroad Trainmen titled, “Welcome to the Railroad Trainmen,” which was read by Mrs. Dora Miller and published in The Railroad Trainman in 1899. This poem boldly called attention to the importance of valuing the dangerous work of the railroad trainmen, who often sacrificed their lives in their line of work. The Mississippi Poets, published in 1922 by Ernestine Clayton Deavours, contains more of her poems including “Menelaus to Helen,” “The Dead Leaf,” “The Snow,” and “A Woman.” Some of Brisbane's poems were also published in national magazines including, Scribner's Magazine, the Cosmopolitan, and Harper's Bazar. One of her poems, ”L'Envoi” is published in a collected work of poems, Man and His Mate: A Little Book for His Heart and Hers, compiled by Nina Isabel Jennings, which is also included in the Cosmopolitan along with her poem ”With You.” Brisbane also customarily contributed poems to women's organization in New Orleans for celebrations, ceremonies, anniversaries, and dedications. Aside from the written works produced for different organizations for a specific purpose, many of Brisbane's poems are romantic in nature and capture her eloquence and ability to encompass the innermost feeling of one's soul. Brisbane was a success in her own right in a time in American history when women were largely ignored in most aspects of social, economic, and political life. She left her mark on the world through her participation in southern society groups and women's organizations, as well as through her written work that endures in publications available to this day.
A photograph of Mrs. Margaret Hunt Brisbane can be found in American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies with Over 1,400 Portraits: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women During the Nineteenth Century, Vol. 1, edited by Francis Elizabeth Williard and Mary Ashton Livermore.
Anthony, Susan B. and Ida Husted Harper. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. IV (1883-1900). Rochester, N.Y., 1902. [LINK]
Biloxi Daily Herald. ”Native Mississippian Mrs. Margaret Brisbane, Noted Poet Dies.” Jan. 6, 1925. From Newspaperarchive.com. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://newspaperarchive.com/biloxi-daily-herald-jan-06-1925-p-7/
Brisbane, Margaret Hunt. “With You.” Cosmopolitan, November 1905.
Brisbane, Margaret Hunt. “L'Envoi.” Cosmopolitan, November 1905.
Brock, Robert Alonzo, ed. “Jefferson Davis Monument Association Holds the First Celebration of the Day of Memory.” Southern Historical Society Pages, XXIX. Richmond: Southern Historical Society, 1901. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924092916711;view=1up;seq=26
Cease, D.L., ed. “A Poem of Welcome.” The Railroad Trainmen's Journal. Official Organ of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, XVI, no. 6, (1899): 549.
Cease, D.L., ed. “Welcome to the Railroad Trainmen.” The Railroad Trainmen's Journal. Official Organ of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, XVI, no. 6, (1899): 560-561.
Death Certificate for Dr. Howard Brisbane, 28 March 1922. Vital Record, Vol. 184, Page 249. Orleans Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana. Louisiana State Archives. Microfilm.
Death Certificate for Margaret Hunt Brisbane, 5 January 1925. Vital Record, Vol. 189, Page 1673. Orleans Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana. Louisiana State Archives. Microfilm.
Deavours, Ernestine Clayton. The Mississippi Poets. Memphis: E.H. Clarke and Brother, 1922.
Hills, William Henry and Robert Luce. The Writer. A Monthly Magazine for Literary Workers. Volume XVII. Boston: The Writer Publishing Company, 1905.
Jennings, Nina Isabel, arr. Man and His Mate: A Little Book for His Heart and Hers. Paris, TX: The Lone Star Publishers, 1908. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433082521950;view=1up;seq=70
Lloyd, James. B., ed. Lives of Mississippi Authors, 1817-1967. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1981. Accessed May 10, 2019.
New Orleans Item. “Mrs. Brisbane, Southern Poet, Dies in New Orleans.” Jan. 5, 1925. From Louisiana Digital Library. Accessed May 10, 2019. http://louisianadigitallibrary.org/islandora/object/state-lwp%3A3741
Richardson, Lee, Thomas David Godman, and United States Service Publishing Company. In and about Vicksburg. An illustrated guide book to the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Vicksburg: The Gibraltar Publishing Company, 1890. Accessed May 10, 2019. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t17m0z77j;view=1up;seq=7
The Historic New Orleans Collection. “Caroline E. Merrick.” Accessed May 10, 2019. https://www.hnoc.org/virtual/voices-progress/caroline-e-merrick
Willard, Frances Elizabeth and Mary Ashton Livermore, ed. American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies with Over 1,400 Portraits: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women During the Nineteenth Century, Vol. 1. New York: Mast, Crowell, & Kirkpatrick, 1897. [LINK]