Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Laura S. Wilson McGonigal Johnson, 1862-1938
By Carrie Wildenstein, undergraduate student, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
President of the New Mexico Federation of Women's Clubs
Laura S. Wilson was born in Pennsylvania, but she grew up in Kansas. Wilson taught at Oberlin High School and the National G.A.R. Memorial College in Oberlin, Kansas. She also fundraised for the school with organizations like the Woman's Relief Corps of Hoxie, Kansas. In trips to Hoxie, she met James Bronson McGonigal, who was a prominent businessman and politician in the state. They married on December 17,1892, in Hoxie. The wedding was a surprise to many, described by a local paper as a “guarded secret.” By December 1896, a Hoxie newspaper reported that the two had divorced, and Laura McGonigal had remarried Strong P. Johnson of Roswell, New Mexico, on November 28, 1896.
Laura Johnson participated in local women's clubs, and she attended the founding state convention at Las Cruces in 1911. The national president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, Eva Perry Moore, attended the convention. Laura Johnson was elected president of the New Mexico state federation, and the 1912 convention was planned for Roswell. According to the History of Woman Suffrage, the New Mexico Federation of Women's Clubs “did the work that any suffrage organization would do” by using the organization's platform to endorse suffrage and support legislation for women and children. Laura Johnson continued this work even after she stepped down as president. In 1916, Johnson contacted Frank W. Clancy, the attorney general of New Mexico, requesting that women be eligible to run for political offices. Clancy ruled that women were not eligible to run for any office except those of county school superintendent or school director as stated in the state constitution. While this was a defeat for Johnson and many women of New Mexico, Johnson had brought up the question and made people aware of the fight for women's legislative equality by making such a request.
On February 14, 1919, Strong P. Johnson died, leaving Laura Johnson a widow. Johnson never remarried and supported herself as a hotel manager in Hot Springs, New Mexico (now Truth or Consequences). Laura Wilson McGonigal Johnson died on September 8, 1938, and is buried in Hot Springs Cemetery, in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
Advertisement. National G.A.R. Memorial College. Oberlin Herald (Oberlin, Kan.). November 5, 1891, p.8. Newspapers.com.
Find a Grave. James B. McGonigal. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/34012584/james-b_-mcgonigal.
Find a Grave. Laura S. Johnson. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/113617815/laura-s-johnson.
Find a Grave. Strong P. Johnson. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/122895271/strong-p-johnson.
Leonard, John W. “Johnson, Laura Wilson.” In Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, volume E-K, p.435. New York: American Commonwealth Company, 1914. [LINK]
Locals and General. Hoxie Sentinel(Kenneth, Kan.). December 24, 1896, p.4. Newspapers.com.
“Married: McGonigal-Wilson.” Colby Tribune (Colby, N. Mex.). December 29, 1892, p.1. Newspapers.com.
“Mrs. Johnson Dies.” Santa Fe New Mexican. September 7, 1938, p.7. Newspapers.com.
“New Mexico Pioneer Dies at Hot Springs.” Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N. Mex.). September 7, 1938, p.7. Newspapers.com.
"Of Interest to Women," Estancia News Herald(Estancia, N. Mex.). September 28, 1916, p.2. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn94057017/1916-09-28/ed-1/seq-2/.
“Women's Club of New Mexico Federate.” Las Vegas Optic(East Las Vegas, N. Mex.). City Edition, March 17, 1911, p.6. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92070417/1911-03-17/ed-1/seq-6/.
“W.R.C. Entertainment.” Hoxie Palladium (Hoxie, Kan.). July 10, 1891, p.3. Newspapers.com.
United States Census, 1900, 1910, s.v. “Laura S. Johnson, Roswell, NM.”
United States Census, 1920, 1930, s.v. “Laura S. Johnson, Hot Springs, NM.”