Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1880-1920

Biography of Margaret Hayden Rorke, 1883-1969

By Brenden Barco, Ph.D., Raleigh, N.C.

Marguerite/Margaret Nillie Hildegarde Rorke* née Hayden was born in New York, NY on June 19, 1883. Her parents were William Richardson Hayden and Katherine Elizabeth Farson. A Confederate veteran from Virginia, William Hayden became established as a manager of circuses, minstrel shows, and theater productions in the New York region. The Hayden family was considered wealthy by William's death in 1897 and Margaret attended elite schools such as Mount Vernon Seminary in Washington, DC and Pennington Institute in Hopewell, NJ.

From roughly 1903-1906 and against her late father's advice, Margaret had a career as an actress where she was described as "rather tall and 'of the Gibson girl type.'" She married fellow New Yorker William H. Rorke in 1907. Initially a medical student, William was by 1910 working in his family's trade of crockery, by 1915 a writer for the NY Press, and by 1920 a concrete supplier. Meanwhile for the early part of the marriage, Margaret no longer had a listed profession.

By 1913, Margaret joined the Woman's Suffrage Party (WSP). She spoke out in favor of suffrage on the part of Catholic women in particular, and wrote a letter to the Cardinal Archbishop of Baltimore James Gibbons seeking his thoughts on the issue. The next year, "[p]rompted by the desire to correct the prevalent impression that the Catholic Church is officially opposed to Woman Suffrage," she published Letters and Addresses on Woman Suffrage by Catholic Ecclesiastics, a compilation of pro-suffrage tracts.


Ahead of the 1915 NY State referendum on women's suffrage, Margaret was involved in a flurry of activity. By then chairman of the WSP Catholic Committee, she additionally served on the executive committee of the Brooklyn WSP, where she gave speeches and wrote op-eds and canvassed for the vote. In March of that year, she notably helped organize a 5,000-strong suffrage rally which featured the New York City mayor John Purroy Mitchel and US senator Moses Clapp. This event also featured the first occasion in which a Catholic priest spoke in favor of suffrage from a public platform.

Following the success of the suffrage movement, Margaret embarked on a new career in the textile industry, initially serving as publicity director for the US Textile Color Card Association (TCCA). During her long tenure with the TCCA (1919-1954), she rose to the position of managing director and became known variously as America's "color authority," "color dictator," and "queen of color." Her many accomplishments included coordinating with then-Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover to standardize the three colors of the American flag, and creating colors used in gowns worn by Eleanor Roosevelt and Mamie Eisenhower at the presidential inaugural balls of 1933 and 1953.


Margaret continued to advocate for important causes, at one point leading a drive for donations to the allied Chinese blood bank during World War II. She was also a founding member of the American Society of Association Executives. She died in Los Angeles, CA on March 2, 1969, where she was survived by three sons, including the actor Hayden Rorke.

*Rorke is referred to as Mrs. William H. Yorke [sic] in the History of Women's Suffrage's list of New York Catholic suffragists.


All Day Rally of 3D A. D. Suffragists. Standard Union (Brooklyn, NY), May 26, 1914, 14.

Antis Challenged by Mother of Seven. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jul 16, 1913, 22.

The Attitude of the Catholic Church Toward Woman Suffrage. Baltimore Sun, May 9, 1915, 8. ProQuest.

An Attitude Personal. New York Times, Jul 1, 1915, 19. ProQuest.

Brooklyn Grandmother Color Stylist. Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, TX), Aug 3, 1953, 3.

Catholic Church and Equal Suffrage. Newark Evening Star, Sep 14, 1914, 3. Rutgers University Libraries.

Catholic Suffragists Have Big Demonstration. Standard Union (Brooklyn, NY), Sep, 29, 1915, 9.

Choosing a Profession, Women as Color Specialists. New York Herald Tribune, Aug 30, 1926, 10. ProQuest.

Clergyman Favors Easier Divorces. Standard Union (Brooklyn, NY), Dec 2, 1913, 16.

Color Card Growth. New York Times, Feb, 17, 1921, 23. ProQuest.

The Color Revolution. RL Blaszczyk, MIT Press, 2012.

Deaths Elsewhere. Minneapolis Star, Mar 4, 1969, 26.

Empire State Campaign Committee Financial Report October 1, 1913 to November 1, 1915, 22. Gale.

The Fashion Forecasters: A Hidden History of Color and Trend Prediction. Eds. RL Blaszczyk, B Wubs, Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018.

Final Rites Scheduled for Margaret Rorke. Van Nuys News and Green Sheet, Mar 4, 1969, 3.

From Shore to Mountains. New York Times, Aug 5, 1906, SM11. ProQuest.

Funeral of William R. Hayden, New York Tribune, Jul 9, 1897, 2. ProQuest.

Here's a Woman Who Tells a Nation-Full of Feminity What Colors to Wear. Washington Post, May 3, 1934, 13. ProQuest.

History of Woman Suffrage, Vol 6. IH Harper, 1922, 488. National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Latest Woman Suffrage News. Brooklyn Citizen, Apr 9, 1915, 6. ProQuest.

Letters and Addresses on Woman Suffrage by Catholic Ecclesiatics. Comp. MH Rorke, Devin-Adair Co., 1914. Hathitrust.

Margaret Rorke, Color Authority. New York Times, Mar 3, 1969, 35. ProQuest.

Miss Marguerite Hayden, Daughter of Late W. R. Hayden, to Go on Stage. New York Tribune, Aug 11, 1903, 9. ProQuest.

Mitchel Promises Suffrage Vote. Brooklyn Citizen, Mar 12, 1915, 6.

Mother Giving Blood to China to Avenge Son. New York Herald Tribune, Jun 12, 1943, 5.

Mrs. Rorke, Creator of Colors. San Francisco Examiner, Mar 4, 1969, 47.

New York City Birth Certificates, 1883, Manhattan Borough, 370084.

New York City Birth Certificates, 1883, Manhattan Borough, 370084, FHL microfilm 1,322,182.

New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index, 1879, Manhattan Borough, 7074.

New York State Census, 1915. Block 1, Election District 5, Brooklyn Borough, New York, Kings, NY, 13.

New York State Census, 1925. Block 5, Election District 34, New York, Kings, NY, 26.

Officials Re-elected. New York Tribune, Feb 17, 1921, 17. ProQuest.

Services Set for Mother of Actor Rorke. Los Angeles Times, Mar 5, 1969, J14. ProQuest.

Suffrage Notes. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Apr 12, 1915, 24.

Suffragists to Open Campaign. Brooklyn Citizen, Mar 10, 1915, 7.

United States Census, 1900. Supervisor's District 5, Enumeration District 51, Pennington Seminary, Hopewell Township, Pennington Borough, Mercer, NJ, 8.

United States Census, 1900. Supervisor's District 2, Enumeration District 116, Ward 9, Brooklyn Borough, New York, Kings, NY, 2.

United States Census, 1910. Supervisor's District 2, Enumeration District 63, Ward 6, Brooklyn Borough, New York, Kings, NY, 13.

United States Census, 1920. Supervisor's District 3, Enumeration District 567, Brooklyn Borough, New York, Kings, NY, 1.

United States Census, 1930. Supervisor's District 28, Enumeration District 24-76, Ward 10, Brooklyn Borough, New York, Kings, NY, 5B.

United States Census, 1940. Block H, Supervisor's District 16, Enumeration District 31-1087, Manhattan Borough, New York, Kings, NY, 6A.

Urges Advertising. Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, PA), Mar 9, 1920, 9.

Will Not O'erstep Ideal, Says Mrs. Rorke. Tablet (Brooklyn, NY), Jul 31, 1915, 5.

William R. Hayden., New York Tribune, Jul 7, 1897, 4. ProQuest.

William R. Hayden Passes Away. Chicago Daily Tribune, Jul 6, 1897, 4. ProQuest.

Woman Prophesies New Styles. Eugene Guard (Eugene, OR), Jun 24, 1926, 13.

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