Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Magdalen Begert Munson, 1867- ?

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University

Magdalen Begert was born in Brockport, New York, daughter of Jacob and Elizabeth Begert, Swiss immigrant parents, in 1867. The family moved out west, and by 1900 were living in Medicine Lodge, Kansas. Her father was a carpet weaver and also took up farming. Magdalen came out west as well, and in 1889 in Greeley, Colorado she married Dunham Munson, who had been born in Brockport, but grew up principally in Ontario. The couple had a son, Herbert, born in Illinois in 1896. The young family lived in St. Louis for a period where Dunham studied at the Marion-Sims College of Medicine. He moved to Kansas in 1898 and set up his practice and lived in Sheridan, while his wife and son remained in St. Louis, boarding in a St. Louis household. "Mattie," as she was recorded, worked as a bookkeeper at a stove company and cared for her three-year-old son. The family was reunited in Kansas, recorded there in the 1910-1930 censuses.

The censuses in Pittsburg, KS noted Dunham as a physician and in 1920 and 1930 Magdalen was recorded as a lawyer. They owned their house, which in 1930 was valued at $6,000, suggesting a family with significant resources. Herbert lived with his parents in 1910 and 1920 and after graduating high school attended the School of Journalism at Missouri State University. Dunham died in Pittsburg in March 1940, but no death record has been found for Magdalen.

In May 1911 Magdalen was appointed as a district president of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association and in that capacity geared up for a statewide suffrage referendum scheduled for 1912. Kansas voters approved woman suffrage in that referendum, with Kansas becoming the seventh state to enact woman suffrage. In 1913, at a statewide convention, the association changed its name to the Kansas Good Citizenship League and Magdalen was elected treasurer.

During the 1912 campaign, Magdalen Munson was in charge of the 3rd District and was quoted in an Associated Press dispatch saying that suffragists had to "quit pink teas and get down to work, if they expected to win." She reported back to Lucy Johnston, the Association president, her experience campaigning among miners:

"You must visit the miners['] union wherever they meet at the various camps. I have been to a number and one cannot go alone, as it is hardly safe to go about the camps alone at night. . . . It is easy to gain admission to any of the unions. I went to the carmen's union last evening. Received the most courteous treatment and hearty applause from all of them. More voters can be reached in this way than by any number of public meetings. Even the secret orders let us in. Don't ask permission in advance, as they would debate it and refuse. Just go and knock at the door as you would visit a neighbor and they will let you in."

In addition to her support of women's suffrage, Magdalen was active in the State Federation of Women's Clubs. A Topeka newspaper in April 1920 described her as a "well known Kansas club woman." The paper noted that she was campaigning in Michigan for General Leonard Wood, a candidate for the Republican nomination for President. In 1921 she was listed among speakers available under the auspices of the state child hygiene department. Her topic was "Legislative Protection of Children." In 1922 the governor appointed her to the Children's Code Commission. She was also active in the Kansas Women Lawyers' Association in this period.


Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds. History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922) [LINK].

Federal Manuscript Censuses, 1900, St. Louis and Kansas, and 1910-1930, Pittsburg, KS. Accessible online line via Ancestry Library edition.

Find-a-Grave death entry for Dr. Dunham Ockerman Munson, 31 March 1940. Accessible online via Ancestry Library Edition.

Martha B. Caldwell, "The Woman Suffrage Campaign of 1912, Kansas Historical Quarterly, 12:3 (August 1943), 300-326. See notes 17, 19, and 64 for letters from Magdalen Munson about her campaigning.

"No More Pink Teas," Arizona Republican, 9 May 1912, p. 1.

Untitled, Topeka Daily Capital, 4 April 1920, p. 3.

"New Bureau Will Include Many Prominent Welfare Workers," Topeka Daily Capital, 10 April 1921, p. 21.

William E. Connelley, A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans (Chicago: Lewis, 1918), excerpt reprinted online at

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