Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Josephine "Josie" Mayer Brown, 1874-1955
By Rachel Bateman, Student, University of Oklahoma
Born Josephine Mayer in 1874 to parents Isaac and Rosa in Topeka, Kansas, Josie Brown served in numerous reform organizations during her life in eastern Oklahoma. Her causes included women's suffrage in the state and improved child labor laws and updated correctional facilities. Josie married Phil Brown in 1901 in St. Louis, Missouri. The couple had three children: Ruth, Doris, and Jerome. Less than a year after marrying, they moved to Eufaula, Oklahoma, where Phil and his brother, Louis, ran the Brown Brothers General Merchandise.
During her time in Eufaula, Brown served as Secretary and Vice-President at Large for the Indian Territory of the Oklahoma State Federation of Women's Clubs. She advocated heavily for the Franklin Child Labor Bill and other child labor laws passed in Oklahoma during the first decade of the twentieth century. She frequently corresponded from her husband's mercantile with local and state officials via letters and telegrams. Notably, much of the documented correspondence centered on the Child Labor Bill as Josie stated, "We are sure every right minded citizen favors the abolition of 'Child Labor'...protecting...the Welfare of our Boys & Girls." Brown was also president of the Eufaula Public Library Board and was extremely active in encouraging school children and adults to visit the local library.
In the late 1910s, Brown and her family moved to Muskogee where she became involved in the school board. She was the first woman in the area to run for a school board position. The school board election was the only election in which women could vote before full suffrage was granted to Oklahoma women in 1918. Brown served as chair of the women's committee on the Council of National Defense in 1918 after women won enfranchisement. She advocated for women to register to vote to support the young men fighting in World War I. Also, she served as state chair for the State League of Women Voters in 1921. Brown believed that "A woman is versatile, therefore more capable. She can attend the household, do her cooking, washing and ironing, vote, and meet her husband with a smile and kiss all in one day. That is wherein she is smarter than man."
Brown urged women to participate in clubs and reform organizations. She herself attended national conventions throughout the country. She spoke at the Oklahoma Woman's Christian Temperance Union convention in 1921 and called for a state-wide meeting of the Oklahoma State League of Women Voters that same year. Not much is known about Brown's life after 1922. She resided in Muskogee until her husband's death in 1951. Brown passed away at eighty years of age in 1955 in Dallas, Texas, where she was living with her daughter's family. She was laid to rest in Greenhill Cemetery in Muskogee, Oklahoma beside her husband. Brown always believed women had a responsibility to serve and help others as exemplified by her headstone: "Any good therefore that I can do -- let me do it now."
Sources: U.S. Federal Census 1880, Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri; U.S. Federal Census 1910, Eufaula Ward 1, McIntosh County, Oklahoma; U.S. Federal Census 1930, Muskogee, Muskogee County, Oklahoma; U.S. Federal Census 1940, Agency, Muskogee County, Oklahoma; Oklahoma State Federation of Women's Clubs programs and unnamed collection of communications about the child labor laws at Oklahoma Historical Society; Muskogee Times-Democrat (Muskogee, Oklahoma), 17 March 1919, 4 December 1920, 29 March 1918, 20 March 1919, 3 July 1920, 22 October 1920, 20 March 1916; Muskogee Phoenix (Muskogee, Oklahoma), 27 February 1955; Muskogee Phoenix (Muskogee, Oklahoma), 26 February 1955; Muskogee Phoenix (Muskogee, Oklahoma), 5 September 1951; FindaGrave.com, accessed October 2018; Woman's Who's Who of America 1914-1915 by John William Leonard, published by American Commonwealth Co. Detroit, Gale Research Co. in 1976; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965.