Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1875-1918

Biography of Mrs. Margaret M. Gillette, 1875- ?

By Kelly Frias, student, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California

Margaret Carolyn Morgan was born around 1875 in Rushville, Indiana. She went to college until her second year. During the spring of 1899 she taught elementary school at Chadron Academy, in Nebraska. During that same time, she met John Morris Gillette, the principal of the academy where she was teaching. Margaret C. Morgan and John M. Gillette married on September 4, 1901.

Within the same year, Mrs. Gillette and her husband moved to Jacksonville, Illinois, where her husband served as principal of the Jacksonville Female Academy. Mrs. Gillette moved frequently because her husband John Gillette was a very successful and ambitious sociologist. The couple settled in Grand Forks, North Dakota, after her husband landed a job in 1907 at the University of North Dakota. In 1909 Mrs. Gillette gave birth to a baby girl whom they named Margaret.

Mrs. Gillette's first recorded suffrage activity came within women's clubs. In North Dakota there was a Women's Federation Club which encompassed a variety of clubs that were accessible to women. Women would join clubs in order to enhance their knowledge and skills and to gain a sense of community. Club meetings usually took place within the host's home to discuss what needed to be done within the community. During 1911, Mrs. Gillette was part of the Women's Civic League at Grand Forks. She served as Chairman of the Social Service Committee. Mrs. Gillette's goal in this position was to improve the community by having the streets cleaned, gardening, and providing clean food.

In 1916, Mrs. Gillette was chosen to be one of the directors within this State Federation, and she was in charge of the press. In this position she contributed to suffrage activism. An example of Mrs. Gillette's work is shown in The Evening Times, as she would organize suffrage teas as a way to raise funds to send a representative to work on the suffrage bill. Mrs. Gillette was very passionate about being able to gain equality between men and women. In her speech "The New Woman's Movement," given before the Girls' Business Club in Grand Forks in 1916, she discussed the importance of the ballot for women. She focused on the idea of unity by working together alongside men, rather than focusing on the individual needs of women.

In 1918 Mrs. Gillette ran for a spot on the school board. She received the highest number of votes of all the candidates. This reflected the high esteem the community had for her and her husband and speaks to the important roles they played as educators in Grand Forks.

A surviving newspaper article notes that she was living when her husband passed away in Chadron, NE in September 1949. It is yet unknown when Mrs. Gillette passed away.

Sources: United States Federal Census- 1920-1940

"Gillettes Plan Fine Summer of Travel" The Weekly Time-Records, June 22, 1916, p. 1.

John Morris Gillette, John Morris Gillette, 80 Years a Plainsman -- An Autobiography. Grand Forks, ND: UND Alumni Association, 1989, pp. 85, 86, 90.

"North Dakota Federation of Women's Clubs." Manuscripts by Subject - Women's History #10202. State Historical Society of North Dakota, 1893-2014, p. 1.

"News from the Social Set -- Women's Club Activities." The Evening Times, February 6, 1913, p. 1.

"Women's Meeting at Larimore a Success." The Evening Times, May 29, 1911, p. 1.

"A Page of News for Women." The Grand Forks (ND) Daily Herald, January 29, 1916, p. 1.

"News from the Social Set -- Women's Club Activities." The Evening Times, January 24, 1913, p. 1.

"Federation Elects Today." Grand Forks (ND) Herald, October 12, 1916, p. 1.

"Of Interest to Women." Grand Forks (ND) Herald, November 12, 1916, p. 1.

"Mrs. Gillette Gives Interesting Address," Grand Forks (ND) Herald, Nov. 15, 1916, p. 6.

"School Election Over." Grand Forks (ND) Herald, April 16, 1918, p. 1.

"Mrs. Gillette is Elected." The Fargo (ND) Forum, April 19, 1918, p. 1.

"Window Dedicated at Chadron Church," Chadron (ND) Record, 13 August 1946, p. 4.

Chadron (ND) Record, 28 Sept. 1949, p. 4--story about husband's passing.

Death record for John M. Gillette, 25 Sept. 1949. Accessed online in Ancestry Library Edition.

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