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Lucy Browne Johnston Papers

Lucy Browne JohnstonManuscript Collection No. 61



A spirited political and social activist, Lucy B. Johnston served the community of Kansas and the nation in her work in woman’s clubs, in initiating social reform legislation and as a predominant fighting force for the enfranchisement of women. The Lucy Johnston papers were donated by the W. A. Johnston estate in 1937 and her grandson, William J. Brandenburg, Jr. in 1968. Materials also included in Mr. Brandenburg’s donation were received from the estate of his mother, Catherine Brandenburg. The collection consists of personal papers, business and club communications, account and record books and various speeches and papers by Mrs. Johnston concerning a wide variety of topics. There are no restrictions in the use of these papers.


Lucy B. Johnston was born Lucy Browne on a farm outside of Camden, Ohio, in 1846 to Robert and Margaret Browne.

After finishing the grade schools in Camden, Lucy attended the Western Female Seminary in Oxford, Ohio, in 1866 from which she eventually received the degree doctor of laws. After graduation, Lucy returned to Camden where she taught in a grade school for four years.

Her brother, who lived on a farm fifteen miles outside of Minneapolis, Kansas, invited Lucy to spend the Fourth of July with him and his family. She did so and was persuaded to start a grade school there. The school fell into financial trouble and was saved through the efforts of a group of young men.

Among the group was a young, Canadian-born lawyer, William A. Johnston, whom she married in 1875 in Camden. They returned to Kansas where Mr. Johnston had just been elected to the Legislature and started a home in Minneapolis. They had two children, Margaret and John, and remained happily married.

It was in Minneapolis that Lucy Browne Johnston began her career of life-long involvement in community service and club work that was to remain her legacy. A staunch prohibitionist, she quickly had Minneapolis “dry” and in 1886 organized the Antlantean Club in Minneapolis. In 1877, Lucy was elected a member of the Board of Education there and served three terms, declining a fourth.

Her activities included membership in or involvement with the following organizations:

Board of Trustees of Pawnee Rock (member)
Good Government Club of Topeka (charter member)
Kansas Branch of Western College Alumni Association (president)
Kansas Social Science Federation (member, 1891)
Ottawa County Campaign Committee (chairman)
State Federation of Women’s Clubs (president, 1901—3)
Westside Forestery Club of Topeka
Woman’s Day Kansas Club

Board of Directors of the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs
(elected in 1906)
Daughters of the American Revolution (state regent)
Library Extension Committee of General Federation of Woman’s
Clubs (elected correspondent in 1902)
Louisiana Purchase Committee of General Federation of Woman’s
National Advisory Committee (in connection with Legislative
Committee of General Federation of Woman’s Clubs)
National Body of Councilors of the American Institute of Civics
Printing Committee of General Federation of Woman’s Clubs
(elected 1908)

Lucy Johnston did not limit her activities to areas that were socially “acceptable,” and her lobbying efforts brought the addition of manual training and domestic science classes in the public school system and the establishment of a State Industrial Farm for Women at Lansing, Kansas.

Two of her stronger convictions deserve special note: her work with traveling libraries and the suffrage movement. In 1899, due to her relentless lobbying efforts, a bill was passed in the Kansas Legislature for a Traveling Library Commission. The more difficult struggle involved enfranchisement for women. As leader in this movement, Mrs. Johnston served as president of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association and sat on the Legislative Committee of that organization. Johnston successfully led the 1912 campaign for enfranchisement throughout Kansas.

Following two years of illness, Lucy Browne Johnston passed away in her home in Topeka, Kansas, on February 17, 1937.

Scope and Content

The Lucy B. Johnston Papers consist of seven boxes containing materials from 1887—1937. The collection is grouped mainly into three different headings: general correspondence, traveling libraries, and woman suffrage.

In the General Correspondence files, 1887-—1937, Mrs. Johnston’s work within various organizations—the Kansas Social Science Federation, the State Federation of Woman’s Clubs, the Board of Forestry, the American Red Cross (including a letter from Clara Barton on September 30, 1900, concerning a “Soldiers Home” in Manila), Pawnee Rock, the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs, the D.A.R., the Kansas Woman’s Day Club, the American Institute of Civics and the Alumni Association of Western College—is documented. There is also a letter from the Council of Jewish Women on June 15, 1905, about the purity of the press.

Other community and legislative activities such as her concern for domestic science and manual training in the public schools (including the Oread Institute of Domestic Science, the Girls Industrial School at Beloit and the women’s reformatory at Lansing) are also presented in the General Correspondence. For 1911-1912, the collection contains various reports prepared by Mrs. Johnston on state institutions. These reports, submitted to Governor Walter Roscoe Stubbs, are usually concerned with living conditions in these hospitals.

Information included within the Traveling Libraries files, 1897—1912, traces the development of the State Traveling Library in 1899 and Mrs. Johnston’s legislative work and correspondence involving this development. Book lists, expenditures, procedures, donations, transactions and Mrs. Johnston’s work on the Library Extension Committee of the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs (1904-—1906) are presented in these files. A separate Account Book for the Traveling Libraries is also included as well as a paper written by Mrs. Johnston on traveling libraries (May 1904).

The last main division, Woman Suffrage, dates from August, 1912. Correspondence concerning campaigns, conventions and other activities of the suffrage clubs at the state and national level as well as with the Woman's Christian Temperance Union are included in the papers. Several letters from Susan B. Anthony (1902—1905) are contained within the collection. Also available is correspondence with the National Women’s Suffrage Association, the American Federation of Labor, the Socialist Party, letters concerning legislation presented in the Kansas Legislature and the suffrage movement in general in the United States and Great Britain. The 1911-—1912 correspondence includes a more detailed look at the campaign, convention and passage of the Suffrage Bill in Kansas in November, 1912. County organization, officers, members, letters from Jane Addams concerning her visit to the May 8th convention, election congratulations, and election returns can be found in these files.

As well as this, a letter from Mrs. Booker T. Washington (May 21, 1912) concerning African American women and enfranchisement is contained in this portion of the collection.

Under a separate file marked “Carbon Copies,” letters written to Anna Shaw, Jane Addams and Booker T. Washington are included concerning the suffrage campaign.

Information about the Men’s League for Women Suffrage (lists of members in Topeka and other Kansas towns, officers, advisors, and district members) is included in the 1912 suffrage material.

In addition, the Suffrage boxes include bulletins, addresses (“The Progress of American Women, by Lucy B. Johnston”), constitutions, and articles on the woman’s role in society. Names of district and county presidents in the 1912 campaign, a copy of the Kansas Child Labor laws and women’s laws, the Liberty Loan Committee members and amounts raised in the various districts, and biographical information about Lucy Johnston and her parents are included in the “Miscellaneous Papers.”

The remainder of the collection includes a separate Record of the Federation of Clubs in Topeka and Vicinity, 1897-1899, addresses on community involvement and improvement (including industrial training, the women’s reformatory, and “Women’s War and Liberty Loan Work”), social events and banquets (guests' lists), certificates received by Mrs. Johnston, and letter fragments.

Overall, the collection offers a detailed look at the varied and active life of Mrs. Lucy Browne Johnston and her service to the community through these organizations. The bulk of the correspondence is letters received by Mrs. Johnston from other club women and friends and only a few are from family members and her husband.

The role of women, the importance of the Chautauqua movement and reflections of the general attitude of the times can also be grasped. The various records, membership and officer lists and expenditures of the clubs remain intact.

Correspondents include Eugene Ware, Mrs. Eugene Ware, Governor Walter Roscoe Stubbs of Kansas, Mrs. Stubbs, Anna Shaw, Alice Stone Blackwell, Mary Rengrose (important in persuading Catholic communities to favor suffrage), Julia Perry, Governor John F. Shafroth of Colorado, and Helen Eacker.

For further information, see the photograph section (seven scrapbooks and miscellaneous photographs), the W. A. Johnston Collection in the manuscript holdings (congratulatory notes concerning the 1934 Golden Jubilee Banquet given in his honor are contained within the Lucy B. Johnston collection, too) and the library collection for published articles and addresses by Johnston and various publications commemorating her. Mrs. Johnston is also listed in the 1909 edition of Who’s Who Among Women.

July 1978

Patty Sullivan, Intern

Contents List

Box 1
General Correspondence 1887—1903

Box 2
General Correspondence 1904—1937
Correspondence Undated A—W

Box 3
Traveling Libraries
Correspondence 1897—1912
Account Book
Miscellaneous Papers
Woman Suffrage
Correspondence 1886—October, 1911

Box 4
Woman Suffrage
Correspondence November, 1911 – July, 1912

Box 5
Woman Suffrage
Correspondence Aug., 1912—1913
Carbon Copies, Feb. – Sept., 1912
Mens League for Woman Suffrage Correspondence 1912
Kansas Good Citizenship League (Woman Suffrage 1914, 1915)

Box 6
Woman Suffrage
Correspondence 1916-1930
Addresses and Articles
Headquarters Bulletins
Minutes and Meetings, Constitutions
Miscellaneous Papers
Liberty Loan (Committee Correspondence and Misc.)
Miscellaneous Papers
Relating to Johnston
Of Johnston
Record of Federation of Clubs in Topeka and Vicinity, 1897-1899

Box 7
Social Affairs
Certificates and Commissions
Fragments of Letters

Jan. 3, 1899 – Member D.A.R.
College Diploma – “Western Seminary for Women”
Apr. 3, 1901 – State Regent D.A.R.