Katharine Kennedy Brown Papers (MS-146)
Scope and Contents
The papers of Katharine Kennedy Brown provide invaluable information for research relating to the role of women in American politics, especially the Republican Party, from 1920 to 1970. The collection also provides a lively and interesting view of the activities and diversions of Dayton Society from the late 19th century to the mid-twentieth century from the perspective of a politically active and prominent Dayton family.
Subgroup I: Contains family and personal papers and is divided into six series as follows:
Series I, Family Correspondence, consists of letters exchanged by Katharine Kennedy Brown, her husband, parents, grandmother, brother, and other family members from 1887 to 1973. Family members were prolific in a time when weekly letters from loved ones were not uncommon and their letters, which are dated for the most part, are full of interesting information. Of particular interest is the extensive correspondence of Kleon Brown from 1915 to1921, which was written to Katharine during their courtship while he traveled around the country as part of his sales position. Also of interest are the letters to Katharine from her brother, Duke, which detail his education at Yale, his military experiences during both world wars, and the routine business of family affairs and finances. The older letters of Katharine’s parents and grandmother provide much insight into the concerns, social customs, and daily life in an upper-class family as it moved from the 19th century to the 20th. Limitations of this series include the family’s propensity for nicknames, which renders some correspondence difficult to identify; the absence of any letters from Katharine to Kleon or, for that matter, of very many letters from Katharine to anybody; and the lack of any correspondence from the time of Katharine’s marriage until after Kleon’s death (1921 to approximately 1926), which is unfortunate in that this is the time frame in which Katharine launched her political career.
The General Correspondence in Series II contains interesting and revealing letters exchanged between Katharine, her family and a multitude of friends. Span dates for the series are 1877-1971. Katharine maintained an extensive correspondence with life-time friends, including prominent Daytonians, political cronies, and a host of her admirers from her youth. Unfortunately, several of the correspondents cannot be identified because the letters do not contain their full names. The correspondence includes White House invitations, love letters, and political discussions, as well as routine notes to her secretaries and friends. The letters are rich with the news of the day, especially the correspondence conducted between the younger Katharine and her friends, members of the so-called “lost generation”. It is full of the social events of the time, detailing courtship and romance, the beginning of American cinema and popular theater, and the fears young people faced in a time of political uncertainty, social change, and world war. One group of letters which is quite entertaining is the letters to Duke Kennedy from Dot Whitney, his girlfriend who went to New York City to pursue a career in show business in 1912. One again, this series is limited by the scarcity of Katharine’s own letters.
The family diaries of Series III provide an interesting view of daily life for the Kennedy and Brown families. The dairies are dated 1882-1885, 1905-1911, 1917 and 1919. Of particular interest are the detailed thoughts of Grafton C. Kennedy, written when he was a young attorney in Dayton from 1882-1885. His diaries recount his day-to-day social and political events and business experiences, including his friendship with prominent Dayton figures, as well as the beginnings of his long and difficult courtship of Louise Achey, following the scandal surrounding the dissolution of her first marriage. His frank and informative records provide an overview of the trials and tribulations of upper-class Dayton in the 1880s. Katharine’s diaries, unfortunately, are few and reveal more about her daily schedule than her thoughts. Kleon’s perpetual diary is also more factual than feeling.
Series IV contains extensive genealogical data collected by family members. While all of the family was interested in genealogy, Mrs. Louise Kennedy and Rev. William Kennedy Brown were genealogical researchers who delved in great detail into their ancestral origins. Of particular interest is the family research of Louise Kennedy (folders 6-11) which was performed as a part of her membership in the DAR and out of genuine interest, including her inclusion of the reconstructed Revolutionary War Commission of her ancestor, Albert Sherwood, in her Sherwood family file. Also of interest is the research performed by professional genealogist Gilbert Cope for Rev. Brown, including the creation of extensive ancestral charts of the Brown family. These files contain the obituaries of Louise Kennedy, Frances Sherwood Achey and Eugene G. Kennedy. Unfortunately, these files are not in very good physical condition.
Series V contains the academic and religious records of Katharine, Grafton C., Duke and Eugene Kennedy and Kleon Brown. These files include report cards and commencement booklets, as well as Katharine’s literary themes and some religious records. Unfortunately, Katharine’s academic record is fragmentary. There are little records of her schooling in Dayton, which may be attributable to her initial education at home, and only correspondence remaining of her Dana Hall education are the letters exchanged between her parents and the headmistress and a few term papers. The academic records of her brother Duke are informative in that they show the Ivy League collegiate curriculum of the early twentieth century. Span dates for the academic records are 1874-1917. The religious records are dated 1908 and 1925.
Series VI contains miscellaneous items, including the invitation list for and correspondence concerning Katharine and Kleon Brown’s wedding. The list and the RSVPs are a “Who’s Who” of upper-crust Dayton of 1921. Also of interest is an undated household inventory for Duncarrick and a copy of the scrapbook of news clippings and program books from approximately 1916 to 1925 of the Dayton Comedy Club, the theatrical group of which Katharine was a member. This series also contains Katharine’s handwritten will dated 1961 and an interesting 1958 newspaper article about Katharine’s memories of her childhood on West Third Street.
Subgroup II, Political papers, contains records and papers reflecting Mrs. Brown’s long political career as a powerful and important figure in the Republican Party, both locally and nationally. It falls into 15 series.
Series I, Correspondence, contains correspondence generated by Mrs. Brown’s position as National Committeewoman from Ohio and her instrumental role in National and State Republican women’s organizations. Files are arranged alphabetically by last name of the correspondent, then chronologically within each file. In addition to correspondence, many files contain clippings, information, and/or campaign literature pertaining to the individual in the file. This series contains a wealth of information about Republican Party strategy, conventions, elections, and issues. There is correspondence from virtually every major state and national political figure in the Republican Party from the late 1920s through the 1960s. Many of Mrs. Brown’s correspondents were county and ward chairmen as well as local leaders of GOP organizations, and these letters reflect the day to day routine of political work on the local level. Of interest are letters exchanged between Mrs. Brown and Phyllis Schlafly in the mid-1960s in which they discuss their attempts to capture the presidency of the National Federation of Republican Women, and their hopes for a more conservative party. Span dates for the correspondence are 1920-1971.
Series II, Speeches, contain full-text copies of numerous speeches which Brown delivered throughout her career. The majorities of these talks were delivered before groups of GOP party workers and discuss party organization, strategy, GOP principles, and candidates. The speeches are a good indication of the evolution of Republican political thought and its response to national crisis such as the depression, World War II, and the perceived communist threat of the 1950s and 1960s. Span dates are 1920-1972.
Series III, Ohio Congressional District Files, contains correspondence, news clippings, broadsides and flyers, campaign literature, meeting notices, and programs from various Republican county organizations in Ohio. Of special interest is correspondence from local politicians and party leaders which discuss local political races, organizing activities, and voting. Also included are letters from rank and file Republicans in which they reveal their views on the political issues of the day. The series is arranged by Congressional district, then alphabetically by county. Span dates are 1928-1971.
Series IV, State Files, is a collection of miscellaneous correspondence, political notices, and clippings from Republicans outside of Ohio. This series reflects Mrs. Brown’s wide network of political friends and acquaintances throughout the country and the extent of her influence with GOP politicians and party leaders in other states. Of particular interest are her efforts in behalf of Senator Robert Taft’s bid for the GOP Presidential nomination in 1944, 1948, and 1952. Span dates are 1933-1971.
Series V contains files pertaining to Brown’s involvement with national GOP women’s organizations. Early files (1927-1936) are from the Women’s National Republican Club of New York City and include correspondence, programs, a constitution, and miscellaneous announcements. There are also founding documents and correspondence relating to the formation of the National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW) in the late 1930s. Of particular interest is a long, often heated correspondence between Mrs. Brown and Marion E. Martin, who was Assistant Chair of the Republican Party and who also spearheaded the formation of NFRW. Brown, as leader of Ohio’s Republican women, the largest GOP women’s organization in the country, opposed the entrance of Ohio into a national federation, and was able, for a time, to keep her Ohio organization separate. Brown and Martin, however, eventually made their peace, and the Ohio organization came under the NFRW umbrella in the early 1940s. Other files in this series include correspondence, programs from various conventions and conferences, copies of NFRM newsletters, and National Advisory Board minutes. Span dates are 1927-1972.
Series VI contains records connected with Brown’s tenure as President of the Ohio Federation of Republican Women (OFRW). Included are founding documents, files on semi-annual meetings, scattered minutes, correspondence, and county files. Span dates are 1929-1972.
The Study Programs in Series VII were prepared by Mrs. Brown and distributed to chapters of the OFRW for study and discussion by its members. They contain information about current political issues, local and national government, history of the Republican Party, and OFRW policies. There are study programs for the years 1940-1972.
Series VIII contains files on several of the Republican National Conventions that Brown attended as a delegate. Each file contains a mix of correspondence, news clippings, lists of delegates, and programs. Span dates are 1936-1964.
Series IX contains records and papers pertaining to the establishment of a memorial for Senator Robert A. Taft in Washington, D.C. Brown served as a trustee on the commission that established the memorial. Included are Trustees minutes, correspondence, numerous clippings about Taft and the memorial, and a record of fund raising. Of special interest in this series is the transcript of an oral history interview of Mrs. Brown about Senator Taft conducted by the Oral History Resource Office of Columbia University in 1968. Span dates for this series are 1953-1968. Additional material on the dedication ceremony for the Taft Memorial is located in Scrapbook #10 in Series 15.
Series X and XI contain miscellaneous files which reflect Brown’s activities with the National and State Republican Committees. There is material on Ohio State Republican conventions, correspondence, and files on GOP National Committee meetings. Span dates are 1930-1971.
Series XII contains materials from two non-political women’s organizations that Brown was active in, the Junior League and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Span dates are 1921-1971.
Series XIV, Photographs, contains formal portraits and photographs of the Brown and Kennedy families dating from approximately 1870-1945, and political photographs dating to the late 1960s. Of interest are the wedding portraits of Katharine and Kleon Brown, several portraits of the exterior and interior of Duncarrick, and many formal portraits of Katharine. This series also contains a cyanotype of the first Kennedy home on W. Third Street (currently the Dayton Bicycle Club), an unidentified portrait of a man by Jane Reece (c. 1911), a portrait of the Comedy Club (c. 1922), and a photograph of Newcom’s Tavern from the turn of the century. There are also numerous images of Mrs. Brown engaged in political activities. She is pictures with various party figures such as Robert Taft, John Bricker, Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, and Herbert Hoover. While many of the photographs and portraits are identified and dated, the majority are not.
The scrapbooks in Series XV contain numerous newspaper clippings saved by Mrs. Brown which follow her political career and also highlight the activities of local and national Republican leaders and organizations. Also included are photographs, programs, invitations, correspondence, an early newsletter of the Hoover Republican Club (Dayton), and memorabilia. Scrapbook #15 is a collection of clippings about the history of the Miami Valley. Brown’s scrapbooks run from 1927 to 1973 and are an accessible, roughly chronological record of her life and career.
Series XVI Political Campaign Memorabilia dates from 1888-1968 and includes campaign posters, signs, stamps, stickers, ribbons, buttons, pins, name badges, and artifacts from campaigns of Republican candidates, mainly running for President and Vice President. The bulk of the materials are from Wendell Willkie’s campaign in 1940, Dwight Eisenhower’s campaigns in 1952 and 1956, Richard Nixon’s campaign in 1960, and Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964. Buttons for Calvin Coolidge in 1924, Herbert Hoover in 1928, and Thomas E. Dewey in 1944 and 1948 are also in the collection.
- Creation: 1859-2006
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1900-1976
- Brown, Katharine Kennedy (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection.
Conditions Governing Use
There is no publication or quotation of any materials in these papers without permission of the family. Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.
Biographical / Historical
Katharine Louise Kennedy Brown was a prominent and powerful figure in Ohio politics and Dayton society for over fifty years. She was born on July 16, 1891 in Dayton, Ohio, the eldest child of Grafton Claggett Kennedy (1859-1909) and Louise Achey (1860-1945). Grafton Kennedy was an attorney in the Dayton law firm of Kennedy, Munger and Kennedy (the other partners were his half-brother, Eugene, and Warren and Harry Munger). Grafton was U.S. Commissioner at Dayton for the Southern District of Ohio from 1883-94. He was a staunch Republican, who in 1892 organized the first Montgomery County Board of Elections. He was a member of the Montgomery County Republican Executive Committee in 1886, and served on the Dayton Board of Education for many years. Katharine’s mother, Louise Kennedy, was the only child of John Jacob Achey (1833-1866) and Frances “Fanny” Sherwood Achey (1839-1934). She was a charter member of the Jonathan Dayton Chapter of the DAR and a genealogical researcher. The family home was a mansion called Duncarrick (“Home of the Kennedy’s”) located at Keowee and Webster streets.
The Kennedy’s figured prominently in Dayton Society from the late 19th century, well into the 20th century. They numbered the Winters, Pattersons, Wrights, and Barneys among their friends. As a prominent and wealthy family, the Kennedys traveled extensively in Europe and spent their summers in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Katharine initially was educated by German and French governesses at home, then attended Dayton Public Schools and Dana Hall at Wellesley.
Katharine was very close to her brother, Grafton Sherwood “Duke” Kennedy, who was born on June 27, 1893. He attended Yale University and MIT, then became an Army officer, serving from 1917-1945. He married Katherine Lucille Glidden (b. 1891) of Brooklyn, New York on December 1, 1918. They had three children, Katharine (Kay) Kennedy Barney (b. 1919), Frances Lucille (Lou) Kennedy Sharp (later Albert) (b. 1922), and Grafton Sherwood Jr. (Terry), (b. 1926). After Duke’s retirement the family lived on a farm in Harford County, Maryland, and a summer home in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
Katharine married Kleon Thaw Brown on April 20, 1921. Kleon was born on January 3, 1886, the son of Rev. William Kennedy Brown (1834-1915) and Martha Haight McClellan (1838-1916), a prominent figure in the late 19th century American temperance movement. (MS-147 contains the papers of Martha McClellan and Rev. William Kennedy Brown.)
Kleon was manager of ST and GA Gebhart Company of Cleveland from 1914-1919. In 1920 he became an executive in the sales department of NCR Corporation. Tragically, Katharine’s marital happiness was short-lived; the couple’s only child Charme died in infancy on September 14, 1924, then was followed by Kleon, who died suddenly on May 20, 1925. Katharine never remarried.
Katharine’s political career began in 1920, immediately after women won political suffrage, when women were initially denied a place on the Montgomery County Republican Executive Committee. She decided that she was tired of being “given things” by men and determined to “take what was legally ours.”
Katharine eventually became a member of the committee, but did not stop there. She helped build Montgomery County’s Women’s Ward and Precinct Organization in 1920 and formed the first Women’s Republican Club in the county as an added support to the county organization. She became a member of the Republican State Committee of Ohio in 1928, representing the 3rd Congressional District, a position to which she was elected every two years for forty years. Katharine was the Republican National Committee woman for Ohio from 1932-68. She eventually became a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of Republican Women’s Clubs and served as a member of the Executive Committee. In 1942, she was elected a member of the Executive Committee of the Republican National Committee and served in that capacity until 1952. She also became a member of the Executive Committees of the State and County Republican Committees. She was a founder of the Ohio Federation of Republican Women’s Organizations and was its president from 1940-1964. She was Vice-Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1944-52. Katharine also was a member of the Advisory Council of the Women’s National Republican Club of New York and a member of the League of Republican Women and the Capitol Hill Republican Club in Washington, D.C.
Katharine served as a Delegate-at-Large to eight Republican National Conventions (1932, 1944, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, and 1968) and as an Alternate-at-Large from Ohio in 1928. She was a member of the Arrangements Committee for the Republican National Conventions of 1940 and 1944.
Katharine was literally advisor and confidante to numerous presidents, congressmen, and governors, including John Bricker, Robert Taft, James Rhodes, and Richard Nixon. In 1944 Senator John W. Bricker chose her as the only woman member of his National Strategy Committee in his bid for the presidency; in 1948 and 1952, Senator Robert A. Taft named her the only woman member of his National Strategy Committee in his bid for the presidential nomination.
Katharine wrote or was co-author of several pamphlets on politics, including: “What You Want to Know About the Great Game of Politics,” based on Frank R. Kent’s book, “Ward, Township Organization and Polling”; “The Rudiments of Political Organization”; and an evaluation of the 1964 Presidential Campaign, “The Need to Know”.
She organized the Junior League of Dayton and from 1926 to 1929 she was the Vice-President and Regional Director of the Association of Junior Leagues of America. She was a director of the Dayton Art Institute from 1930-47, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Wilberforce University.
Since Katharine’s mother and grandmother organized the Jonathan Dayton Chapter of the DAR, Katharine was a member at an early age, and served as a page and delegate to their National Congresses. Katharine also was a member of the Colonial Dames of America and Chairwoman of the Dayton Circle.
Katharine’s favorite hobby was the theater: she was one of the founders of the Comedy Club of Dayton, which presented one-act plays from 1916-1925.
Katharine died on November 10, 1986 at Kettering Convalescent Center. Katharine, her parents, maternal grandparents, and great-grandparents are buried as Woodland Cemetery in Dayton. The family’s first residence, 131 West Third Street, is the current home of the Dayton Bicycle Club. Her beloved Duncarrick still stands at 1000 Keowee Street.
52 linear feet
Language of Materials
Brown was an important figure in the Republican Party from 1920 until 1968. The bulk of materials in this collection are connected with her activities as the National Republican Party Committee Woman from Ohio. Political materials include correspondence, publications, campaign records, convention and election memorabilia, photographs, and records reflecting her activities with state and national GOP women's organizations. Correspondents include major Republican leaders and presidents Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Eisenhower, and Nixon. Her papers also include personal and family materials consisting of diaries, correspondence, and financial records dating from the 1830s.
The collection is arranged into two major subgroups and twenty-two series as follows:
- Subgroup I:
- Family and Personal Papers
- Series 1:
- Family correspondence
- Series 2:
- General correspondence
- Series 3:
- Series 4:
- Genealogical & biographical data
- Series 5:
- Academic & religious records, papers, and books
- Series 6:
- Miscellaneous items
- Subgroup II:
- Political Papers
- Series 1:
- Series 2:
- Series 3:
- Ohio Congressional District files
- Series 4:
- State files
- Series 5:
- National Federation of Republican Women
- Series 6:
- Ohio Federation of Republican Women
- Series 7:
- Study Program
- Series 8:
- Republican National Conventions
- Series 9:
- Robert A. Taft Memorial
- Series 10:
- Ohio Republican State Committee
- Series 11:
- Republican National Committee
- Series 12:
- Junior League & Daughters of the American Revolution
- Series 13:
- Miscellaneous subject files
- Series 14:
- Series 15:
- Series 16:
- Political Campaign Memorabilia
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The papers of Katharine Kennedy Brown were accessioned into the Wright State University Department of Archives and Special Collections in February, 1979. They were donated by Grafton S. Kennedy, Jr., nephew of Katharine Kennedy Brown.
Existence and Location of Originals
Oversize items are located in OS 7 folders 1-4, 6, and in OS76, folder 6.
Existence and Location of Copies
A selection of materials from this collection is available in Wright State University’s Campus Online Repository, CORE Scholar, at: https://corescholar.libraries.wright.edu/special_ms146/. See Digital Object link.
Processed by: Dorothy Smith and Marie Mee, Spring 1993. Additions processed by Patricia A. McEldowney, Spring 2012. Political memorabilia processed by Toni Vanden Bos and finding aid revised to DACS, July 2017.
- Brown, Katharine Kennedy -- Manuscripts (Person)
- Brown, Kleon Thaw, 1886-1925 (Person)
- Kennedy, Grafton Sherwood, 1893-1974 (Person)
- Kennedy, Louise Achey, 1860-1945 (Person)
- Kennedy, Katherine Glidden (Person)
- Republican National Convention (Organization)
- Ohio Federation of Republican Women (Organization)
- Association of Junior Leagues International (Organization)
- Republican Party (Ohio) (Organization)
- Brown, Martha McClellan, 1838-1916 (Person)
- Guide to the Katharine Kennedy Brown Papers (MS-146)
- Katharine Kennedy Brown Papers (MS-146) Guide
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- 2012 Spring: Additions processed by Patricia A. McEldowney
- 2017 July: Political memorabilia processed by Toni Vanden Bos
Part of the Special Collections Repository
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA