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Martha McClellan Brown and Rev. William Kennedy Brown Papers (MS-147)

Identifier: MS-147

Scope and Content

The Papers of Martha McClellan Brown and Rev. William Kennedy Brown are a rich source of primary materials for research relating to the American temperance movement, the women's rights and suffrage movements, women's education, Methodism, and Spiritualism. The collection also provides an interesting look at a unusually egalitarian l9th century marriage.

Series I, Correspondence, is divided into family and general correspondence. Family correspondence consists of letters exchanged by the Browns, their six children, grandchildren, and in-laws. Especially interesting is an early group of letters between Mrs. Brown and her husband while she attended the Pittsburgh Female College as a boarding student in the early 1860's. General correspondence includes mainly letters to Mrs. Brown from her friends, colleagues in the temperance movement, and people she met in her travels and on her lecture tours. Topics include temperance, education, reform movements, publications, and various social and business matters. Span dates for the correspondence series are 1860-1916. Unfortunately, there is a large gap in family correspondence from 1867-1891.

Rev. Brown's papers in Series II consist of handwritten and typed copies of many of his talks and articles on such subjects as temperance, religion, education, and women's rights. There is also a small collection of handwritten sermon excerpts and notes. A file of newspaper clippings and a clipping scrapbook contain press notices of Rev. Brown's talks as well as articles on temperance and the "women question". Also included in this series is Brown's book, published in 1887, Gunethics or the Ethical Status of Women, and the manuscript of an unpublished religious novel, The Four Daughters of Galilee, written by Brown ca. 1900. Finishing out Series II is a small collection of religious periodicals, pamphlets and literature, some miscellaneous financial papers, and an unsigned manuscript of unknown authorship relating Civil War experiences. Span dates for this series are 1858-1915.

Martha McClellan Brown's papers in Series III fall naturally into six groupings or subseries. Subseries IIIA, Temperance, contains correspondence pertaining to Mrs. Brown's activities in the temperance movement and materials from the temperance organizations she was involved in, mainly International Order of Good Templars (IOGT), the National Prohibition Party, and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). IOGT papers include publications from national and international lodges, proceedings of the National Grand Lodge, pamphlets, administrative papers, and materials from the College of Good Templary Course of Study. Prohibition Party materials consist mainly of printed programs and party platforms. The most significant material in this subseries is a file of papers pertaining to Mrs. Brown's role in founding the WCTU. Included are clippings, articles by the Rev. and Mrs. Brown, correspondence, and a copy of the call for the convention, written by Mrs. Brown, which saw the founding of the WCTU. Finishing out the temperance material is a file of broadsides announcing Mrs. Brown's temperance lectures and a small collection of miscellaneous temperance leaflets, pamphlets, and periodicals. Of particular note is the temperance scrapbook, which consists primarily correspondence and seems to relate closely to Mrs. Brown’s work with the National Prohibition Alliance. The scrapbook includes letters from such individuals as U.S. Congressmen Henry W. Blair and J. D. Taylor, Susan B. Anthony, Mother Stewart, John Lloyd Thomas (secretary of National Prohibition Bureau), Gideon Stewart (Chairman of Prohibition Reform Party National Committee), and Ohio Governor Joseph B. Foraker, among others. Span dates for Subseries IIIA are 1868 1916. Selected items from the Temperance subseries have been digitized and are available online in CORE Scholar.

Subseries 2 and 3 contain material relating to Mrs. Brown's activities with the woman suffrage movement and women's clubs. Included are broadsides, correspondence, literature, programs, and women's club constitutions and directories. Major topics covered are fund raising, suffrage demonstrations, political theory and strategy movement, and women's club activities. Span dates are 1894-1916.

Subseries 4, Published Writings, and Subseries 5, Unpublished Writings, contain Mrs. Brown's lectures and articles. Subjects range across her many interests - temperance, suffrage and women's rights, religion, education, travel, philosophy and art. There is also a scrapbook containing clippings of her editorials in the Alliance Monitor. These two subseries are the heart of Mrs. Brown's papers for they reveal her views on various subjects, her interests, her style and philosophy. Also included in Subseries 5 is a file of press clippings with reports of Mrs. Brown's public lectures. Span dates for these two series are 1869-1914.

Subseries 6, Miscellaneous, contains a file of biographical articles, many written by Rev. Brown, Mrs. Brown's autograph and address books, and two large files of her newspaper clippings. The clippings cover such topics as temperance, suffrage, and education. There are also articles about prominent women and temperance leaders, temperance meetings, and press notices about Mrs. Brown's activities. Span dates are 1874-1914.

Series IV, Educational Institutions, contains papers relating to the Browns' tenure (1882-1892) as president and vice-president of the Cincinnati Wesleyan College, one of the country's oldest women's colleges. There is also a small amount of material, mainly school catalogues, from the Miami Military Institute, a Germantown school run by their son, Orvon Graff Brown. The Cincinnati Wesleyan material includes college catalogues, articles of association, alumnae programs, clippings, correspondence, and files on the college's financial crisis of the early 1890's, its closing and subsequent lawsuits. The material in this series covers the years 1860-1916.

Undoubtedly, the most unusual series in this manuscript collection is Series V, Edward Shippen's Spiritualism Papers. Shippen was a prominant businessman and also the father-in-law of the Brown's second daughter, Charme Brown Shippen. Papers in this series reflect his involvement with Spiritualism, a late l9th century religious movement based on communication with the spirits of dead persons. Materials consist of letters to Martha McClellan Brown, which are mainly transcripts of seances, two notebooks containing records of seances, published articles by Shippen on Spiritualism, and an issue of the Spiritualist periodical, Banner of Light. The final items in this series are an obituary for Shippen and an original 18th century letter from Thomas Penn, a colonial governor of Pennsylvania, to one of Shippen's ancestors, William Shippen. Span dates for Series V are 1764-1904.

The photographs in Series VI are mainly of the Browns, their children and grandchildren including several portraits of Martha McClellan Brown spanning the years 1870-1916. Also included in this series is an album of snapshots taken at the Miami Military Institute, 1902-1904, and photographs of Grafton Shoals, South Carolina, where the Brown's youngest son, Kleon, worked in 1907. The photographs from Kleon Thaw Brown's years at the Miami Military Institute can be viewed online in Wright State University's Campus Online Repository (CORE Scholar):

Series VII contains 70 ribbons, badges and buttons reflecting the Browns' social, political, religious and community causes 1886-1916. Two of the items date to 1940. This associates them with Katharine Kennedy Brown (MS-146) rather than with Martha McClellan Brown (MS-147).


  • Creation: 1764-1916


Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on accessing materials in this collection.

Restrictions on Use

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.

Biography of Martha McClellan Brown

As an organizer, editor, and popular platform speaker, Martha McClellan Brown was a prominent and important figure in the late l9th century American temperance movement. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 6, 1838, the younger of two daughters of David and Jane Haight McClellan. At the age of two, "Mattie" moved west with her family to Cambridge, Ohio. By the time she was eight years old, both parents had died, and Mattie and her older sister were reared in the large family of a neighbor.

Mattie received a good common school education and at the age of twenty, met and married a Methodist Episcopal minister, the Rev. William Kennedy Brown. The young couple shared an interest in many reform issues of the day including temperance and women's rights. With her husband's encouragement and support, Mattie enrolled in the Pittsburgh Female College in 1860. Graduating in 1862 at the head of her class, she was probably the first married woman to attend college as a boarding pupil.

Mattie's early married life reflected the migratory nature of the Methodist Episcopal ministry of that time as her husband filled a succession of appointments in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. The first of their six children, Orvon Graff, was born in 1863; there followed Westanna (Wessie), Charme, Richard McClellan, Marie, and in 1886, Kleon Thaw.

Mrs. Brown began her temperance career in 1861 when she joined the Independent Order of Good Templars (I.O.G.T.), a fraternal organization modeled on the Masons and dedicated to the cause of total abstinence and state prohibition. During the Civil War, she began to build a local reputation by giving patriotic lectures, and in the postwar period, turned her considerable platform talents to the cause of temperance. By 1867, Mrs. Brown's prominence within the temperance movement was on the rise and she was elected to the executive committee of the Ohio Good Templars.

The Browns moved to a pastorate in Alliance, Ohio, in 1868 where Mrs. Brown took over the editorship of a local weekly newspaper, the Alliance Monitor. She and her husband, who later joined her as the publisher, ran the paper until 1878, turning it into a temperance publication. During the same time, she also edited the Temple Visitor, a Good Templar magazine published in Alliance; wrote many anti-alcohol pamphlets; toured and lectured widely; launched a movement to have temperance lessons included in the International Sunday School Series; and organized a statewide symposium which drew to Ohio such noted temperance leaders as Neal Dow of Maine and John Russell of Michigan. In 1872, she was chosen Grand Chief Templar of Ohio, a post she held for two years. As delegate to the gathering of the International Lodge of London in 1873, she spoke before large and enthusiastic audiences in England, Scotland and Ireland.

In the winter of 1873-74, a grassroots temperance movement known as the "Women's Crusade" erupted in western Ohio. Before it was over, thousands of women in towns across Ohio and the Midwest had gathered in churches, then marched into local saloons singing, praying and demanding an end to the liquor traffic. As Grand Chief Templar of Ohio, Mrs. Brown strongly supported the Crusade; she also quickly recognized the women's temperance movement as a potent new force for the cause.

At a statewide temperance rally in Columbus in February, 1874, Mrs. Brown was both a popular speaker and, along with such movement leaders as Mother Stewart, Dio Lewis and John Russell, helped form the Women's Temperance Association of Ohio. In August of the same year while attending a summer Sunday school assembly at Lake Chautauqua in western New York, Mrs. Brown suggested to several other women that a national women's temperance organization be set up. At a more formal meeting the next day, she was elected to a ten-member committee to implement the idea.

Though others shared in the leadership, Mrs. Brown drafted the Plan of Work and the Call for a convention to be held in Cleveland in November, 1874. At that convention, the Women' s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) was founded, the most durable and powerful temperance organization in the nation's history. Evidence suggests that Mrs. Brown wanted the presidency of the new organization, but her link with the Good Templars and her strong stand for woman suffrage worked against her; the post went instead to the more conservative Annie T. Wittenmyer. Thereafter, Mrs. Brown took very little part in W.C.T.U. affairs.

During her middle and later years, Mrs. Brown became very active in the Prohibition Party. Early in 1869 as a rising Templar leader she played a part in founding an Ohio political party dedicated to prohibition, and was also present at the meeting of the Grand Lodge of the Good Templars in Oswego, New York in May, 1869, which laid the groundwork for the formal establishment of the national Prohibition Party. Her principal work for the party, however, did not begin until she broke with the Templars in 1876 over racial policy. As one of a minority faction favoring the admission of Blacks to I.O.G.T. Lodges, Mrs. Brown withdrew from the American branch of the Good Templars and joined with English delegates to form a more liberal body.

After her resignation from the American Templars, Mrs. Brown was named vice-president and a member of the platform committee at the national convention of the Prohibition Party; she was also appointed to a four-year term on the party's executive committee. Both Mrs. Brown and her husband fought hard for the inclusion of the woman suffrage plank in the party's platform. In 1877, she moved from Pittsburgh (where her husband had taken a church the year before) to New York City to fill an unsalaried post as secretary of the National Prohibition Alliance, a lecture bureau with close Prohibition Party ties. For five years, while her husband and children remained in Pittsburgh, Mrs. Brown spent most of her time in New York. After serving two further terms (1884-86 and 1892-96) on the Prohibition party's national executive committee and holding several posts at national conventions, Mrs. Brown left the convention of 1896 when it adopted a single-plank platform. thereby dropping its longstanding commitment to woman suffrage.

By the early 1880's, the Browns' interest began to shift to the academic sphere. When Rev. Brown became president of the Cincinnati Wesleyan Women's College in 1882, Mrs. Brown assumed the positions of vice-president and professor of art, literature and philosophy. Her oldest son, Orvan, then nineteen years old, also joined the faculty as a science teacher. The Browns remained at Cincinnati Wesleyan for ten years until the school closed in 1892 due to financial problems.

Thereafter, while her husband held various Methodist appointments around the Cincinnati area, Mrs. Brown became increasingly prominent in Cincinnati philanthropic and civic affairs. She was active in the woman suffrage movement and the women's club movement. She traveled abroad again in the 1890'S. She also continued to lecture and write articles on temperance and on educational, literary and civic subjects. In her old age, she resumed her activity on behalf of the Good Templars, making a final lecture tour of England in 1911.

After the death of her husband in 1915, she resided with her youngest son Kleon. She died in 1916 at the age of seventy-eight.

Rev. William Kennedy Brown

William Kennedy Brown was born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania on August 3, 1834. He received his education in the common schools of Pennsylvania, and in 1856, became a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1857, he graduated from-Allegheny College. He later received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Waynesburg College in 1869.

Brown held many ministerial appointments in western Pennsylvania and Ohio and was also, along with his wife, very active in the temperance movmement and was a strong advocate of equal rights for women and women's suffrage. From 1882 to 1892 he was the president of the Cincinnati Wesleyan Women's College. When Wesleyan closed in 1892, Brown became active in the administration of his son's school in Germantown, Ohio, the Miami Military Institute.

Brown was the author of several tracts on the status of women including Gunethics, or the Etical Status of Women (1887), and The Four Daughters of Galilee (1900), an unpublished religious novel-with a feminist slant. He retired in 1909 but remained active in the Methodist Church, in education, temperance, and in movements for reform until his death in 1915.


8.75 linear feet

Language of Materials



A nationally known leader in the temperance movement as well as a strong advocate of women's rights and suffrage, Martha McClellan Brown lectured widely in the United States and Great Britain and held important posts in the Independent Order of Good Templars and the National Prohibition Party. She was also one of the founders of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and edited a weekly temperance newspaper. Her papers include copies of her published talks and articles, handwritten drafts of lectures, personal correspondence, temperance and suffrage publications, photographs, memorabilia, and a small collection of materials reflecting her interest in Spiritualism. Also included are papers belonging to Brown's husband, Rev. William K. Brown, a Methodist minister with a strong interest in women's rights and the temperance movement. His papers include sermons, published articles, correspondence, church papers, and two books he authored.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into seven series.

Series I:
Correspondence, 1860-1916
Series II:
Rev. William Kennedy Brown Papers, 1858-1915
Series III:
Martha McClellan Brown Papers, 1802-1916
Subseries IIIA:
Temperance, 1868-1916
Subseries IIIB:
Suffrage and Women's Rights, 1890-1916
Subseries IIIC:
Women's Clubs, 1902-1915
Subseries IIID:
Published Writings, 1869-1914
Subseries IIIE
Unpublished Writings, 1870, undated
Subseries IIIF:
Miscellaneous, 1874, undated
Series IV:
Educational Institutions, 1860-1916
Series V:
Edward Shippen's Spiritualism Papers, 1764-1904
Series VI
Photographs, 1870-1911
Series VII:
Ribbons, Badges and Buttons, 1896-1916

Other Finding Aid

The photographs from Kleon Thaw Brown's years at the Miami Military Institute can be viewed online in Wright State University's Campus Online Repository (CORE Scholar):

Acquisition Information

The Papers of Martha McClellan Brown and Rev. William Kennedy Brown were deposited in the Wright State University Department of Archives and Special Collections in February, 1979. They are part of a larger collection of the papers of Katherine Kennedy Brown, the daughter-in-law of Rev. and Mrs. Brown. The papers were donated by Grafton S. Kennedy, Jr., a nephew of Katherine Kennedy Brown. Additions were received in 2010 and 2018.

Existence and Location of Copies

Selected items from related to Woman's Suffrage and Temperance have been digitized and are available online in CORE Scholar:

Related Material

MS-146, Katharine Kennedy Brown Papers MS-281 Louise Kennedy Collection MS-340, Juliet Stroh Blanchard Collection MS-404, Katharine Kennedy Brown Collection (Lenz Addition) MS-429, Gladys Cheney Wessels Papers

Separated Materials

The collection was part of a larger collection donated by Grafton S. Kennedy, Jr., the Katharine Kennedy Brown Papers.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Dorothy Smith in 1988. Finding aid written according to DACS standards by John Armstrong, 2014. Small addition sprocessed by Lisa Rickey, 2019.

Guide to the Martha McClellan Brown and Rev. William Kennedy Brown Papers (MS-147)
Finding aid prepared by Dorothy Smith, 1988
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2014: The collection was processed by Dorothy Smith in 1988. Finding aid written according to DACS standards by John Armstrong.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA