Sue M. Wilson Brown

Lived:September 8, 1877—January 1, 1941 (aged 63)

Sue M. Wilson Brown was a clubwoman, civil rights activist and suffragist in Iowa.

Brown was born on September 8, 1877, in Staunton, Virginia. She moved with her family to a coal mining camp near Buxton, Iowa, an integrated coal mining town in Mahaska County, and graduated from high school in Oskaloosa. She married S. Joe Brown, a lawyer in Buxton, in 1902 and they moved to Des Moines.

Brown joined the Iowa Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, and from 1907 to 1909 she edited the Iowa Colored Woman, the organization's official publication. Known for her organizational skill and dedication to improving lives of African Americans, Brown founded a number of organizations, including the Des Moines Intellectual Improvement Club, the Mary B. Talbert Club, the Des Moines Mary Church Terrell Club and an African American Red Cross auxiliary.

As president of the Iowa Federation of Colored Women from 1915 to 1917, Brown led the effort to establish a home for female African American students at the University of Iowa, which barred African American women from its dormitories until 1945. As president, she also worked with the Polk County Suffrage Association, distributing literature, marching in parades and speaking at association meetings.

In August 1919, Brown founded the Des Moines League of Colored Women Voters and was its first president. She was a speaker at the last Iowa Equal Suffrage Association convention, telling about the citizenship schools that the LCVW had planned for African American women. She and three other members of the Des Moines LCWV were delegates to the first convention of the Iowa League of Women Voters in September 1920.

Active in the Republican Party, Brown was a member of the Polk County Central Commission and a delegate to Republican county and state conventions. She served as the first vice president of the National League of Republican Colored Women and as chairman of the Polk County Republican Committee.
Brown and her husband were charter members of the Des Moines branch of the NAACP, and she served as its president – and first female president – from 1925 to 1930. She also established the Des Moines NAACP Junior Chapter in 1922. A strong supporter of efforts to improve race relations in the city, Brown was on the executive committee of the Des Moines Interracial Committee and was president of the first Interracial Commission on Civil Rights in Iowa. She was also on the Interracial Commission of Federated Council Churches and president of the Des Moines branch of the Church Women's Interracial Commission.

Brown was also involved with the Order of the Eastern Star. She was elected to a four-year term as grand matron of African American branch of the International Conference of the Grand Chapter Order of the Eastern Star in 1922 – their highest office – and wrote "The History of the Order of the Eastern Star among Colored People" in 1925.
Brown died in 1941. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1995.


Biography of Sue M. Wilson Brown, 1877-1941. Written by Danielle Hoskins, fl. 2017 (Alexandria, VA: Alexander Street, 2018), 1 page(s). Retrieved on September 13, 2019 from|bibliographic_details|3893398
Nicholson, D. (1996). Sue M. Wilson Brown. In Smith, J. C. (Ed.), Notable Black American Women, Book 2 (pp. 67-69). Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc.