After Ludlow Margaret returned to Colorado less frequently and spent much of her time in a rented summer home in Newport, Rhode Island. Newport was the pinnacle of American high society at the beginning of the 20th century. It was a competitive place where wealthy families displayed their fortunes by building lavish homes and hosting spectacular parties. Newport was the first American town to have a golf course, a tennis club and the regular use of cars. It was also female dominated, as the men spent most of their time in New York City doing business, only coming to town for social outings on the weekends. Margaret Brown was drawn to the independent women of Newport even though her fortune was small in comparison. Margaret was quickly accepted by Newport’s leaders, particularly Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, the President of the National Women’s Suffrage Association.
Together, Margaret and Alva became involved in the National Women’s Trade Union League. Unlike other women’s organizations or labor groups, the League included both women of the upper classes and working women in an effort to advocate for a minimum wage and an eight-hour workday. Margaret traveled the country speaking about both women’s issues and labor issues, and authored dozens of newspaper articles. She became increasingly close to the radical side of the women’s party, led by Alice Paul, which pushed hard for a national suffrage amendment.
In July 1914, Margaret worked with Alva Belmont to organize the Conference of Great Women, a lead-up to the August announcement of more aggressive suffrage campaigns. Margaret spoke at the Conference, detailing the plight of Colorado miners and rallying for a “rights for all” movement, which would counter the greed of big business with universal suffrage.
The momentum created by the Conference of Great Women and the support of national suffrage leaders like Alva Belmont and Alice Paul propelled Margaret to her proposed bid for a political seat as a U.S. Senator representing Colorado. Her style appealed to both men and women, many of whom supported the progressive platform. Colorado newspapers and the New York Times favored her victory.
However, when World War I broke out, Margaret shifted her focus to relief efforts, eventually traveling to France to work for the American Committee for Devastated France. At her departure, a New York reporter noted, “If I were requested to personify perpetual activity, I believe I’d name Mrs. J.J. Brown, the Newport social figure, suffragist and patriot.” Margaret ultimately earned the French Legion of Honor for her activities.