Huntley native Margaret Donahue didn’t want the job with the Chicago Cubs.
But now, 33 years after her death, her name can still be found among Cubs’ history and in books on notable women.
Through Margaret’s three nieces, who still reside in Huntley, and in numerous news articles written about her over the years, much is known of the legendary woman.
Margaret was born on a Huntley farm December 13, 1892, the second of eight children of Daniel and Hannah Connor Donahue. The farm where Margaret was born and raised today is home to Huntley’s Wal Mart at Kreutzer Road and Route 47.
The product of a small town, Margaret’s professional career was impressive and worldly, even by today’s standards.
At the end of World War I Margaret lost her job at a laundry supply company to a returning veteran. She placed a newspaper ad in a “Situations Wanted” column seeking a position as a stenographer or secretary.
“I wanted a job somewhere in the Loop, but I forgot to mention it in the ad,” Margaret told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1958.
The following Sunday morning while she was at church, William Veeck Sr., then president of the Chicago Cubs, called in response to her ad.
Margaret’s father answered the phone and promised Veeck she would be there for the interview.
Although she didn’t want the northside job, Margaret went to the interview because her father had told Veeck she would be there. Veeck offered her the job, but Margaret turned it down.
Veeck was persistent. He finally persuaded Margaret to become his stenographer and secretary.
In 1919, the Huntley native began what she later called “a most interesting” and “always exciting” career with the Cubs.
She told the Sun-Times, “There are thrills every day… the more excitement, the better I liked it.”
The Sun-Times reported, “Miss Donahue took on more responsibility with each year and as the ball club improved wonderful things began happening.”
Her office was at Wrigley Field at the corner of Clark and Addison in Chicago, and Margaret was there every day, including Sundays. When the team traveled, so did Margaret.
In 1921 George Halas and George Sternaman brought the Chicago Bears to Wrigley Field and Margaret was responsible for checking in the gate receipts for those games, just as she did for the Cubs.
In 1922 the new medium of radio brought baseball to the homes of Cubs fans and popularized the game among women.
When Margaret instituted the sale of season tickets in 1928, the first two purchasers were women.
This spurred Margaret’s idea for Ladies’ Day at the ballpark, which was enthusiastically backed by William Wrigley and Bill Veeck.
She recalled the ultimate result of the idea came on a June day in 1930, when more than 51,000 attended the ball game at Wrigley Field, 30,400 were Ladies’ Day guests.
In 1926, Margaret was promoted to corporate secretary, making her the first woman executive in major league baseball. She became vice president in 1950.
In the early days of television, Margaret was interviewed on a Chicago sports show. None of her Huntley family had a television set at the tiime, so they all walked to Dolby’s Garage on Main Street, the location of the “town television set” to see Margaret on TV.
The Huntley native held her executive positions until her retirement in 1958, at which time Phillip K. Wrigley issued a proclamation on behalf of the Cubs’ Board of Directors stating she was “a nationally acknowledged authority on the intricacies of baseball rules and regulations.”
Looking back after her retirement, Margaret said, “I think the high spot and the low spot came at the same time. My biggest thrill was the 1929 World Series with Philadelphia, mainly because it was the first series the Cubs had been in since I started working for them.
“The saddest day came in that same series. Hack Wilson lost a fly ball in the sun with the Cubs leading 8-0, and that break helped give the Athletics 10 runs in the seventh inning and the eventual world championship. It was like riding a funeral train coming back to Chicago.”
After 39 years with the Cubs and residing in Chicago, Margaret returned to her family home in Huntley, where she lived until her death on January 30, 1978.
The night of her funeral she was eulogized on WGN by Jack Brickhouse, whom she had welcomed to Chicago at the start of his broadcasting career.
Her death even was announced in the February 13, 1978 issue of Sports Illustrated.
Her accomplishments are among those listed in “The Book of Women’s Firsts: Breakthrough Achievements of Almost 1,000 American Women.”
Margaret Donahue is buried in St. Mary Cemetery on Dean Street.