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Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas University
University Archives & Manuscripts - Exhibits
First Ladies of K-State: Margaret Waters

Margaret Ward (Watson) Waters


Margaret Ward Watson was born on September 10, 1869, the daughter of Berry Allen and Clara (Ward) Watson. She was raised on an estate outside of Columbia, Missouri, and grew to be a decisive, self-confident woman. When she met Henry Jackson Waters at a social affair, she said, "There's the man I'm going to marry."

They wed on June 3, 1897, and settled in Columbia where Henry Waters was Dean of Agriculture and Director of the Agriculture Station at the University of Missouri. She settled into her role as the wife of a Dean, joining the faculty wives club, which was active around the campus and in town. In 1900, their only child, Henry Jackson Waters, Jr., was born.

In 1905, when the owner of the local newspaper, The Columbia Tribune, died of typhoid, Margaret bought the paper from his widow. Her brother, Edwin Moss Watson, had always wanted to run his own paper.

In 1909 K-State Board of Regents hired Henry Waters as president of Kansas State Agricultural College. They lived at 500 Houston before building a grand three-story house at 311 N.14 on the west side of City Park. She often referred to her husband in public as "darling" which was unusual at the time.

She took her duties to the college seriously, organizing the Social Club in 1911 to facilitate faculty interaction. She was instrumental in getting the campus wide ban on dancing lifted, which greatly endeared her to students.

Her husband resigned unexpectantly in 1917. They moved to Kansas City, living on the Plaza, where Dr. Waters wrote for the Kansas City Star. He died in 1925 and for a time she continued to reside in Kansas City, but eventually returned to Columbia.

Henry, Jr., worked for his uncle at The Columbia Tribune, before eventually inheriting it. Margaret inherited shares from her father and brother and owned the majority of the stock until her death in 1955 at the age of 85. She was buried in Columbia alongside her husband.

Photo courtesy of the Henry Jackson Waters III

Biographical information on the First Ladies was provided by:
Dr. Michaeline Chance-Reay, Assistant Professor, Women's Studies and COE, author of Land Grant Ladies: Kansas State University Presidential Wives