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updated: 5/3/2014 4:26 PM

Huntley woman honored by Cubs

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  • From left, Mary Manning, Margaret Manning, and Barbara Ernesti, all relatives of Margaret "Midge" Donahue, sing during the seventh inning stretch during a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Chicago. The Cubs won 3-0. Donahue was hired by the Cubs as a stenographer in 1919, and rose to be the vice president of the team.

      From left, Mary Manning, Margaret Manning, and Barbara Ernesti, all relatives of Margaret "Midge" Donahue, sing during the seventh inning stretch during a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Chicago. The Cubs won 3-0. Donahue was hired by the Cubs as a stenographer in 1919, and rose to be the vice president of the team.

  • Margaret Donahue is pictured here with Chicago Mayor Martin H. Kennelly in 1950. The Huntley native was a pioneer in the Chicago Cubs organization and is being honored at today's game against the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the 100 years at Wrigley Field celebration.

      Margaret Donahue is pictured here with Chicago Mayor Martin H. Kennelly in 1950. The Huntley native was a pioneer in the Chicago Cubs organization and is being honored at today's game against the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the 100 years at Wrigley Field celebration.
    Courtesy of Huntley Area Public Library Local History Department

  • The late Margaret Donahue of Huntley was a pioneer in the Chicago Cubs organization. She is being honored at Saturday's Cubs game against the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the 100 years at Wrigley Field celebration.

      The late Margaret Donahue of Huntley was a pioneer in the Chicago Cubs organization. She is being honored at Saturday's Cubs game against the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the 100 years at Wrigley Field celebration.
    Courtesy of Huntley Area Public Library Local History Department

  • The late Margaret Donahue, left, featured in a 1929 Chicago Cubs poster. The Huntley native was a pioneer in the Chicago Cubs organization and is being honored at Saturday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the 100 years at Wrigley Field celebration.

      The late Margaret Donahue, left, featured in a 1929 Chicago Cubs poster. The Huntley native was a pioneer in the Chicago Cubs organization and is being honored at Saturday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the 100 years at Wrigley Field celebration.
    Courtesy of Huntley Area Public Library Local History Department

 
 

At 16, Huntley native Margaret "Midge" Donahue left her family farm and moved to the big city -- Chicago -- to look for a secretarial job and some excitement.

Nearly 10 years later, Donahue found just that when she was hired in 1919 as a bookkeeper and stenographer by Bill Veeck, club president for what would become the Chicago Cubs.

Today, the Cubs honored the late Donahue's 39-year career with the organization as part of its 100 years at Wrigley Field celebration.

"We're very touched by the organization doing this for her," said Mary Beth Manning, Donahue's niece and a local history associate at the Huntley Area Public Library.

Manning, Donahue's two other nieces -- Barbara Ernesti, 87, and Margaret Manning, 77 -- and nearly 30 family members from Huntley were guests during today's game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

"We've been invited to come early and anyone who wants to walk on the field during a certain time period in the morning can do so," Manning said.

The three nieces led the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch and shared memories of their aunt in television and radio interviews during the game.

"That's a challenge for us, but we're doing it in the right spirit," Manning said. "We were a very close family all through our years. She was good to us always."

The second of eight children, Donahue was born on Dec. 13, 1892, on a Huntley farm at Kreutzer Road and Route 47, where Wal-Mart stands today. After her older brother succumbed to diphtheria at age 7, Donahue took care of her younger siblings.

"She was always a very take-charge person. She managed everything," Manning said. "She was the leader of the family."

After her freshman year at Huntley School, Donahue quit high school and trained for secretarial work. She worked at a laundry supply company before losing her job to a returning World War I veteran.

Veeck answered Donahue's advertisement in the newspaper looking for secretarial work, Manning said.

Donahue grew with the company and managed everything from ticket sales to accounting. In 1926, she was tapped by the Cubs board of directors to take on the role of corporate secretary.

"She was the first woman executive in Major League Baseball that was not a family member of the organization," said Manning, 83. "She had some years where she was working very long hours, especially in the '20s, '30s and early '40s. She took on a lot of responsibility. She liked (baseball), but she didn't have a chance to enjoy it."

Manning said her family wrote an unpublished biography of "Midge," which caught the attention of the Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs, prompting the organization's efforts to recognize her contributions.

Donahue revolutionized the club's operations, including instituting season tickets, reduced entry prices for children younger than 12, and Ladies' Days at the ballpark. She became vice president of the organization in the early 1950s and retired in 1958.

At the time, Phillip K. Wrigley issued a proclamation on behalf of the Cubs board dubbing Donahue "a nationally acknowledged authority on the intricacies of baseball rules and regulations," according to a page dedicated to Donahue on the Huntley library's website.

Donahue never married. She spent her last years at her family home in Huntley until her death on Jan. 30, 1978.

Manning said the Cubs plan to honor Donahue with a permanent memorial -- a children's playground named in her honor near Wrigley Field.

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