Bertha Johnston, daughter of John Henry and Amelia (Mary) Johnston, was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1864. Her mother was the founder of the Little Mothers Aid Society. Her father owned a large jewelry store in Manhattan. After attending public schools in Brooklyn and Rye Seminary, Johnston continued her education at Framingham Normal School, graduating in 1885. She returned home to Brooklyn and thereafter relocated to Chicago where she attended the Chicago Kindergarten Institute. While the Midwest, she became editor of Kindergarten Magazine in 1897. In addition to her editorial duties, Johnston worked at the Helen Heath Settlement House, one of the Federated Chicago Settlements, working in association with Hull House. She relocated Kindergarten Magazine to Brooklyn in 1904 and published from that city until 1909 when it merged into The Kindergarten-Primary Magazine. She wrote for this publication for five years, and wrote a column in the monthly magazine, Everywhere.
Johnston became interested in the suffrage movement in 1887 and promoted votes for women until equal franchise was won. She was a member of the New York City Women's Suffrage League and the Women's Political Union which were instrumental in placing women patrons in city police stations as well as in securing admission of women to civil service. Members addressed Congress and State Legislatures on behalf of suffrage.
Johnston inherited her father's taste for the literary life. He had had a wide circle of prominent friends. These included Walt Whitman, Charles A. Dana, Theodore Roosevelt, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Horace Greely, and Henry Ward Beecher. Johnston often recalled events from childhood filled with visits from such notables. Inspired and encouraged by family and friends, she began writing and publishing while a child. …