Biography of Ellen Annette Martin (1847 – 1916)
Summary: Ellen Martin was born in 1847 to Abram Martin and Mary E. Martin in Kiatone, Chautauqua County, New York. Her paternal grandparents were William Martin and Roxa Pier and her maternal grandparents were Eliphalet Burnham and Belvidiera Carter. Ellen was the oldest of three children, her brother Willis Eliphalet Martin was born in 1850, and her brother George Burnham Martin was born in 1853. She never married, nor did she have children. Ellen Martin died in 1916, in Rochester, Monroe County, New York. She is buried in Lake View Cemetery, Jamestown, Chautauqua County, New York.
Martin is recognized as the first woman to vote in the State of Illinois. She was the first woman law student in Chautauqua County, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1875 and admitted to the Illinois Bar in January of 1876. She and a colleague, Mary F. Perry, had a successful law practice, Perry and Martin, with offices at 84 LaSalle Street in Chicago. Martin commuted from her home at 219 West Maple Street in Lombard, Illinois to her office in Chicago from 1876 to 1915. At that time, women lawyers were restricted to bringing lawsuits or working in a law office. They could not argue a case in court as they were not officially recognized as a “lawyer.” Because of their lack of status as an “Elector,” they could not vote.
On April 6th, 1891, Ellen Martin marched into the polling place in Lombard and demanded that as a citizen she be allowed to vote. She was not alone but followed by 14 of Lombard’s most prominent women. Martin raised the point that the Special Charter of the Incorporated Town, did not include the word “male,” but in Section 4, stated that All citizens above the age of 21 years shall be entitled to vote at any corporation election. These women insisted upon exercising the franchise which they claimed were theirs under the Special Charter.
Ellen Martin worked for woman’s suffrage at the national and local level. Martin was elected to the office of Chairman of the Women Voters of Lombard (Illinois) in April,1892. Her opinion was covered in the Sunday Inter Ocean in November 1892 regarding the woman’s right to vote for school officers in Lombard. Martin called a meeting of the Congress of Women Lawyers in Chicago to order and made the opening remarks in August 1893.
At the national level, Martin and Perry hosted delegates of the first regular session of the Woman’s National Suffrage Association (WNSA) Convention in Chicago in 1880 at their office, Perry and Martin, Attorneys and Counselors at Law. WNSA made up of local and state groups throughout the United States, coordinated the national suffrage movement.
The Chicago Woman’s Club, of which Ellen A. Martin was a member, founded the Chicago Political Equality League in 1894 specifically to work for women’s full political equality. Martin was elected to the first Board of Directors at its first meeting in November 1894, where Susan B. Anthony was in attendance. In May 1898, she held the office of Corresponding Secretary of the Chicago Political Equality League.
In June 1895, Martin was described as an acknowledged authority on the law regarding legal discussions in the Woman’s Club and was also known to be an ardent suffragist. She contributed excellent articles to law journals and frequently acted as council for the Woman’s Club where matters requiring legal expertise were under discussion. Active in the Chicago Political Equality League, Martin presented papers and made speeches relative to the club’s activities and the issues of naturalization of citizens. In 1897, Martin was recognized as the woman who had practiced law the longest in Chicago; at which time she would have been practicing for twenty-one years.
By: Colette Leeser-Freeman, Program Coordinator, Lombard Historical Society
- “Woman Suffrage: preparations for the coming Suffrage Convention”, The Inter Ocean, May 31, 1880;
- “Women Admitted to the Bar in Illinois”, The Inter Ocean, Woman’s Kingdom, June 24, 1882;
- “Women Voters of Lombard”, The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois April 15, 1892;
- “To Women Voters: Opinion of Ellen A. Martin Touching Legal Standing of Women Voters”, The Inter Ocean, Nov 6, 1892, p 23;
- “Congress of Women Lawyers”, Alton Evening Telegraph, August 4, 1893;
- “Women Found a New Society: organization of the Chicago Political Equality League”, The Inter Ocean, November 11, 1894;
- “Some New Women: what they are doing in unusual fields of activity”, The Sunday Inter Ocean, June 2, 1895;
- “Rise and Progress of Women in the Law”, Chicago Tribune, October 5, 1895;
- “Political Equality League at Woman’s Club Rooms”, Chicago Tribune, In the Realm of Woman, November 3, 1895;
- “Equality League Meets Today: Mrs. Jeannie C. Hutchins and Mrs. Lucy L. Flower Will Speak”, The Inter Ocean, January 2, 1897;
- “Woman at the Bar”, The Sunday Inter Ocean, November 28, 1897;
- “Political Equality Meeting: Chicago League holds its fourth annual election at Woman’s Club Headquarters”, Chicago Tribune, May 8, 1898;
- Image of Grave Marker, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/49065825/ellen-annette-martin.