Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Elizabeth King Ellicott (1858-1914)
MSA SC 3520-13588


Elizabeth King Ellicott of Baltimore was incredibly active in the suffrage movement in Maryland in the early 1900s. As president of key pro-suffrage organizations, such as the Equal Suffrage League of Baltimore, Ellicott was a driving force behind gathering support for female suffrage in Maryland.

Born in Baltimore in 1858, Elizabeth King was a member of a prominent and wealthy local family. She attended the Howland Institute, a Quaker school in Union Springs, NY, for her secondary education and developed a strong interest in art during her time there. She returned to Baltimore after finishing school and studied art, but never made a career from it.1 Instead, King focused on creating better education options for the young girls and women of Baltimore. In the early 1880s, King and a group of friends, which included Martha Carey Thomas, organized the Bryn Mawr School for Girls in Baltimore. The school opened in 1885 and is still operating today. King and her same friends later turned their educational activism towards Johns Hopkins University. When the school was raising funds to build a new medical school, the group bargained with the institution and promised to donate $500,000 on the premise that the university would start allowing women to attend the medical school. Johns Hopkins University agreed to this offer in 1889, creating a breakthrough for women who wished to enter the medical field.2

King remained active in Baltimore society when she founded the Arundell Club, a civic club, in 1894. Prior to founding the Arundell Club, King was a member of the Women’s Literary Club, but wanted to expand the range of topics discussed by club members beyond literature. This, however, was prohibited by the club’s constitution, so King took matters into her own hands and began her own club.3 The Arundell Club merged with the Maryland Federation of Women’s Clubs and King was elected president of the entire federation in 1900, the same year she married her husband, William Miller Ellicott. William Ellicott was the heir to the Ellicott Mills fortune and was also the older brother of Charles Ellis Ellicott, Madeleine LeMoyne Ellicott’s husband. She, unfortunately, was forced to resign this position a year later due to illness.

Ellicott did not become involved in the suffrage movement until 1906. The Maryland Federation of Women’s Clubs itself was never involved in the suffrage movement, but many of its members, including Ellicott, joined various suffrage clubs. In 1906, Ellicott reorganized the Livermore Equal Rights League into the Equal Suffrage League of Baltimore. The league immediately affiliated itself with the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association, where Emma Maddox Funck served as president.4

Suffragists in Maryland submitted petitions to the Maryland General Assembly in 1906 and 1907 regarding giving women the right to vote, but they were viewed as jokes and were promptly dismissed.5 In 1910, when the suffragists prepared to submit a bill to the General Assembly, Ellicott decided that she would act independently from the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association and submited the Equal Suffrage League’s bill to the legislature. Her bill gave the right to vote to every Baltimore resident, male or female, over the age of 21, provided that they

possess any one of the following qualifications, to wit: (a) If such person is qualified to vote for members of the House of Delegates; or (b) if he or she can read of write, from dictation, any paragraph or sentence of more than five lines contained in the Constitution of Maryland; or (c) if he or she is assessed with property in said city to the amount of $300 and has paid taxes thereon for at least two years preceding the election at which he or she offers to vote.6

The Maryland House of Delegates debated the bill in early March 1910, but the opposition was overwhelming. Those that voted against the bill did so on the grounds that “racial integration of black and white women at the polls might lead to trouble” and “that the welfare of women themselves would not be protected.”7 Ellicott faced a major defeat from the Maryland legislature that day, but she would also face repercussions from Funck and the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association.

The Maryland Woman Suffrage Association presented their own bill to the legislature in late March 1910. This bill would grant suffrage to everyone over the age of twenty-one, no matter their gender, intelligence level, or economic status, but this bill was also rejected by the legislature. A second defeat in two months prompted Emma Maddox Funck to expel Ellicott and the Equal Suffrage League from the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association. According to Maddox and other members of the Association, Ellicott’s organization’s actions violated the Association’s constitution, which “requires that all organizations affiliated with it confide their work within the circumscribed area for which they were organized.”8 Despite pleas for peace and an explanation of her actions, the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association banned Ellicott’s 600 member league.9

Ellicott, always determined, did not view her expulsion as a setback. She continued to defend the necessity of female suffrage, writing that suffrage, rather than civic clubs, was the best solution for women since suffragists “have been led to this movement because, having tried all other ways of civic betterment, the elevation of their sex and the solution of many social and economic problems, they have decided that the vote which controls the lawmakers and the law interpreters is the final appeal in a true democracy.”10 Following this statement, Ellicott announced in February 1911 the formation of the State Equal Franchise League of Maryland, a league encompassing the Equal Suffrage League of Baltimore, Montgomery County Woman’s Suffrage Club, the Just Franchise League of Talbot County, and a new suffrage club recently formed in Frederick County. The league was legitimized by Anna Howard Shaw, the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association.11 Ellicott was now a direct rival of Maddox and her league.

As president and spokesperson of the Equal Franchise League, Ellicott pursued new paths in order to inform all about the need for female suffrage and gain support for the cause. The Equal Franchise League did this by starting the publication of The New Voter in 1911. The magazine aimed to “elect pro-suffrage and defeat anti-suffrage candidates” by interviewing candidates who were “non-committal on the subject of woman suffrage” and by “educating the public about the aims of the suffrage movement and its legislative objectives.”12 The New Voter made history as the first suffrage magazine of Maryland, aiming to update voters and dispel myths regarding the female suffrage movement.

The Equal Franchise League continued to push Ellicott’s 1910 bill that granted women in Baltimore the right to vote, bringing it to the legislature again in 1912; it failed to pass. The League was feeling optimistic in 1914 and brought the bill to the legislature for a third time, saying that “the joint committees on constitutional amendments are seriously considering what will meet the policy of their party, and also the political aspirations and needs of women, we are much to be congratulated and should be much encouraged.”13 The bill failed again. In 1914, the bill did not even get a hearing, and some state legislators sent a message to the female suffragists telling them, “Don’t come asking us for the ballot. We won’t give it to you. You are not wanted in the Legislative halls. Go home and take care of the boys and girls.”14 This was a massive and hindering defeat for the League, but Ellicott told the members to persevere. Yet when momentum for the suffrage movement was finally on the upswing, Ellicott contracted pneumonia and died three weeks later from heart failure.

Ellicott’s death was a shock to all, suffragists and anti-suffragists alike. She left a large estate, valued around $250,000, and instructed that a majority of her money be donated to various organizations and institutions. Funds from her will were used to establish the Elizabeth King Ellicott Fellowship for the Political Education of Women at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland which is still awarded to “one or more graduate students of the college who shall apply herself or themselves to the study and development of the subject of the political education of women in the United States, the results of such studies to be published by the college.”15 Some funds were also left to Madeleine LeMoyne Ellicott in order “to pay the income therefrom for a period of 20 years to the Equal Suffrage League of Baltimore. It is to be used by it to promote the cause of woman suffrage in the State”.16

Elizabeth King Ellicott devoted the later years of her life to fighting for female suffrage. She was inhibited many times throughout her battle by politicians or even by other suffragists, but she never ceased her activism for such an important cause. Ellicott unfortunately never lived to cast a ballot, but her efforts were nonetheless incredibly influential. She inspired others, as seen through the massive amount of members in her suffrage leagues, and that legacy caused others to continue advocating for female suffrage until the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Elizabeth King Ellicott constantly followed her vision for the advancement of her gender through suffrage, and, as a visionary, her commemoration in the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame is completely earned.

1. Mal Hee Son Wallace, “Elizabeth King Ellicott, 1858-1914: Suffrage and Civic Leader,” in Notable Maryland Women, ed. Winifred G. Helmes, Ph.D. (Cambridge: Tidewater Publishers, 1977), 116. Return to text

2. Ibid, 117. Return to text

3. Carolyn Stegman, Women of Achievement in Maryland History (University Park: Women of Achievement in Maryland History, Inc., 2002), 30. Return to text

4. Wallace 117. Return to text

5. Wallace 118. Return to text

6. “To Plan Suffrage Fight: League’s Committee Will Outline Annapolis Campaign, Judge Moses to Advise Them; Members Say They Will Go Before Legislature Itself and Demand a Public Hearing,” Baltimore Sun, January 7, 1910. Return to text

7. Wallace, 119. Return to text

8. “Appeals Suffrage Tilt: Mrs. Ellicott Notifies National Body of League’s Expulsion; To Continue Work, She Says,” Baltimore Sun, October 30, 1910. Return to text

9. “Ellicott Cohorts Out: Equal Suffrage League Expelled from Convention; Speech Fails to Heal Breach,” Baltimore Sun, November 29, 1910. Return to text

10. “She Stands By Suffrage: Mrs. Ellicott Believes it Greatest Chance For Women; Elevation of Sex As Reason,” Baltimore Sun, January 29, 1911. Return to text

11. “New Suffrage Club out: it will Be Known As State Equal Franchise League of Maryland; Mrs. Ellicott Moving Spirit,” Baltimore Sun, February 25, 1911. Return to text

12. Wallace 120. Return to text

13. “Another Inning for Women: Mrs. W. M. Ellicott Says Suffragists Ought to Feel Encouraged,” Baltimore Sun, February 5, 1914. Return to text

14. Wallace 121. Return to text

15. “Estate to Aid Negroes: Mrs. Elizabeth King Ellicott Creates Fund For Their Benefit; Estimated At About $150,000,” Baltimore Sun, May 20, 1914. Return to text

16. Ibid. Return to text

Biography written by 2014 summer intern Sharon Miyagawa.

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