Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Madeleine L. Ellicott (1856-1945)
MSA SC 3520-13598


Madeline LeMoyne Ellicott was very involved in Baltimore society, but her most crucial contributions were in the women's suffrage movement. Ellicott was very active in the women’s suffrage movement in the late 1910s and is partially responsible for helping women get the vote in the United States.
Born in Chicago in 1856, Ellicott was a descendant of the Huguenots, a group that fled France upon the French Revolution and closely “identified themselves with the progressive work of the county which they adopted.”1 Ellicott embraced the progressive nature of her descendants and, from a young age, decided she wanted to study medicine. Her father was not very keen about this idea, and a majority of medical schools did not accept women at this time. Eventually her father acquiesced and allowed her to study chemistry. In addition to her studies in America, Ellicott also studied chemistry in Zurich, Switzerland. After her time in Switzerland, Ellicott returned to Baltimore, where her family lived, and tried to study chemistry at Johns Hopkins University. The University, however, was still gender-segregated, forcing Ellicott to abandon her studies.2 In 1890, she married Charles Ellis Ellicott, a successful engineer and descendant of the founder of Ellicott City, Maryland. Her first son, Charles Ellis Ellicott, Jr., was born in 1892, and her second son, Valcoulon LeMoyne Ellicott, was born in 1893.

Ellicott commenced her social work in Baltimore as president of the Children’s Playground Association. The first playgrounds in Baltimore were built in 1897, and Ellicott helped increase the number of playgrounds in the city during her time as president. In 1919, there were fourteen park playgrounds, three churchyard playgrounds, fourteen schoolyard playgrounds, twenty-nine guilds of play and story centers, and three institutions that taught playground instruction.3 These playgrounds gathered the “destructive agents in many neighborhoods” and placed them in an area where they could play without completely disturbing others. In 1921, the Children’s Playground League merged with the Public Athletic League, and the two leagues hoped they could reach out to over 200,000 children through playgrounds and athletics. Ellicott was elected vice president of the newly merged organization.4

Ellicott’s continuing compassion for children was also shown through her involvement with female juvenile delinquents. Furthering her belief that every woman should be aware of how courts and other institutions functioned, Ellicott sat in on court cases involving young females in order to provide moral support and was horrified when witnessing the aggressive tactics the court implemented to interrogate young girls.5 This “led to her work for the creation of the juvenile court and for state-supervised schools for girls requiring supervision.”6 The state-supervised school was originally called the Female House of Refuge, then changed its name to the Maryland Industrial School for Girls, and finally was called the Montrose School for Girls.7 The Montrose School was open until 1988, and Ellicott served on the school's board for decades.8 Ellicott also served on the Minors’ Law Commission which “aimed to “review and study all the laws of this State relating to minors.”9

Ellicott was concerned about the well-being of Baltimore children, but she was more concerned about women gaining the right to vote. Very active in the national movement, Ellicott participated in a 1913 suffragist march in which women from all over the country marched from Hyattsville, Maryland to the nation’s capital in order to voice their opinions about the necessity of female suffrage to the United States Senate.10 Ellicott also attended the final meeting of the National American Women Suffrage Association in Chicago in March 1919. She worked closely with leading suffragists, such as Carrie Chapman Catt, at this meeting, which caused her to become active in the League of Women Voters of the United States.11 After the meeting, Ellicott returned to Maryland and helped found the League of Women Voters of Maryland.

Elected the League's first president, Ellicott served as head for twenty years. She, however, faced extreme opposition in her fight for suffrage for Maryland women. The United States House of Representatives and Senate both approved the 19th Amendment in 1919, meaning that the states now had to ratify the amendment for it to become law. Politicians in Maryland were “behaving badly” and would “not come out for suffrage,” forcing Maryland women to rely on other states in the Union to legalize federal suffrage.12The Maryland General Assembly voted against the amendment, but it went on to became law anyway.13 The national effort for suffrage was finally over, and Ellicott began focusing her efforts on registering women to vote in Maryland.

The first election in which Maryland women could vote was the 1923 state legislature election, and Ellicott and the League of Women Voters decided to prepare a special drive that would encourage women to go to the polls.14 In the weeks leading up to the election, the League conducted a thorough investigation of the political situation of women in Baltimore and realized that their task of registering women to vote had many barriers. The League concluded that the main reason why many women did not plan to vote in the upcoming election was that their husbands would not allow them to do so. Two out of three women did not even know there was a primary election that Fall.15 Clearly, the League had a massive amount of progress to make, but this did not deter Ellicott. She wisely said that “this condition simply means that the women who worked and fought for suffrage, believing that the participation of women in public affairs would be beneficial both to the Government and to women themselves, still have the bulk of their work ahead of them. Maryland, of course, is an anti-suffrage hotbed…Here, we have lagged back, but I am not discouraged.”16 Ellicott never quit, as shown through her twenty year run as president of the League, and she continued to encourage women to exercise their right to vote for many years.

Madeleine LeMoyne Ellicott was truly a progressive woman and made extensive efforts to improve the quality of life for women and children in Maryland. Ellicott made sure that children were being treated fairly by the court system and that they had safe places to play, but she is most important for her suffrage work. As a suffragist, Ellicott devoted her life to national and local suffrage organizations in order to eventually give women the right to vote. Thanks to her efforts as the first president, the League of Women Voters of Maryland is still a strong force in the state. Ellicott is a key figure in Maryland’s suffrage history, making her an absolute ideal candidate for the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame.

1. Margie H. Luckett, Maryland Women (Baltimore: Margie H. Luckett, 1931), 118. Return to text

2. Carolyn B. Stegman, Women of Achievement in Maryland History (University Park: Women of Achievement in Maryland History, 2002), 29. Return to text

3. “Hundreds Of Happy Children In City's Recreation Centers Are Result Of Work Of Children's Playground Association,” Baltimore Sun, October 26, 1919. Return to text

4. “Recreation Planned for 200,000 Children,” Baltimore Sun, November 15, 1921. Return to text

5. Luckett 119. Return to text

6. Stegman 29. Return to text

7. Secretary of State, Maryland Manual 1930 (Baltimore: 20th Century Printing Co.), 1931, pg 24. Return to text

8. Maryland Manual Online, Department of Juvenile Services,”Historical Evolution,” Return to text

9. Secretary of State, Maryland Manual 1923 (Baltimore: 20th Century Printing Co., 1923), pg. 79, Return to text

10. “WOMEN FORCE THEIR CLAIMS ON SENATE: Suffragists, After Parade From Hyattsville, Invade Capitol At Washington HEAR SPEECH AGAINST CAUSE Assemble In Maryland Town For Spectacular March On Washington--Members Of Congress With Them--Baltimore Represented,” Baltimore Sun, August 1, 1913. Return to text

11. Stegman 29. Return to text

12. Madeleine LeMoyne Ellicott to Alice Leonard Gaule, September 26, 1919. Return to text

13. 1920 Laws of Maryland, Joint Resolution no. 2, Return to text

14. Madeleine LeMoyne Ellicott to Alice Leonard Gaule, May 29, 1923. Return to text

15. Katherine Scarborough, “Why Don’t Maryland Women Vote?: ’Husband Won’t Let Me,’ Many Give As Their Reason For Staying Away From Polls. Indifference A Big Factor,” Baltimore Sun, October 28, 1923. Return to text

16.Ibid. Return to text

Biography written by 2014 summer intern Sharon Miyagawa. 

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