1. Education

Florence Ellinwood Allen

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Dates: March 23, 1884 - September 12, 1966

Known for: pioneer as a woman judge: first female elected as a judge of the court of common pleas, first female elected to the Ohio Supreme Court, first woman in the world to sit on a court of last resort, first woman appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, first appointment of a woman to any federal bench of general jurisdiction, first woman judge to deliver a death sentence

Occupation: lawyer, judge, feminist

Also known as: Florence Allen

Background, Family:

  • Father: Clarence Emir Allen, classics teacher, later mine manager, lawyer, and member of the Utah House of Representatives
  • Mother: Corinne Marie Tuckerman

Education:

  • New Lyme Institute, Ohio, 1895-97
  • Salt Lake College, 1897-99
  • College for Women of Western Reserve University, B.A., 1904
  • University of Berlin, 1904-06 (music)
  • Western Reserve, M.A., political science, 1908
  • University of Chicago Law School, 1909-10
  • New York University, LL.B. cum laude, 1913

About Florence Ellinwood Allen:

Florence Ellinwood Allen was born in Salt Lake City. Her father, who taught classic languages, taught her Greek and Latin. She heard Susan B. Anthony speak, and Anthony became something of a mentor to the young woman.

Florence Ellinwood Allen studied music first in Ohio, then in Salt Lake City, and finally at the College for Women of Western Reserve University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

After her career as a pianist was cut short by an injury, Allen studied politics at Western Reserve while working as a music critic for a Cleveland paper. She then decided to study law. Western Reserve would not admit women to its law school, so she studied at the University of Chicago and New York University. She worked as a music lecturer and an investigator for the New York League for the Protection of Immigrants while she completed law school.

Allen established a law practice in Ohio, working for Legal Aid and for woman suffrage. She worked with the Legal Aid Society and the Woman's Suffrage Party, taking a leading role in the suffrage campaigns in Ohio. In 1916, she convinced the Ohio Supreme Court that women in East Cleveland, Lakewood, and Columbus should vote.

Florence Ellinwood Allen served as an assistant prosecutor in Cuyahoga Country before her election as a judge, serving as the first female elected as a judge of the court of common pleas (1920) and the first female elected to the Ohio Supreme Court (1922). In that position, she was the first woman in the world to sit on a court of last resort.

During the 1920s, Allen became a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1932, Allen ran for the House of Representatives, winning the Democratic primary but losing the general election. In 1934 President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Florence Ellinwood Allen to the US Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, the first appointment of a woman to any federal bench of general jurisdiction.

When there was a vacancy on the US Supreme Court in 1937, it was widely thought that Roosevelt would appoint Allen to that seat. She likely had the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, but FDR appointed Hugo Black, a Senator from Alabama.

She served on the Court of Appeals until she retired in October 1959, and was chief judge of that court in the later years of her service.

Among the many cases she heard was the testing of the constitutionality of the Tennessee Valley Authority. She was active in human rights work through the International Bar Association and the International Federation of Woman Lawyers.

Florence Ellinwood Allen was a fellow of the American Bar Association, and received many awards and honorary degrees and published two books on law and another on her life, To Do Justly, published in 1965. She died one year after breaking a hip.

Places: Salt Lake City, Utah; Ohio

Organizations: Ohio Woman's Suffrage Party, Legal Aid, New York League for the Protection of Immigrants, American Bar Association, International Bar Association, International Federation of Woman Lawyers

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