Allen, Florence E. (Florence Ellinwood), 1884-1966

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Florence Ellinwood Allen (March 23, 1884 – September 12, 1966) was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She was the first woman to serve on a state supreme court and one of the first two women to serve as a United States federal judge. In 2005, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Allen was born on March 23, 1884, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the daughter of Clarence Emir Allen Sr., a mine manager, and later United States Representative from Utah, and his wife Corinne Marie, née Tuckerman. She was one of seven children—five girls, one of whom died in infancy, and two boys. Her father was a professor and a linguist, and the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he was hired by what was then called the Western Reserve University and is today called Case Western Reserve University. Young Florence grew up in Cleveland, where her father shared his love of languages with her, teaching her Greek and Latin before she was a teenager. She also showed an early love of poetry, as well as a talent for music, and after attending New Lyme Institute in Ashtabula, Ohio, she decided to attend Western Reserve, with music as her major. Allen graduated in 1904 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and her father then sent her to Berlin, German Empire, to continue her musical studies. While she was there, she worked as a correspondent for a New York magazine called the Musical Courier. Her original plan was to become a concert pianist but she sustained an injury that cut her music career short. She returned to Ohio in 1906 and took a job as the music critic for The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) newspaper, a position she held till 1909. By this time, she had begun showing an increasing interest in politics and law, which led her to take a Master of Arts degree in political science from Western Reserve; she completed it in 1908. She also took courses in constitutional law, and would have pursued a degree, but at that time, Western Reserve's law school did not admit women. So Allen took special classes and tutorials, and became more determined to have a legal career. She attended the law school at the University of Chicago for a year, and then transferred to New York University School of Law. In order to pay her tuition, she found work as a legal investigator and researcher for the New York League for the Protection of Immigrants. In 1913, she got her Bachelor of Laws, graduating with honors. She returned to Cleveland and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1914.

By her own admission, she was not a success at first. She only made about $25 during her first month, and all she could afford for her office was two chairs and a borrowed typewriter. As she told a reporter in a 1934 interview, "I had no clients. And I had no money. But I had great hopes." However, in order to become successful, what she needed was some experience, so she did volunteer work with the local Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, where she not only got that experience but got involved with an important case about suffrage. As a child, her mother had taken her to see famous suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Anna Howard Shaw giving talks about women's rights. And the belief that women should be treated as equals under the law undoubtedly resonated with her even more as a result of her struggles to be taken seriously as an attorney. She became even more interested in politics, and more committed to the cause of women's suffrage. She was active in the Women's Suffrage Party and began challenging local laws that limited women's participation in the political process. And she argued one particular case that went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court: thanks to her efforts, she won the women of East Cleveland the right to vote in municipal elections. During this time, she also became involved in another cause, one that would be important to her all of her life: disarmament and the quest for world peace. For Allen, this was personal: both of her brothers died while serving their country during the First World War.

Once she won a few cases and gained the respect of her male colleagues, her career flourished. In 1919, she was appointed the assistant prosecuting attorney for Cleveland's Cuyahoga County. An active Democrat, she nevertheless encountered opposition from Democratic party chairman Burr Gongwer. However, the appointment was approved and she became the first woman in Ohio to hold such a position. She then began bringing cases before the grand jury. She also continued to advocate women's rights, even giving talks about her devotion to the Democratic party and the political process. By 1920, she was elected as a Common Pleas judge, on a non-partisan ticket. She was the first woman in this position too, and during her time on the bench she tried nearly 900 cases. Undoubtedly, her biggest challenge was a case involving gangster Frank Motto, who was convicted of the murder of two men during a robbery. With women on the jury and a woman judge, legal critics wondered whether the stereotype about women being emotional, and thus lenient, would come into play, but it did not. Motto was convicted, and in mid-May 1921, Allen sentenced Motto to the electric chair. Her meteoric rise continued when in 1922, Allen was elected to the Ohio Supreme Court. She immediately told reporters that she intended to keep partisan politics out of the judiciary. It was a promise she would keep.

In 1928, Allen was re-elected to a second six-year term on the Ohio Supreme Court. All of the winners in that election were Republicans except for her. She continued to be a popular figure in Ohio, honored by numerous civic groups for her fairmindedness; and lawyers who came before her praised her willingness to listen. And while she was not afraid to make the difficult decisions, even on death penalty cases, Allen was not just a "law and order" judge. She was also a mentor, who encouraged young women to become lawyers. She continued to give educational talks about the law, and she worked tirelessly to improve women's legal rights. She was a proponent of jury service for women, at a time when many states still did not allow women to serve, and she continued to encourage women to be politically active even while remaining non-partisan herself. By 1930, her reputation was so positive that some newspapers were suggesting that she be nominated for a seat on the United States Supreme Court. Among them was the Christian Science Monitor, which praised Allen for her "distinguished achievements" as a jurist.

Allen was nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 6, 1934, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit vacated by Judge Smith Hickenlooper. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 15, 1934, and received her commission on March 21, 1934. She was the second woman to serve in the federal judiciary and the first woman to serve as an Article III federal judge. Genevieve R. Cline was earlier appointed to serve as an Article I federal judge on the United States Customs Court. Her nomination to the prestigious position received widespread praise. Newspaper articles described Allen as "an able jurist" and a "profound student" of the law. Allen served as Chief Judge from 1958 to 1959. She was a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States in 1958. She assumed senior status on October 5, 1959. Her service terminated on September 12, 1966, due to her death.

The press continued to speculate on Allen as a possible Supreme Court nominee. In early 1939, when Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis was about to retire, some of Allen's supporters tried to persuade President Roosevelt that it was time to name a woman, and they reminded the president that Allen was extremely qualified. Chief among advocates on her behalf was Lillian D. Rock, former vice president of the National Association of Women Lawyers and chair of a newly created committee whose purpose was to encourage the appointment of more women to important positions in government. Allen was not named to the Supreme Court, however, and it was another male judge, William O. Douglas, who replaced Justice Brandeis. For the next few years, every time a vacancy occurred, Allen's supporters would again suggest her, but to no avail.

Allen's supporters again sought to have her appointed to the United States Supreme Court during Harry S. Truman's presidency, but Truman seemed to be opposed to having a woman sitting on the highest court of the land. Allen was later told that Truman's reluctance to appoint her had to do with his belief that having a woman around would make the male judges uncomfortable. "They say they couldn't sit around with their robes off and their feet up and discuss the problems." Truman's reluctance to appoint a woman extended to other venues. When there were more than 20 Federal court vacancies, his original list of nominees was all male; only after some influential women politicians protested, the president named one woman, Burnita Shelton Matthews, to the bench of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 1949. After her retirement, she continued to do speaking engagements and began working on her autobiography. It was called To Do Justly, and was published in the autumn of 1965.

In declining health after falling and breaking her hip, Allen died on September 12, 1966, in Waite Hill, Ohio, where she had been living with a distant cousin since her retirement.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn McCulloch, Catharine Waugh, 1862-1945. Papers in the Mary Earhart Dillon Collection, 1869-1945 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Family Planning Oral History Project. Records, 1909-1984 (inclusive), 1973-1977 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Beard, Mary Ritter, 1876-1958. Papers, 1935-1958 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972 (bulk 1929-1957) Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn National Lanier Centennial Committee. National Lanier Centennial Committee records, 1939-1945. Johns Hopkins University, Sheridan Libraries and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library
creatorOf Florence Ellinwood Allen Photographs, 1886-1963 Western Reserve Historical Society
referencedIn Dennett, Mary Ware, 1872-1947. Papers, 1874-1945 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Hand, Learned, 1872-1961. Papers, 1840-1961 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
referencedIn Papers, 1948 (1950-1956) 1964 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Allen, Florence Ellinwood, 1884-1966. Papers, 1921-1958 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964. Papers, 1918-1960 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Review of Reviews (New York, N. Y.), Golden Book Magazine, editorial correspondence, 1921-1935. Houghton Library
referencedIn Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1870-1960 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Hudson, Manley Ottmer, 1886-1960. Papers, 1894-1960 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
referencedIn Matthews, Burnita Shelton, 1894-1988. Papers, 1926-1981 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1965. Papers, 1797-1968 (bulk 1897-1968) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn McCulloch, Catharine Waugh, 1862-1945. Papers in the Mary Earhart Dillon collection, 1869-1945 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1942-1963 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Allen, Florence Ellinwood, 1884-1966. Papers, 1856-1967, bulk 1901-1967. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
referencedIn Dorothy Kenyon Papers MS 85., 1850 - 1998 Sophia Smith Collection
creatorOf Howard, Nathaniel R., 1898-1980. Papers, series II, 1929-1980. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
referencedIn Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Papers of Molly Dewson, 1893-1962 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Stantial, Edna Lamprey. Papers, 1836-1958 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Beers, George E. (George Emerson), 1865-1947. Letters from state and federal judges to George E. Beers concerning a report of the Committee on Uniformity of Judicial Decisions of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, 1934. Yale University, Law School Library
referencedIn Gellhorn, Edna Fischel, 1878-1970. Papers, 1919-1960 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Allen, Florence E. Foreign news in United States newspapers since the World War. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1963. Papers, 1797-1963 (inclusive), 1897-1963 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955. Papers of Maud Wood Park, 1844-1979 (bulk 1886-1951). Library of Congress
creatorOf Kaufman, Enit, 1908?-1961. American Portraits Papers, 1914-1958 (bulk 1940-1944). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Papers, 1893-1962 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Batten, Pluma Burroughs Penton, 1894-. Papers, 1948-1964 (inclusive), 1950-1956 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Sherwin, Belle, 1868-1955. Papers, 1880-1955 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Jones, Gwladys Webster, 1891-. Papers, 1929-1939 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Hand, Learned, 1872-1961. Papers, 1840-1961 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
referencedIn Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972 (bulk 1929-1957) Yale University Library
referencedIn Judson, Emily Chubbuck, 1817-1854. Emily Chubbuck Judson miscellany, 1936-1964. Cornell University Library
referencedIn The Nation, records, 1879-1974 (inclusive), 1920-1955 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Gellhorn, Edna Fischel, 1878-1970. Papers, 1919-1960 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn President's Secretary's Files (Truman Administration). 1945 - 1960. Personal Files. 1945 - 1953. Roosevelt, Eleanor: General [1 of 3]. 1945 - 1953. Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry S. Truman
creatorOf Allen, Clarence, 1900-. Clarence Allen oral history interview : Tape and transcript, 1980 February 5 [sound recording] / conducted by James Comish. Harold B. Lee Library
referencedIn Young, Louise Merwin, 1903-. Papers, 1946-1980 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Allen, Florence E. Speech, April 11th. Utah Division of State History, Utah Historical Society
referencedIn Enit Kaufman, American Portraits, Papers, TXRC99-A1., 1914-1958 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Woman's rights collection, 1853-1958 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Laidlaw, H. B. (Harriet Burton), b. 1874. Papers: Series V-VII, 1906-1947 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Florence Ellinwood Allen Papers, 1856-1967, 1901-1967 Western Reserve Historical Society
referencedIn Sage Colleges. Archives. Honorary degree recipient for 1947, Florence Ellinwood Allen. The Sage Colleges Libraries
creatorOf Allen, Florence Ellinwood, 1884-1966. Papers of Florence Ellinwood Allen, 1907-1965. Library of Congress
referencedIn McCulloch, Catharine Waugh, 1862-1945. Papers, 1877-1983 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lederle, Arthur F., 1887-. Arthur F. Lederle papers, 1914-1967, (bulk 1933-1960). Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
referencedIn Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Papers, 1898-1961, 1921-1961 (bulk) Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Allen, Florence Ellinwood, 1884-1966. Papers, 1920-1966. Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Laidlaw, Harriet Burton, 1873-1949. Papers, 1851-1958 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Allen, Corinne Marie Tuckerman, 1856-1931. Papers, 1896-1927 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1926-1981 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Kenyon, Dorothy, 1888-1972. Dorothy Kenyon papers, 1850-1998 (bulk 1888-1971). Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Humphrey, Helen Florence, 1909-1963. Papers, 1942-1963 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Collection of papers relating to Judge Florence Allen [manuscript]. Libraries Australia
creatorOf OAC Review Index (University of Guelph). Alumnae Tea is delightful occasion con't, OAC Review, v.52, no.8, Midsummer 1940, p. 506. University of Guelph
referencedIn Sherwin, Belle, 1868-1955. Papers, 1880-1955 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Rawalt, Marguerite, 1895-. Papers, 1870s-1989 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Elliott, Harriet Wiseman, 1884-1947. Harriet W. Elliott papers, 1900-1947. University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University Libraries, UNCG University Libraries
referencedIn Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1870-1960 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Allen, Florence Ellinwood, 1884-1966. Autograph letter signed Florence E. Allen to: "My Dear Mr. Fullerton" August 25, 1925. Wellesley College
referencedIn McCulloch, Catharine Waugh, 1862-1945. Papers, 1877-1983 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Frank, Jerome, 1889-1957. Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972 (inclusive), 1929-1957 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Shepherd, Arthur, 1880-1958. A psalm of the mountains / poem by Florence Ellinwood Allen ; set to music (chorus and orchestra) by Arthur Shepherd. Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library
referencedIn Dennett, Mary Ware, 1872-1947. Papers: Series II, 1894-1948 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. 1860 - 1964. Correspondence with Harry S. Truman. 1945 - 1962. Harry S. Truman, June 1947-1948. 1945 - 1962. Letter from Harry S. Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt
creatorOf Papers, 1921-1958 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Interviews, 1973-1977 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Woman's rights collection, 1853-1958 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1870s-1989 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Maud Wood Park papers, 1844-1979 (bulk 1886-1951) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Florence Ellinwood Allen Papers MS 2., 1920-1966 Sophia Smith Collection
creatorOf Florence Ellinwood Allen Papers, 1907-1965 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Allen, Clarence, 1900- person
associatedWith Allen, Corinne Tuckerman, 1865-1931 person
associatedWith Allen family. family
associatedWith Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964. person
associatedWith Anthony, Susan B. (Susan Brownell), 1820-1906. person
associatedWith Astor, Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor, Viscountess, 1879-1964. person
associatedWith Baker, Newton Diehl, 1871-1937. person
associatedWith Batten, Pluma Burroughs Penton, 1894-1996 person
associatedWith Beard, Mary Ritter, 1876-1958 person
associatedWith Beers, George E. (George Emerson), 1865-1947. person
associatedWith Bowen, Catherine Drinker, 1897-1973. person
associatedWith Bricker, John W. (John William), 1893-1986. person
associatedWith Catt, Carrie Chapman, 1859-1947. person
associatedWith Corinne Marie (Tuckerman) Allen (Mrs. Clarence Emir Allen), 1856-1931 person
associatedWith Davis, Frank, Jr. person
associatedWith Dennett, Mary Ware, 1872-1947 person
associatedWith Dewson, Mary (Molly) Williams, 1874-1962 person
associatedWith Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1963 person
associatedWith Elliott, Harriet Wiseman, 1884-1947. person
associatedWith Family Planning Oral History Project corporateBody
associatedWith Frank, Jerome, 1889-1957. person
associatedWith Fullerton, Hugh S. (Hugh Stuart), 1873-1945. person
associatedWith Gellhorn, Edna Fischel, 1878-1970 person
associatedWith Hand, Learned, 1872-1961. person
associatedWith Hauser, Elizabeth J., 1873- person
associatedWith Helen Florence Humphrey, 1909-1963 person
associatedWith Howard, Nathaniel R., 1898-1980. person
associatedWith Hudson, Manley Ottmer, 1886- person
associatedWith Humphrey, Helen Florence, 1909-1963. person
associatedWith International Federation of Women Lawyers. corporateBody
associatedWith Jones, Gwladys Webster, 1891- person
associatedWith Judson, Emily Chubbuck, 1817-1854. person
associatedWith Kaufman, Enit, 1908? -1961 person
associatedWith Kellor, Frances, 1873-1952. person
correspondedWith Kenyon, Dorothy, 1888-1972 person
associatedWith Laidlaw, Harriet Burton, 1873-1949 person
associatedWith Lausche, Frank John, b. 1895. person
correspondedWith Lederle, Arthur F., 1887- person
associatedWith Levinson, Salmon C. person
associatedWith Matthews, Burnita Shelton, 1894-1988 person
associatedWith McCulloch, Catharine Waugh, 1862-1945 person
associatedWith National Congress of Mothers corporateBody
associatedWith National Lanier Centennial Committee. corporateBody
correspondedWith Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865). corporateBody
associatedWith OAC Review Index (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith Ohio. Supreme Court. corporateBody
associatedWith Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955 person
associatedWith Rawalt, Marguerite, 1895- person
associatedWith Review of Reviews (New York, N. Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962. person
associatedWith Shepherd, Arthur, 1880-1958. person
associatedWith Sherwin, Belle, 1868-1955 person
associatedWith Smith, Margaret Chase, 1897-1995. person
associatedWith Stantial, Edna Lamprey. person
associatedWith Tennessee Valley Authority. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Court of Appeals (6th Circuit) corporateBody
associatedWith Upton, Harriet Taylor. person
associatedWith Young, Louise Merwin, 1903- person
associatedWith Young, Stephen Marvin, 1890- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Salt Lake City UT US
Ohio
Mentor OH US
Cleveland OH US
Chicago IL US
New York City NY US
Subject
Women lawyers--History
Women judges
Allen, Florence Ellinwood, 1884-1966--Photograph collections
Women's rights
Women judges--Correspondence, reminiscences, etc
War (International law)
Public utilities--Law and legislation
Women--Suffrage
Women as lawyers
Women--Suffrage--United States--History--Sources
Women lawyers--United States
Political science
International law
Women judges--United States
Courts
Women--Suffrage--History--Sources
Allen, Florence Ellinwood, 1884-1966
Peace
Judges--Correspondence, reminiscences, etc
Women lawyers
Courts--Ohio
War and society
Women and peace--History--20th century--Sources
Occupation
Feminists
Authors
Lawyers
Judges
Lecturers
Jurists
Activity

Person

Birth 1884-03-23

Death 1966-09-12

Female

Americans

English

Information

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