17. Florence E. Allen and "great changes in the status of women"
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N 1913, Cleveland native Florence Ellinwood Allen carried the banner of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) at the head of a national suffrage parade in New York City. A few months later, the Cleveland Plain Dealer noted Allen’s graduation from New York University Law School: “A boundless field for women who are anxious to help other women get a square deal in life is the law, and more and more every year young college women are cultivating the acquaintance of Blackstone and fitting themselves to win justice in ‘a man’s world.’ Cleveland has more than one woman lawyer. Now comes the news that a brilliant young woman who called this city home for several years has become a modern Portia with high honors.” Despite such praise, when Allen arrived in Cleveland ready to practice law, no firm would hire her. One male lawyer, pointing to a few snowflakes floating past the window, declared that he would not think of sending a woman down to the courthouse on a day like this. Undeterred , Florence Allen opened her own law office by September 1914, and soon Cleveland woman suffragists sought her help, as did others needing assistance in concerns about jobs, property, and wills. This would mark the beginning of a legal career which would allow Allen to become the first woman in Ohio to serve as assistant county prosecutor and the first woman in the nation to serve as a common pleas judge and a state supreme court justice. She also made history again in 1934, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit, making her the first woman to reach such a position. From 1936 until her retirement from the bench 17 218 Florence E. Allen and “great changes in the status of women” JOAN E. ORGAN  I vantne_3rd_chap17.qxd 11/10/2003 3:33 PM Page 218 in 1959, Allen’s name surfaced as a possible nominee each time a vacancy occurred on the U.S. Supreme Court. Allen’s career, though, was more than just a series of “firsts.” It symbolized the transition of the women’s movement from protest to participation. For suffrage activists like Allen, the franchise was not an end in itself but rather a means by which to create what they saw as a more just and equitable society. Although Florence Allen’s family was originally from northeastern Ohio, Allen was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 23, 1884, the third of six children of Clarence Emir Allen and Corrine Tuckerman Allen. Her father, who had graduated from Cleveland’s Western Reserve University in classics and law, had become ill soon after he married and had been advised to move to a drier climate. A friend, Cleveland Plain Dealer owner Liberty Holden, hired Allen to manage his salt mines in Salt Lake City, so he moved his family there in the early 1880s. In 1895, when single-taxer Clarence E. Allen went to Washington, D.C., to represent Utah in the U.S. House of Representatives, Florence 219 FLORENCE E. ALLEN FIG. 13 Florence E. Allen. Courtesy of The Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio. vantne_3rd_chap17.qxd 11/10/2003 3:33 PM Page 219 Allen and her two older sisters, Esther and Helen, moved to Ohio to live with their Tuckerman grandparents. Here Florence attended the Grand River Institute in Lyme, Ohio, where her grandfather Jacob Tuckerman was director. In 1900, at age sixteen, Florence Allen started her studies at the Women’s College of Western Reserve University . She graduated with honors in music in 1904. In 1904, the Allen children traveled with their mother to Berlin, where they would live for the next two years. Along with studying music at a conservatory and working as a music editor for the German Times, Allen became deeply involved in women’s rights. She already had some awareness because her mother was active in the Utah Congress of Mothers. Corrine had been invited to Berlin to address the 1904 International Council of Women (ICW) on her organization’s efforts to curb polygamy, and, more generally, Utah’s decision to grant women the right to vote in 1897 as a way to halt polygamy. Prior to the opening of the ICW conference, Carrie Chapman Catt, an elder stateswoman of the U.S. women’s rights movement, hosted a gathering attended by suffragists from around the world. There Allen met some of the...