Biography of Ellen Powell Thompson, 1840-1911
President of the Women’s Suffrage Association of the District (1895-1896, 1897-1900); Washington, D.C. Representative who spoke before the Congressional Committee on Woman Suffrage in 1896
Ellen Louella (Nellie) Powell Thompson was born in 1840 in Jackson, Ohio to John and Mary Powell. She became a teacher at the age of sixteen. She married Prof. Almon Harris Thompson (1837-1906) on July 8, 1862 in Wheaton, Illinois. She continued to work as a teacher and when her husband entered the army, she took up his position as a superintendent of schools. She spent the summer of 1863 at Cairo, Illinois caring for sick and wounded soldiers while her husband was stationed there.
Thompson (and her dog Fuzz) also accompanied her husband on an 1871 Colorado River expedition led by her brother Major John Wesley Powell. Prof. Thompson served as Major Powell’s chief assistant on the expedition. The expedition made maps of several western territories, often traveling on mule or horseback. On her journey she befriended some of the native American tribes and collected botanical samples. Three of the plants she discovered are named for her: Thompson’s Dalea (Psrothamnus thompsoniae), Thompson’s Penstemon (Penstemon thompsoniae), and Thompson’s Woolly Locoweed (Astralagus mollissimum var. thompsoniae). On the trip, Prof. Thompson named the summit of the Henry Mountains Mount Ellen after his wife. Her plant collection is preserved in the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University and her diary from the trip is in the collection of the New York Public Library manuscripts and archives division, along with her husband’s diary.
They moved to Washington, D.C.in the early 1880s when Prof. Thompson began to work for the U.S. Geological Survey under Major Powell. There, Thompson became active in a number of groups. She served as President of the Women’s Suffrage Association of the District from 1895-1896 and from 1897-1900 , served as chairman of the bust fund committee in 1898 (raising money to create busts of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony), and served as the organization’s delegate to the Annual National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention several times.
She notably spoke as the Washington, D.C. representative before the Congressional Committee on Woman Suffrage on January 28, 1896. In her speech, she specifically noted that arguments against granting the vote to women due to lack of political experience and education made no sense, as first, women lacked the ability to gain experience (stating, “We cannot swim without water to swim in”) and second, girls had actually gained significantly higher levels of education than boys over the previous 20 years. Articles describing her suffrage work in the District of Columbia appeared in a variety of newspapers across the nation. She was quoted on more than one occasion quipping that she was gratified that in Washington, D.C., men had no more political rights than women (due to lack of voting representation for the District in Congress).
Ellen Powell Thompson also served as the chairman of the congressional committee for the National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention in 1898. She was a founding member of the Equal Suffrage Association of the District of Columbia, which combined several suffrage groups and was auxiliary to the American Woman Suffrage Association, in December 1898. She was also active in Wimodaughsis as a director in 1985, in the local committee on arrangements for the National Council of Women in 1899, and in the Junior Equal Suffrage Club in 1903.
Apart from her suffrage work, she was also a founding member of the Anti-Division Association (which promoted enforcement of criminal law) and the Woman’s Anthropological Society in 1896, and was also active with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of the District of Columbia and the Federation of Women’s Club of the District of Columbia.
The Thompsons had no children. He predeceased her in July 1906 after suffering from stomach cancer for several years. She died on March 12, 1911 of sudden heart failure. Ellen Powell Thompson is buried with her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.
Almon Harris Thompson and Ellen Powell diaries, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. http://archives.nypl.org/mss/4152
A canyon voyage: the narrative of the second Powell expedition down the Green-Colorado River from Wyoming, and the explorations on land, in the years 1871 and 1872 by Dellenbaugh, Fredrick Samuel. Published 1908.
The Decatur Herald Jan. 25, 1896. P 4.
Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 16 Feb 1898. P 7.; August 1, 1906. P 2; Dec. 23, 1898. P 9.
John Wesley Powell: An Annotated Bibliography Marcia L. Thomas. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.
John Wesley Powell’s Headquarters at Kanab. Lyndia Carter. History Blazer, December 1996. Published online at http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/trappers,_traders,_and_explorers/johnwesleypowellsheadquartersatkanab.html.
Press, Platform, Pulpit: Black Feminist Publics in the Era of Reform by Teresa Zackodnik. P 233.
Victorian Flower Power. Anne Merrill Ingram. Common-Place vol. 7 no. 1 October 2006. http://www.common-place-archives.org/vol-07/no-01/ingram/
The Washington Times, Jan. 17, 1896. P 5; 13 Mar 1911. P 2. (Obituary)
Weisheit, John. “The Powell Survey of the 1870s: Art & Science from the Saddle. On the Colorado.”
Biography of Mary Lucinda Rogers Talbott, 1832– 1921
President of the Women’s Suffrage Association of the District of Columbia (1904-1905)
Mary L Talbott was born October 24, 1832 in Waterloo, Illinois to Emory Peter Rogers and Eunice Ashley Ward Rogers. She married Henry Clay Talbott (born 1828) on October 24, 1850 in Monroe, Illinois. According to census records, she had five children, of which only Henry Talbott, born 1851, appeared to survive childhood. Her husband died sometime between 1870 and 1880.
Mary helped incorporate the District of Columbia Woman Suffrage Association in March 1901. The articles of incorporation stated, “The stated objects of the association are to secure for women citizens of the United States the full right of suffrage and the same rights to which any other citizens may be entitled; to build in this city a club house for women and to collect and to disburse funds for the purpose of erecting such club house and other appropriate memorials to the memory of women who have performed national or other meritorious work for the enfranchisement of women and the good of humanity. The association is also formed for educational, literary, and scientific purposes and for mutual improvement.”
She served as president of the District of Columbia Woman Suffrage Association from 1904-1905. During her tenure, the association performed a study of Fisk’s Civil Government of the United States, Laws affecting Women and Children, taxation, and other subjects of public interest. The association also supported a variety of bills proposed in U.S. Congress considered of special interest to women, including those for the protection of neglected and delinquent children, compulsory education, restriction of child labor, raising the salaries of public school teachers, and the establishment of a juvenile court. She was active with the committee on local arrangements for the meeting of the thirty-fourth annual convention of National Suffrage Association meeting twice.
Mary was also active in the Equal Suffrage Association of the District of Columbia, where she was elected auditor. In January 1908, Mary was an active proponent of a petition authored by the Equal Suffrage Association asking that women be permitted to vote on the question of abolishing liquor in the District of Columbia. The ESA specifically stated at the time that it had no particular opinion on the issue of prohibition of alcohol, but were involved only to secure the ballot.
Mary also participated in the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Political Study Club, and the Women’s Beneficent Society of People’s Church.
Her son, Henry Talbott, became the secretary of the Interstate Commerce Commission (also chief of division of indices of the ICC, tariff expert). Mary was credited with assisting him with many reports of the ICC. Together, they started the Talbott Free Library in Waterloo, Illinois in 1892 with a donation of a collection of 2,000 reading materials. The library first opened in 1894 and relocated to a new location, the former home of Colonel William Rawls Morrison, in 1911. The city clerk at the time, J.W. Jackson, moved into the house and began a long tradition of librarians living in the home. After her son died of pneumonia in 1916 at the age of 64, she became the librarian, moved into the library herself, and spent several thousand dollars on remodeling the building.
She died on January 11, 1921 at age 89 from a fall in Waterloo, Illinois. The library she helped found still exists today under the name of Morrison-Talbott Library.
Evening Star (Washington D.C.). March 19, 1901; Jan 30, 1904. P 10; Feb 10. 1904. P 10; April 2, 1904. P 24; Dec 1, 1907. P 72; Feb. 29, 1916. P 10.
Find a Grave (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed Jan 1, 2018), Waterloo City Cemetery, Waterloo, Ill., Mary Lucinda Rogers Talbott, Memorial #54571000.
“Illinois, County Marriages, 1810-1940,” Database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KF2T-3J9 : 4 November 2017), Henry C Talbott and Mary Y Rogers, 24 Oct 1850; citing Monroe, Illinois, United States, county offices, Illinois; FHL microfilm 1,006,355.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/2:2:SP5N-X7V : accessed 2018-01-02), entry for Mary Lucinda /Rogers/.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Ancestral File,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/2:1:M751-2LR : accessed 2018-01-02), entry for Mary Lucinda ROGERS.
“United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M858-84K : 12 April 2016), Mary Rogers in household of Barbary Schemberg, Waterloo, Monroe, Illinois, United States; citing family 1344, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
“United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6HJ-ZWX : 12 April 2016), Mary L Talbott in household of H C Talbott, Illinois, United States; citing p. 10, family 74, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 545,760.
“United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MXVY-F4S : 15 September 2017), Mary L Talbott, Waterloo, Monroe, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district ED 65, sheet 36D, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0237; FHL microfilm 1,254,237.
“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMF3-TVH : accessed 1 January 2018), Mary L Talbott in household of Harry Atchison, Washington city, Washington, District of Columbia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 81, sheet 5A, family 88, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,161.
“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MK6R-MYR : accessed 1 January 2018), Henry Talbott in household of Mike Schorr Jr., Waterloo Ward 1, Monroe, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 81, sheet 8A, family 85, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 312; FHL microfilm 1,374,325.
The Washington Times. Feb. 3, 1902. P 6.
The Washington Post. Jan, 21, 1910. P 2.
Waterloo library celebrating 125 years. By Sean McGowan. Sept. 13, 2017. http://www.republictimes.net/waterloo-library-celebrating-125-years/. Visited Dec. 2017.