From Ohio History Central
Florence Ellinwood Allen was the first woman to serve as a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court.
Allen was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 23, 1884. Allen's parents were Corinne Marie Tuckerman Allen and Clarence Emir Allen, a former professor of Latin and Greek at Western Reserve College. The Allen family had moved to Utah because of Clarence Allen's health before Florence's birth. From a young age, Florence Allen had an interest in music. She attended Western Reserve University, graduating with honors in 1904. After graduation, Allen traveled to Germany to further her music studies. Unfortunately, a nerve injury kept her from pursuing a career in music, and she returned to the United States in 1906.
Between 1906 and 1909, Allen utilized her musical training as a music critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. At the same time, she pursued a graduate degree in political science and constitutional law at Western Reserve. She received her master's degree in 1908, and in the following year, she moved to New York City to work for the New York League for the Protection of Immigrants. She also earned a law degree from the New York University School of Law in 1913.
Allen returned to Cleveland, where she gained admittance to the Ohio bar and established her own law practice. It was unusual for women to be lawyers during this period, but Allen, like many other women, sought additional employment opportunities during the 1910s and 1920s. She worked especially hard to challenge discrimination against women. Because Allen was a well-respected figure in the community, she was appointed Assistant Prosecutor of Cuyahoga County in 1919. The following year, with women voting for the first time because of passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Allen was elected judge of the Court of Common Pleas. In 1922, Allen won a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court. Not only was she the first woman to serve on Ohio's highest court, but she was also the first woman to serve on the supreme court of any state.
Allen continued to serve as a justice of the Ohio Supreme Court until 1934, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her to the Sixth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. Once again, Allen established a precedent as the first woman judge in a federal court. She eventually became chief judge of the court, until her retirement in 1959.
Allen authored several books throughout her lifetime, including a book of poetry as a young woman and her memoirs, titled To Do Justly (1965). She died at her home in Waite Hill, Ohio, on September 12, 1966. Throughout her life, Allen challenged traditional assumptions about women's roles and acted as a role model for women who wanted to pursue legal careers. Her contributions to numerous women's organizations and improvements in women's status throughout the twentieth century have been recognized through dozens of honorary degrees and induction into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame.
- Drachman, Virginia. Sisters in Law: Women Lawyers in Modern American History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.
- Ware, Susan. Beyond Suffrage: Women in the New Deal. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987.