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Bertha Ellsworth

Born: February 23, 1847, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. Married Charles C. Ellsworth, divorced in 1885. Married Warren Manley, June 23, 1893, Jackson County, Missouri. Died: May 10, 1907, Oxnard, California.

Among the early leaders of women's suffrage in Kansas, Bertha Ellsworth was a founder of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association. She became a prominent voice of support for the suffrage movement, writing editorials for the Lincoln Beacon. Ellsworth worked to convince Kansas lawmakers during the 1885 and 1886 legislative session to support a bill for municipal suffrage for women. The 1887 law led to a Kansas woman becoming the first female mayor in the U.S., and the first all-woman city council.

Bertha Ellsworth was born to John and Elizabeth Hoffman McCormick, in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, on February 23, 1847. Her mother died when she was two and she was raised in the home of relatives, George and Jane McCormick Wilson.

Ellsworth developed a skill for writing as a child, producing poetry and essays. She found work at a watch factory in Elgin, Illinois, where she began a newspaper, The Lady Elgin.  The publication provided information for her fellow female co-workers and soon became an advertising medium for the Elgin watch company. Ellsworth was also a writer for the Phrenological Journal and a woman’s magazine.

She married Charles C. Ellsworth. They had one child, Charles Roy Wilson Ellsworth. They followed Bertha's foster parents to Lincoln County, Kansas, in 1876.

There she worked as a teacher and served as business manager and associate editor for the Lincoln Beacon from April 1, to November 1, 1885. She helped to found the Lincoln Equal Suffrage Association, organized on November 11, 1879. She was a founder of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association (KESA), organized on June 26, 1884, and was elected corresponding secretary.

Ellsworth took an active role as KESA pushed for woman's suffrage. Following the organization's goals, she worked with national suffrage leaders to try to convince U.S. congressional representatives to support a national suffrage law. In Kansas she work during the state legislative sessions in 1885 and 1886 to garner support of elected officials for a municipal suffrage bill. The bill passed and became law in early 1887, allowing women the right to vote and run for office that spring. As a result, Susanna Salter was elected mayor of Argonia, and Syracuse elected an all-woman city council.

She left Lincoln in 1890. She married Warren Manley in 1893 in Kansas City, Missouri. She eventually relocated to Oxnard, California. There she died on May 10, 1907.

Entry: Bertha Ellsworth

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2021

Date Modified: February 2021

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.