13 Pioneering Women in American Law: Florence Ellinwood Allen
Florence Ellinwood Allen
Image from the Library of Congress.
Appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934, Florence Ellinwood Allen was the first female federal appellate court judge in the country. It was only one of several “firsts” for Florence.
Though her initial education was in music, she had decided to attend New York University Law School, graduating cum laude in 1913 at the age of 29. A mere six years later in 1919, she was appointed Assistant Prosecutor for Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the first woman in the nation to hold such a position.
Next, she ran for Common Pleas Court Judge in Cuyahoga County and became the first woman elected to a judgeship—and shattered the county’s popular vote record in that election. With hardly a pause, she then defeated both the Democratic and the Republican candidates in a 1922 election and became the first woman to sit on a state supreme court. She won re-election in 1928 to serve two terms in the Ohio Supreme Court.
It was on her 50th birthday that she would receive her nomination to the Sixth Circuit, and she held that position for 25 years, retiring at 75.
One of her noteworthy accomplishments was serving on a three-judge tribunal which decided the constitutionality of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
She also wrote the books This Constitution of Ours (1940), The Treaty as an Instrument of Legislation (1952), The Ohio Woman Suffrage Movement (1952), Challenges to the Citizen (1960) and To Do Justly (1965). She passed away in 1966.