Standing less than five feet tall and weighing around 100 pounds, Ellis Meredith was a tiny woman, but she took large strides to improve life for the women of Colorado. The daughter of a well-known suffragette and pioneer resident of Montana, Emily R. Meredith, Ellis understood the importance of the women’s movement from a young age. In addition to wanting women to have the vote, she was in favor of temperance since many men who abused their wives and children were drunks. Ellis Meredith dedicated her life to ensuring that women had the rights they deserved.
Meredith was born in Montana in 1865 and moved to Denver at a young age. She started as a proofreader at the Rocky Mountain News and later advocated for women’s rights in her own column, Women’s World. The state of Colorado was particularly open to women’s suffrage. With the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, the rapid decline in the value of silver, and the Panic of 1893, male voters in Colorado had much more important issues to worry about than women voting. The general sentiment was the situation in the state was so bad that giving women the vote could not make it any worse.
Meredith met Susan B. Anthony at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago to discuss the suffrage movement. Meredith asked Anthony for help and promised that if Colorado went for woman suffrage, the rest of the west would follow. Anthony viewed Meredith as a link to the Colorado suffrage movement and sent Carrie Chapman Catt to Colorado to help. In 1893, the year of the meeting between Meredith and Anthony, Colorado became the second state to grant women the vote. Colorado women took advantage of this right to work for the enactment of child labor laws, an eight-hour workday, and child abuse and negligence laws.
Meredith was a trailblazer for women in politics. She held several political positions, including delegate to the Denver City Charter convention, city election commissioner, and member of the Democratic Party State Central Committee. For much of Meredith’s life, women could not even vote for politicians, let alone hold political office. In 1904 she spoke before the US House of Representatives in favor of a national amendment that ensured all women in the country the right to vote. In 1908 the Atlantic Monthly published her article, “What It Means to Be an Enfranchised Woman,” in which she argued for women’s right to vote nationwide by demonstrating how Colorado women had taken advantage of this right. Meredith began working at the Democratic national headquarters in Washington, DC, in 1917.
Ellis Meredith died in 1955 in Washington, DC, at age ninety. She accomplished much for the women’s movement and was able to see universal women’s suffrage become a reality.