Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Ellen S. Leckenby, 1844-1932

By Chrystal Omotunde, undergraduate, University of California, Berkeley

Ellen Swinburne was born on January 11, 1844 in Rochester, New York to English immigrant father George Swinburne and New York native mother Maria Draper. In 1870, Ellen married English immigrant Alfred B. Leckenby, and the couple were blessed with three sons and two daughters. By the 1900's, the Leckenby family had relocated to Seattle, Washington; Leckenby worked at home and her husband worked as a horticulturist.

Leckenby involved herself with the first and only suffrage organization in the State of Washington called the Washington Equal Suffrage Association (WESA). Leckenby's meticulous work ethic earned her the role as WESA's corresponding secretary. Her responsibilities included writing letters, scheduling appointments, and corresponding with other local women's associations in various states to find sponsors for suffrage meetings.

Leckenby played a significant role in mobilizing the 19th annual WESA convention on November 22, 1905. The convention focused on the elevation of women, generating an increase in WESA membership in which Leckenby played a large factor. The wide success resulted in Seattle as the new home for WESA conventions from 1907 to 1909.

Leckenby received recognition for being the best known women of the State. She was then asked to lobby on the association's behalf, on a legislative campaign conceived at the 22nd WESA convention in June 1908. The objective of the campaign focused on generating support for woman suffrage among men. Citizens were solicited to vote, newspapers were bombarded with non-stop suffrage news, and members of state Senate also received letters asking to support the movement. By the end of the 1910 campaign, 52,299 men voted for woman suffrage and 26,676 against it. On November 8th, 1910, Seattle became the first city to obtain complete effects of suffrage as the result. Leckenby and other women activists in the suffrage movement made change materialize. At this time, articles consistently mentioned Leckenby for her dedication, her role as a committee member, and her contributions to the WESA conventions.

Leckenby witnessed firsthand the immense growth WESA achieved in women's involvement, as well as the escalation in officer positions as the suffragist movement expanded. Leckenby announced that, "six years ago Mrs.Spinning and myself were about the only officers in the state; now look at our splendid executive board." (Ross-Nazzal, 119). Although WESA originated with a small staff, Leckenby remained optimistic for effecting change in her society and for women everywhere. After the expeditious run and achievement from the conventions, members now numbered in the thousands. By 1911, the WESA executive committee decided to disperse once all internal tasks were completed and bills paid in Seattle. Leckenby and a few other women finished the work for the association and targeted California to be the location of the next campaign.

By 1930, Leckenby lost her husband and became a widow. She spent the remainder of her life in Seattle, Washington, dying on May 5, 1932 at the age of 88. Leckenby in every sense of the word, was an inspiration to women and men of her time.

Sources: Accessed April 20, 2017.

Becker, Paula. "" The Washington Equal Suffrage Association. May 3, 2008. Accessed April 21, 2017.

"Department of Health." View Record. Accessed April 21, 2017.

"Ellen S Leckenby." Ancestry. Accessed April 21, 2017.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan B. Anthony, and Mathilda Joslyn Gage. History of Woman Suffrage. 1900-1920. New York: Arno Press, 1969.

"The Woman's Tribune," Vol. 23 (1906). Accessed April 21, 2017.

"A Magazine of Education and Progress." The Pacific Monthly, January 1, 1911, 26th ed.

Ross-Nazzal, Jennifer. "Emma Smith Devoe: Practicing Pragmatic Politics in the Pacific Northwest." Pacific Northwest Quarterly. 96:2 (Spring 2005), 76-84.

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