Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Elinor R. Gebhardt, 1887-1958
By Hannah Warntjes, undergraduate student
Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Lawyer; Treasurer, WCTU of Hunterdon Country; Legislative Superintendent, NJ State Temperance Union; Second Vice President, New Jersey Woman's Suffrage Association.
Elinor R. Gebhardt was born on April 8, 1887 in Clinton, NJ to William C. Gebhardt and Evalina E. Reading and was the oldest of five siblings. She married Herbert C. Gilson at the first Presbyterian Church in Clinton, NJ on September 15, 1915 which was announced in The New York Times. Both Elinor and Herbert were lawyers and members of the NJ State Bar. The couple met in the law office of Elinor's father in Jersey City, NJ and had six children. Elinor died on December 26, 1958 and was buried in a Presbyterian Cemetery in Summit, NJ.
Elinor's father was known as an "aggressive attorney," served as a State Senator, a statewide leader on prohibition efforts, and was appointed a Clerk in the Supreme Court. Elinor took after her father and, after taking taking the state bar exam in 1910 at the NJ State House, was recognized as New Jersey's first female lawyer. She was very active in prohibition efforts and was said to be a "prominent member" of her father's law firm in Jersey City. In February 1912, she was even recognized in the Trenton Evening Times for representing two couples who desired to adopt two little girls. The adoption was allowed and the judge is said to have congratulated Elinor on "the manner in which she questioned the witnesses to the character of the couple desiring to adopt the children."
Elinor was actively involved in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), which, in addition to campaigning actively for temperance, also expanded its platform to include campaigns for labor laws, prison reform, and suffrage. From the period of 1907-1915, Elinor appears in many articles in "Woman's Page" of the Trenton Evening Times and other local newspapers highlighting her professional accomplishments as well as her temperance and suffrage activism. As early as 1907, she was elected recording secretary of the WCTU of Hunterdon County, and in 1909 she was elected Treasurer of that same WCTU chapter. Taking on even more leadership roles, Elinor was elected as the second Vice President of the New Jersey Woman's Suffrage Association in 1912 in which she was apart of a Joint Legislative Committee, representing four women suffrage organizations in NJ. Noted as being an "able and fluent speaker," many of the articles report that Elinor spoke several times at the Trenton Civics and Suffrage Club as well as for WCTU chapters across NJ. For example, as the superintendent of the legislative work for the State Temperance Union, she reportedly spoke at the WCTU anniversary in 1915, the year in which she was also selected as a NJ delegate for the National Conference of Charities and Corrections.
1915 is the last year in which any records about Elinor's activism can be found which is shortly before her first son, Thomas, was born in 1916. Though she may have continued to be involved with Temperance and Suffrage organizations, it is likely that being a mother of six, as motherhood did with many women, prevented her from being as actively involved in these movements as she was in her younger days.
Ancestry.com. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
"County W.C.T.U. to Meet Sept. 19." Ashbury Park Press 11 Sept. 1913: n. pag.
Find A Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials. N.p., 24 Oct. 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
"Firm History." Our 130 Year History Practicing Law in Hunterdon County New Jersey. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
"Governor Names Trenton Persons." Trenton Evening Times 5 Apr. 1915: n. pag.
Hunterdon County Democrat. "Gebhardt & Kiefer Make Book Donation to Family Success Center." NJ.com. N.p., 17 June 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
Hunterdon County Democrat. "Gebhardt & Kiefer of Clinton Township Donates 130 Cases of Pet Food to Animal Alliance." NJ.com. N.p., 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
Hunterdon County Democrat, "Gebhardt & Kiefer, P.C. Celebrates 130 Years." NJ.com. N.p., 10 Apr. 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
"Hunterdon County W.C.T.U. Meeting." Trenton Evening Times 21 Sept. 1907: n. pag. 7.
"Lawyers Wed in Jersey: Miss Elinor R. Gebhardt Marries Herbert Clark Gilson." New York Times, 16 Sept. 1915.
"Matrimonial Notes." The New Jersey Law Journal 38 (1915): 124.
"Miss Gebhardt Is Chosen an Officer: Is Elected Second Vice President of the New Jersey Woman's Suffrage Association," Trenton Evening Times 11 Nov. 1912.
"Miss Gebhardt to Speak in Trenton," Trenton Evening Times, 22 Feb. 1915.
"Miss Gebhardt to Wed H.C. Gilson," Trenton Evening Times 16 Mar. 1915.
"Senator Gebhardt's Daughter Takes Lawyer's Examination." Trenton Evening Times 18 Feb. 1910.
"Suffrage Meeting Tomorrow Evening." Trenton Evening Times 3 Apr. 1913.
"Temperance Union Holds Convention: Hunterdon County Organization Elects Officers and Names Superintendents." Trenton Evening Times 1 Oct. 1909.
"W.C.T.U. To Hold Anniversary Tonight." Trenton Evening Times 23 Feb. 1915: n. pag. Newspaper.com. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.
"Woman Lawyer Is Successful." Trenton Evening Times 2 Feb. 1912.
"Women Lawyers' Association." Women Lawyers' Journal 1-4 (1911-14.
Year: 1900; Census Place: Clinton, Hunterdon, New Jersey; Roll: 980; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0003; FHL microfilm: 1240980
Year: 1910; Census Place: Clinton, Hunterdon, New Jersey; Roll: T624_895; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0003; FHL microfilm: 1374908
Year: 1920; Census Place: Summit Ward 2, Union, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1072; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 159; Image: 432
Year: 1930; Census Place: Summit, Union, New Jersey; Roll: 1389; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0153; Image: 874.0; FHL microfilm: 2341124
Year: 1940; Census Place: Summit, Union, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2389; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 20-152