Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Florence Embrey King, 1870-1924
By Mary Osborne, museum specialist, The Stewart House, Monmouth, Illinois
Patent Attorney; Consulting Engineer; Vice-president, Women's Bar Association of Chicago; President, International Woman's Association of Commerce; Vice-president, Illinois branch of the American Association of Engineers; Director, Illinois League of Women Voters
Florence Embrey King was born on June 22, 1870, in Hudson, Iowa, to Herbert and Susan King. King left school at the age of fourteen to work on a nearby farm. She later attended Mount Morris College in Illinois, where she graduated in 1891 with an A.B. in stenography. Afterwards, she moved to Chicago and enrolled in the Kent College of Law. There she met and married Herbert L. Embrey, a fellow law student from Boston. Herbert died soon after he and Florence were married. They had one son, Willis King. Florence King practiced law in Illinois and specialized in contracts and in intellectual property. The first female patent attorney in the U.S., she died of breast cancer in 1924 in Chicago at the age of 53.
Florence was admitted to the bar on June 6, 1895, and supported herself as a stenographer until she built up her practice. She also studied at the Armour Institute for Technology and worked as a consulting engineer in machine design and construction. For many years, the American Association of Engineers recognized her as its only certified woman member, for she obtained the highest grade membership in the Association. In 1897, she became the first woman registered to practice before the U.S. Patent Office. King established offices for her practice in Chicago and Washington D.C. and gained admittance to practice before the federal courts in 1900. In 1903, she handled a case that resulted in her defeating a future U.S. Senator and established her reputation as one of the leading patent attorneys in the U.S.
In her spare time, she worked to create opportunities for women to develop leadership skills thereby embodying her maxim "Give a woman a man's chance." She founded the Alaska Gold Club in 1898 to assist those women who wanted to join the Klondike gold rush. As president of the International Woman's Association of Commerce, she encouraged chambers of commerce to admit women to membership. She also directed the Illinois chapter of the League of Women Voters. In 1914, she unsuccessfully ran for municipal judge in Chicago and later became a member of the faculty and assistant dean of the Chicago Law School. King accepted a case in 1921 which led to her becoming the first woman to win a case before the Supreme Court. King represented the Crown Die and Tool Company in a patent infringement lawsuit. She argued the case before the Supreme Court on January 17-18, 1923, and the court ruled in her favor on February 19, 1923.
"Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N34Y-YJ1 : 27 December 2014), Florence King, 20 Jun 1924; Public Board of Health, Archives, Springfield; FHL microfilm 1,877,529.
"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MS7F-1VF : accessed 27 October 2017), Florence King in household of Herbert A King, Maine Township Edison Park, Park Ridge villages, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 1171, sheet 28B, family 473, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,293.
"United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MKHJ-55Z : accessed 27 October 2017), Florence King, Maine, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 51, sheet 6A, family 123, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 239; FHL microfilm 1,374,252.
"United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MJSX-YCR : accessed 27 October 2017), Florence King in household of William F Brewster, Chicago Ward 1, Cook (Chicago), Illinois, United States; citing ED 3, sheet 5A, line 26, family 6, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 305; FHL microfilm 1,820,305.
"The Girl Who Liked to Tinker." The Business Philosopher. Vol. 15-16, 1918.
"Miss King to Attend Pan-Pacific Congress." The American Contractor. July 31, 1920.
Hatch, Sybil E. Changing Our World: True Stories of Women Engineers. ASCE Publications, 2006.
"Women's Legal History," accessible at http://wlh.law.stanford.edu/biography_search
For a photo of Florence King, see her brief bvio sketch in "Her Hat Was in the Ring," http://www.herhatwasinthering.org/biography.php?id=7182.