Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Julia H. Gross Ellington, 1847-1925
By Denise Dutton Benshoof, Cultural Historian, Snellville, Georgia
Program and Committee leader for the Atlanta Suffrage Association.
Julia H. Gross was born in Sylvania, Screven County, Georgia on March 29, 1847. Her parents were Edmund Burns Gross, 1818-1890, a farmer, and Susan R. Mercer, 1824-1902, both of Screven County, in southeastern rural Georgia. Julia had nine siblings.
Julia H. Gross married Asbury Fletcher Ellington (1851-1910), a Methodist minister. In the early years of their marriage, the Gross family lived near Sylvania in Screven County. Her husband, A.F. Ellington, born in North Georgia, was an early minister at the Wesleyanna Methodist Church in Sylvania. The Wesleyanna Methodist Church was formed in 1868.
Gross married into a family of Methodist ministers and politicians. Her husband's grandfather, William Ellington, was a Methodist minister and circuit rider in north Georgia. A brother of A.F. Ellington's was L.D. Ellington, who also became a Methodist minister.
A. F. Ellington's father, Coke Asbury Ellington, born in Jackson County on September 21, 1812, married Mary Carter Griffith, (1818-1894) and became a State Senator in north Georgia before the Civil War. During the Civil War, he was a Northern sympathizer who then joined Reconstruction efforts as a Republican politician until his death in 1895.
By 1890, A.F. Ellington was an active minister in the Atlanta Methodist Episcopal churches, and the couple lived in downtown Atlanta. The Ellingtons had four sons.
The Methodist Episcopal church in Georgia was supportive of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union when it first began in Georgia. The Georgia Woman's Christian Temperance Union was organized on January 11, 1883, in the basement of the First Methodist Church of Atlanta. The suffrage movement became tied to the temperance movement as a way to involve women in local politics to pass prohibition ordinances. However, Dr. Warren Akin Candler, at that time president of Emory College at Oxford and eventually the Methodist Episcopal, South, bishop, protested the growing women's suffrage connection to the W.C.T.U. When Frances Willard, a Methodist and President of the Woman's National Council of the United States, encouraged women as church ministers, he banned the Georgia W.C.T.U. from using Methodist Episcopal churches and facilities for activities in 1892 and for several years thereafter. The Georgia W.C.T.U. membership decline considerably.
The members of the W.C.T.U. and the women's suffrage volunteers decided to emphasize education in communities as a means of gaining support and growing membership. They also saw community education as essential to their mission of alcohol prohibition as necessary to have healthy communities. By 1909, both movements had grown and were established in the Atlanta area, and at the state W.C.T.U convention that year, both movements were recognized as "fraternal sisters." In Atlanta, both organizations were led by actual sisters; Rebecca Latimer Felton led the W.C.T.U. and Mary Latimer McClendon led the Atlanta Suffrage Association (A.S.A).
Atlanta was divided geographically into "wards," which delineated neighborhoods for governmental purposes. When the A.S.A. began its education programs, the idea was that education in areas of personal and community health issues, morals, and also employment social activism, including equal pay for men and women, would promote temperance. Julia Ellington was one of the volunteers who taught the education programs. Articles published in the Atlanta Constitution about the activities of the W.C.T.U. and A.S.A. after 1914 often list Ellington as a chair or working on a committee of three or more to lead education in different wards.
Ellington presented part of the program at an all-day meeting of the W.C.T.U. of Fulton County at Trinity Church on January 15, 1914. She "read reports of local work" at the April 20, 1915, all-day meeting of the W.C.T.U. held at the Baptist Tabernacle on Luckie Street in Atlanta.
In January of 1916, the Atlanta Equal Suffrage Association began a campaign for at least 5,000 signatures on a petition to ask for an amendment to allow women the right to vote in city elections, which would be attached to Atlanta's city charter. Ellington was appointed to the First Ward committee to organize the distribution of information to the ward and acquire signatures, along with Mrs. E.F. Ware, May C. Moore, Mrs. E.B. Moore, and Mary Russell.
On March 1, 1916, Ellington was appointed, along with Myrtle Alexander and Emma V. Paul, to co-chair the Literature Committee of the Atlanta Equal Suffrage Association.
On November 16, 1915, the Atlanta Equal Suffrage Association sponsored a parade which followed a civic parade for the City of Atlanta on November 16, 1915. Ellington marched with more than 100 other suffragists, along with the Children's Home Society, followed by a float with "Columbia" represented and children costumed to represent the different states that had already ratified the 19th Amendment.
At a meeting on February 6, 1917, the Atlanta Equal Suffrage Association put together a program calendar for the upcoming year. Ellington was asked to co-chair the programs for June, along with Mrs. W.A. Maddox and Clara L. Bovard.
In May of 1918, Ellington was appointed to manage the Tenth Ward in Atlanta during the Atlanta Equal Suffrage Association's crusade against the abundance of rats in the city. The Association held community meetings, at which Ellington was to chair and speak about how to eliminate vermin in the city.
In July of 1918, Ellington co-chaired the Fifth Ward committee to acquire signatures on a petition to be given to the United States Senate to request that women be allowed to vote in the federal elections. She shared this responsibility with Mamie Pitts, Mrs. Fred Ingram, Jessie Hudson, Mrs. E.E. Woodruff, and Mrs. J.A. Johnson.
Ellington was in attendance for the annual 1919 meeting of the Georgia Women's Suffrage Association. It was believed that the 1919 meeting would be the last annual meeting of the Association because the 19th Amendment was expected to be ratified during the summer of 1920. After the ratification of the Amendment, the Georgia Women's Suffrage Association became the League of Women Voters.
After the Nineteenth Amendment passed on August 18, 1920, Georgia suffragists discovered that the deadline for registering to vote in the upcoming elections in November had passed and they were ineligible to vote. The Atlanta Association decided to try to register to vote by going to pay property taxes. This was a courtesy often given to Confederate veterans. Widows paid their own taxes, and four women who were widows were selected to try to register. They were Ellington, McClendon, Jane Adkins, and Nancy Duncan. Their attempt was refused by the tax office. Other attempts were made to register, but the women in Georgia were not allowed to vote until 1922.
Ellington died on February 14, 1925 of influenza and pneumonia.
1850 United States Federal Census, Georgia, Screven County, District 74
1870 United States Federal Census, Georgia, Screven County, District 34, 084
1900 United States Federal Census, Georgia, Fulton County, Atlanta Ward 05, District 0068
Atlanta Constitution, Newspapers.com:
"All-Day Meeting, January 15, 1914
"Temperance Institute at Baptist Tabernacle," April 21, 1915
"Two Parades Today and Society Ball at Night to Feature Day's Program," November 16, 1915
"Local Suffragists Planning Campaign to Secure Ballot," January 22, 1916
"Committees Appointed," March 5, 1916
"Suffrage Notes," February 11, 1917
"Will Push Offensive Against Atlanta Rats," May 5, 1918
"Georgia Suffragists to Present Petition," July 14, 1918
"Mrs. McClendon Again Elected," December 6, 1919
"Julia H. Ellington." Death Certificates, Vital Records, Public Health, RG 26-5-95, Georgia Archives. georgiaarchives.org
Hardesty, Nancy A. "‘The Best Temperance Organization in the Land': Southern Methodists and the W.C.T.U in Georgia," Methodist History Volume XXVIII (April 1990) Number 3: pp. 187-194. Methodist History, (1990-04), April, 1990. The United Methodist Church General Commission on Archives and History. http://archives.gcah.org
Harper, Ida Husted, editor. The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI, 1900-1920, Chapter X, Georgia. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. http://chswg.binghamton.edu/docs/historyofwomansuffrage_vol6.pdf
Typed draft for history of the Georgia W.C.T.U., Manuscript Collection, Box 10, Folder 7, Georgia Woman's Christian Temperance Union records, 1888-1982, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.
"Weslyanna Memorial Church historical marker," Digital Library of Georgia, https://dlg.usg.edu/record/dlg_ghm_wesleyanna-memorial-church.
Young, James R. "Confederate Pensions in Georgia, 1886-1929." The Georgia Historical Quarterly, vol. 66, no. 1, 1982, pp. 47–52. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40580853.