Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Ethel Millington Hammond, 1884-1945
By Gwendolyn Ryan, Student, Newark Charter High School, Newark, Delaware
Edited by Anne M. Boylan, University of Delaware
Suffragist, Democratic Party Activist, Red Cross Volunteer
Ethel Janvier Millington was born in 1884 to Ida M. and George A. Millington and was a resident of Dover, Delaware. She had two siblings: Marguerite Millington and George P. Millington. Ethel Millington Hammond was a prominent figure in the Delaware women's suffrage movement and also actively supported her community.
From a young age, Ethel Millington loved animals; when she was only about five years old she entered a white rabbit into the Delaware State Fair. Her rabbit gave birth, attracting crowds at the fair, and “Miss Ethel was the proudest little damsel on the grounds and would not have traded exhibits for the most valuable entry on the list.” Later she was an advocate for laws prohibiting animal cruelty. For sheer excitement, however, it would be difficult to top her experience in 1898 when she became a witness in a sensational murder trial. The murder weapon, poisoned candy, was sent from California to Dover by a woman having an affair with a local man, John Dunning, who had moved with his family to San Francisco a few years earlier. While Dunning's wife was visiting her parents in Dover, Ethel called upon her. That evening, she ate a small amount of the candy and became ill. The arsenic-laced candy, however, claimed the lives of both Mary Elizabeth Dunning and her sister Ida Deane. Teenaged Ethel travelled to California twice to testify in court.
The Hammond family were prosperous and locally well-connected. George Hammond was the proprietor of Dover's Capitol Hotel, where the family lived, and had earlier managed hotels in Maryland. In 1899, he became the city's mayor. A Democratic Party stalwart, George Hammond also served as president of the Delaware State Fair for many years. In observing her father in all of these roles, Ethel would have gained an on-the-ground education in Delaware politics, particularly when the General Assembly was in session. In December 1904, George Hammond died from a stroke at the Capitol Hotel, leaving his entire estate to Ethel's mother, Ida M. Millington. Not long thereafter, in November, 1905, at the Millington home, Ethel was married in an Episcopal ceremony to Rosewell Hammond, a Dover lawyer who would later spend much of his legal career in Philadelphia. During her marriage, Ethel Hammond bore six children—Rosewell Jr., George, Anthony, Francis, Levi Jay, and Hope—five of whom survived childhood.
Ethel Hammond's active involvement in the effort to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment began in 1919, when the Delaware Equal Suffrage Association pressed the pro-suffrage governor, John G. Townsend, Jr., to call a special session of the State Legislature to consider ratification. As president of the Dover Equal Suffrage Association, Ethel Hammond worked with Mabel Lloyd Ridgely, Winifred Morris, and others. Speaking for the group, she “invited the members to hold the next State convention at the capital city,” which they did. The women succeeded in having the special meeting of the Legislature called in 1920, but despite its striking constitutional history (being the first state to approve the U.S. Constitution), Delaware failed to ratify the 19th Amendment in 1920, which would have made it the deciding state for the amendment. Delaware would not ratify until 1923.
After suffrage was won nationally, Ethel Hammond became involved in Democratic Party politics and the new League of Women Voters, serving as president and press officer for the League beginning in 1921. In those endeavors, she participated in helping organize the Women's Joint Legislative Committee, which would use its influence in having legislation passed of interest to women. In 1928, she was chosen as a member of the Delaware State Democratic Committee.
Shortly thereafter, however, the Hammond family moved from Dover to Lower Merion, outside Philadelphia. The move may have been precipitated by Rosewell Hammond's Philadelphia-based law career, but it may also have been a response to changes in the family's dynamics. Early in 1920, Ethel's mother, Ida, had died. Then, in 1924, tragedy struck when the infant Jay died at home after a brief illness. The birth of a sixth child and only girl in 1926, whom the couple named Hope, was followed by the decision to leave Dover and make their new home in Lower Merion. By all accounts, they were well off, owning a $50,000 home and having a live-in servant. Yet at some point during the next decade Ethel and the younger children moved back to the family's Dover home on State Street, away from her husband. Although theories could be conjectured as to this separation, such as financial troubles due to the Great Depression, no sources give any evidence to support them.
In her later life, Ethel Hammond involved herself in a number of community service projects. In 1940 she participated in the Fresh Air Fund program to host underprivileged children from tenement districts in New York, sponsoring one child at her home in Dover. During the Second World War, Hammond served as a Red Cross Gray Lady, for which she was honored with a ribbon in 1945 for her extensive service at the Dover Army Air Field station hospital. As part of the war effort, too, she volunteered for the Dover branch of the Needlework Guild, which sought ways to deal with war-related fabric rationing; she was the assistant treasurer in 1944.
Ethel Hammond died suddenly on November 20, 1945 at age 61 in her home at 208 North State Street in Dover. In her will she divided her property equally among her five surviving children, and named her son Anthony as administrator. Her husband was mentioned in neither her will nor her obituary, suggesting that they were not on good terms at the time of her death. When Rosewell Hammond died in 1950 from monoxide poisoning from a faulty heater, at his farm outside Dover, he was buried in Pennsylvania. Ethel Hammond was buried near her infant son Jay in the graveyard at Dover's Christ Episcopal Church, the congregation of which she was a lifelong member. In later years, her son Anthony (d. 1992) and daughter Hope Hammond Massey (d. 1991) also chose to be buried there. An obituary in the Delaware State News hailed her as “a pioneer in the women's suffrage movement in this state.”
Ethel Hammond (far right) is honored for her work with the Red Cross.
Source: Wilmington News Journal, March 21, 1945
Ethel Hammond's home at 208 North State Street.
Photo by Gwendolyn Ryan
The grave of Ethel Hammond (findagrave.com)
Biographical information on Ethel Millington Hammond, including genealogical details on the Millington and Hammond families, can be gleaned from the census, vital records, and city directories available via Ancestry.com. Additional biographical information, including obituaries, on Ethel Millington Hammond and her family, can be found in Delaware newspapers digitized by Newspapers.com. The web site findagrave.com has posted images of family graves.
Individual newspaper articles of particular importance include “Born at the Fair,” Wilmington EveningJournal, October 3, 1889, about her rabbits; and “Reward of $2,000” in MiddletownTranscript, August 10, 1898, regarding the poisoned candy case. On her efforts against animal cruelty see “Mrs. Hammond Wins Prize,” EveningJournal, October 10, 1924.
At the Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware, the Ridgely Collection (Women Suffrage Records, #9200 R09, 002 1 box, 1916-1923) and newspaper clipping files provide general information on her involvement in Delaware's suffrage struggle. The Archives also hold Hammond's Last Will and Testament, signed in 1943.
On her post-suffrage activism, see “Democrats Hold Rally at Dover,” EveningJournal, October 12, 1920; “Mrs. Hammond Heads Dover Women Voters,” EveningJournal, January 12, 1921; "J.M. Tunnell Head of State Democrats," EveningJournal, June 13, 1928;“Personal Notes Of Interest From Dover,” NewsJournal, May 31, 1928; “Advance Guard of New York Waifs Breathe Pure Dover Air,” TheNewsJournal, July 16, 1940; and “20 ‘Gray Ladies' Get Ribbons For Service at Dover Air Base,” TheNewsJournal, March 21, 1945.
Obituaries appeared in Delaware State News (Dover), November 22, 1945; and TheNewsJournal, November 23, 1945.
For general context on Delaware's suffrage history, see Mary R. de Vou, “The Woman Suffrage Movement in Delaware,” in Delaware: A History of the First State, ed. H. Clay Reed and Marion Björnson Reed (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1947), I: 349-370; and Carol E. Hoffecker, “Delaware's Woman Suffrage Campaign,” Delaware History, 20:3 (Spring-Summer, 1983): 149-67.