Biographical Sketch of Cornelia Kelley Hood

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Cornelia Kelley Hood, 1850-1916

By Anthony Sarrica (student) and Rachel Gudowitz (student)
State University of New York at Cortland

Treasurer, New York State Woman Suffrage Association; President, Kings County Political Equality League; President, Brooklyn Woman's Suffrage Association

Cornelia Kelley was born in Massillon, Ohio in 1850. She attended the local schools in Massillon, excelling in art and the piano. She married Daniel Curtis Hood, a lawyer, in 1879 and the couple resided in Brooklyn. Hood graduated with high honors from New York University law school. Her graduating class of 1893 was the first to finish in NYU's newly established woman's law department.

Beginning in 1894, Hood worked at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences where she lectured regularly on a range of legal subjects pertinent to women, including property rights, divorce, and the legal status of women throughout history. Hood's course of lectures were offered through the Brooklyn Institute's extension division and helped inspire a generation of young, female attorneys in New York. Students and colleagues affectionately referred to Hood as "The Brooklyn Portia," a reference to the Shakespeare heroine of The Merchant of Venice. Hood's work for women grabbed the attention of a wealthy patron of the Brooklyn Institute, Mrs. Edwin Beers, who endowed a fund in Hood's honor—the Cornelia K. Hood Law Endowment—in 1905. The endowment dedicated special money to cover the costs associated with "Law Lectures for Women by Women." In addition to her teaching, Hood served on the board of directors of the Woman's Legal Education Society, and in 1907 started the Legal Aid Society, a Brooklyn-based organization that provided legal advice to women, especially those who were abandoned or mistreated by their spouses.

Hood's work in the field of law motivated her interest in voting rights for women. Her suffrage activism found expression initially in Brooklyn, where she was elected president of the Kings County Political Equality League in 1894. That same year Hood attended the annual convention of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association (NYSWSA) in Ithaca, New York and was appointed chair of the finance committee. She also won election to the position of NYSWSA treasurer for 1894-1895 and later served as president of the Brooklyn Woman Suffrage Association.

An NYU alumni catalogue from 1906 credits Hood with being the first American woman to offer a "systematic course of law lectures to women." Hood died in Brooklyn after developing a heart condition in 1916. She was buried in the Kelley family plot at Massillon Cemetery.


- The Evening Independent (Massillon), May 22, 1975, 16.

- Ohio Genealogical Society, Cemetery Inscriptions, Stark County, Ohio, Vol. 6 (Genealogical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1985), 262.

- The Bulletin of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, 18 (11) (March 31, 1917), 195.

- Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, 1916-1917, Vol. 29 (Brooklyn Institute, 1918), 203.

- Constitutional-Amendment Campaign Year, 1894: Report of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association, Twenty-Sixth Annual Convention (Rochester, NY: Charles Mann, Printer, 1895), 34-36, 191-193.

- Beatrice Burton, "Pioneer Woman Lawyer," Case and Comment, Vol. 60, (Lawyers' Cooperative Publishing Company, 1955), 24-28.

- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 24, 1913, 22.

- Minna Minton Dyke, "The Woman's Law Class," The University Magazine, 10 (6) (June, 1894), 259.

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