Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Ella May (Mrs. A.C.) Newill, 1871-1951
By Sally J. Price, technical writer: Roseville, CA
Activist in the Suffrage Movement
Ella May Wiseman was born in Washington, Iowa on October 30, 1871 to John Wiseman and Honora B. (Rank) Wiseman. She was educated in private and public schools in Chillicothe, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois. She then attended New York State Normal school in Potsdam, New York (which later became the State University of New York), and Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO. These last two were college-level schools where Wiseman most likely gained a teaching degree. She then worked as a teacher at the School of the Good Shepherd (Episcopal) in Ogden, Utah. Parish records were destroyed in a fire in 1945, so the year of her arrival in Utah is unknown, possibly 1888 or 1889.
Arthur Cotton Newill was born in 1859 in Madras, India, son of the British resident governor of two provinces. At Oxford he was a classmate of Oscar Wilde. He came to the United States as business manager for Wilde's lecture tour and never returned to Great Britain. He served as principal and then as superintendant of schools in Butte, Montana. In 1888, he began serving as principal of the School of the Good Shepherd (Episcopal). It is here that he met Ella May Wiseman.
On December 22, 1890 Ella May Wiseman married Arthur Cotton Newill in Ogden, Utah. She was 19 years old. They moved to Portland, Oregon in 1901, when he was chosen as Head Master for Bishop Scott Episcopal Academy. In 1904 Bishop Scott Episcopal Academy closed and he opened Newill Riverview Academy. He was well known and respected in Portland and in educational circles in Oregon and Utah. In the 1915 edition of Herringshaw's American Blue Book of Biography, A.C. Newill is described as an educator, journalist, and author. "He is considered one of the best normal instructors and lecturer in the state of Utah."
The couple had two children, a daughter Nora Margaret Newill, who died in childhood, and a son Arthur Phillip Henry Newill born on August 24, 1902.
Newill was active in the Episcopal church, as was her husband. She was president of a local chapter of Daughters of the King. In 1907, she's noted in the list of officers for the Women's Auxilliary to be the Secretary of Junior Branches for the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon. She was also president of the Junior Auxiliary of the Diocese of Oregon in 1910-1911. Later she was a member of the Women's Auxiliary.
Newill's involvement in social causes was extensive. In 1910-1911, Newill was president of the Women's Club of Portland. She was an important member of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association (OSESA), founded by suffrage pioneer Mrs. Abagail Scott Duniway. In 1912, Newill established the Cooperative Civic League, which did active work with the State association.
On March 8, 1912 the OSESA held a meeting to appoint a state central committee. The appointments were made by Duniway. The purpose of the committee was to carry on suffrage campaign work throughout Oregon. Newill was one of three women (along with Mrs. F. Eggert and Mrs. Caroline Dunlap) appointed representing the Portland Women's club. Newill was also appointed to the executive committee, which was composed of the chairman and one member from each of the associations.
By early 1912 many suffrage organizations had arisen in Oregon, approximately seventy groups across the state and twenty-three in Portland alone. Efforts to coordinate and facilitate this wave of activity led to conflict. Representatives from the five of the major Portland suffrage formed the Equal Suffrage Advisory Committee. Newill was sent to this gathering of the new groups with a letter from Abigail Duniway. Duniway demanded that dues for all the groups be paid to her organization, OSESA, and that the groups "must report regularly" to 292 Clay Street (Duniway's home). In the midst of all this fervor, money came into the Portland groups from a source at the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In spite of, or perhaps because of, all the effort and publicity throughout 1912, the statewide suffrage measure was finally a success on the ballot.
On November 5, 1912, 52% of the men of Oregon voted in favor of granting women the right to vote. While women across the country would have to wait until 1920 to vote in national elections, women in Oregon were permitted to vote in state elections eight years earlier.
Oregon attorneys were divided over whether the achievement of woman suffrage meant that women could serve on juries. However, in Bend, Oregon, suffragist Hattie Corkett served as "forewoman" of a jury during the week of November 25, 1912. As of November 1912, Attorney General Andrew Crawford had not yet announced a definite opinion on the matter. On Saturday, November 30, judges and attorneys in a Portland police court decided to have an "experimental" all-female jury. There were 16 women who received a summons, and 10 who accepted. Newill had the honor of being one of the women on this jury, which reviewed a case of the city of Portland vs a woman conducting a house of ill repute.
Kimberly Jensen, Professor of History and Gender Studies at Western Oregon University, writes in her 2011 blog that the newspaper coverage of the experimental jury, "continued to be full of ambiguity, too, with some praise for the women who served but also with sensational claims that placed the women in a negative light and hostility and jokes about such service and the status of women as citizens."
The jury deliberated for an hour and 40 minutes. The final vote was divided five to five "and the court discharged the first jury to women in Oregon because they could not agree."
After the passage of Women's Suffrage in Oregon, Newill remained active in social activism. #x200eIn the 1913 Official Register and Directory of Women's Clubs in America, Newill is listed as a member of the special committee for Literature and Library Extension.
In March 1915, Newill was appointed by Portland mayor H. Russell Albee as chairperson of a new film censoring committee in Portland. Mrs. E.B. Colwell was appointed secretary of the board of city censors. Newill is quoted as stating that their mission was "the prevention of immoral, obscene, indecent or grewsome [sic]... motion pictures"
Newill is listed as the Chairman of the Oregon Civic League in 1919.
Arthur Newill died at age 79 on May 4, 1937 in Portland. Ella May Newill died at 80 on November 11, 1951 in Portland.
"England and Wales Census, 1871", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V5TV-95Z : 28 September 2019), Arthur Cotton Newell in entry for Joseph Gould, 1871.
Episcopal Church. Diocese of Oregon. Journal of the ... Annual Convention, Volumes 19-22, 1907 and Volumes 23-26, 1911.
"Find A Grave Index,"Database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVKS-66CH : 13 December 2015), https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/175157086/ella-may-newill
Geltzer, Jeremy. "Film Censorship in America: A State-by-State History" 2017 McFarland & Company, Inc.
Herringshaw's American Blue Book of Biography American Publishers' Association, 1915 - nited States
Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol VI (1900-1920). N.p.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
Jensen, Kimberly, " Woman Suffrage in Oregon (essay) ," The Oregon Encyclopedia, http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/entry/view/alsea_river/, accessed January 12, 2020.
Jensen, Kimberly. "Portland's "Experimental" Woman Jury Part VII: Portland Evening Telegram Coverage of the December 4, 1912 Trial and Mattie McArthur." Blogspot, June 18,2011. http://kimberlyjensenblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/portlands-experimental-woman-jury-part_18.html
Leonard, John William, ed. Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, Volume 1. (January 1, 1914) American Commonwealth Co. [LINK]
Oregon Journal, March 09, 1912, 2 "Suffragists Name Central Committee".
Oregon Journal, November 30, 1912, page 1."Women Jury Will Be Used in Trying Case in Municipal Court," Oregon Journal November 30, 1912, page 1.
The Oregonian "Arthur Newill Passes At Home," Portland, Oregon, Thursday, May 6, 1937, page 24.
Portland Evening Telegram, "First Jury of Women to Try Woman," November 30, 1912, page 1.
"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MCR3-F7N : 15 July 2017), Ella May Wiseman in household of R H Wiseman, Kerrs Creek, Rockbridge, Virginia, United States; citing enumeration district ED 68, sheet 136A, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,387.
"United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MLBS-XS4 : accessed 16 December 2019), Arthur C Newill, Portland Ward 2, Multnomah, Oregon, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 135, sheet 12B, family 213, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1285; FHL microfilm 1,375,298.
"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XC9T-181 : accessed 16 December 2019), Arthur C Newill, Portland (Districts 1-219), Multnomah, Oregon, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 21, sheet 3A, line 38, family 47, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1949; FHL microfilm 2,341,683.
"Utah, Weber County Marriages, 1887-1941," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QK6K-HRLL: 4 November 2017), Arthur C Newill and Ella May Wiseman, citing Weber County Courthouse