Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Lucy Terrill Ellis, 1859-1934

By Hallie Borstel, Independent historian

Lucy Terrill Ellis was born on 15 May 1859 in St. Louis County, Missouri, one of a set of twin girls born to Edwin Ellis and Lorinda Jane Hume. Lucy's twin, Abby Draper Ellis, died in 1871 at the age of eleven, leaving Lucy the sole daughter among the six children of Edwin and Lorinda.

By 1880, Lucy had become a schoolteacher in the city of St. Louis. She moved from Missouri to Phoenix, Arizona, where she opened a kindergarten in about 1899. In Phoenix, she lived for a time with her uncle and aunt, Peter and Sarah (Hume) Burtis.

Lucy's kindergarten, The Garden School and Kindergarten (also known as The Phoenix Kindergarten), became well-known in Phoenix. She often conducted lessons out-of-doors, and introduced the Montessori method to the school by 1913. She often wrote and spoke about her teaching methods. Of her students and school, Lucy wrote,

Should you ask us who we are, we would answer with Peter Pan, "Joy! Joy!! Joy!!!" As young apostles of Civics, we have made an ugly, unkempt corner lot a delight to our neighbors, a pleasure to tourists, and a paradise for the babies of Phoenix. [...] The daily intercourse of the child with nature, the out of door life, the filling of the lungs with pure air, little feet touching Mother Earth, little hands digging, planting, watering, pulling, and watching the unfolding of plant life, is true education.

In addition to running The Garden School, Lucy was second vice-president of the "Children's Book Shop" at Homecroft Hall in Chicago; a charter member of the Woman's Club of Phoenix; president of the Conservation Club in Phoenix; president of the Arizona chapter of the Woman's National Rivers and Harbors Congress; and an active member of the Arizona Federation of Women's Clubs, the National Education Association, and the Missouri Society of Arizona.

When women won the right to vote in Arizona state elections, beginning in 1912, Lucy quickly registered. In 1915, she was one of a large group of women who met with a local representative to urge him to support the national suffrage amendment. In 1916, she was one of twelve female voters who spoke at a suffrage meeting at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

By 1924, Lucy was living in San Diego, California. She never married and died there on 13 November 1934.


1870 U.S. Census

1880 U.S. Census

1900 U.S. Census

1910 U.S. Census

The Arizona Republican (Phoenix, AZ)

Arizona, U.S. Voter Registrations, 1866-1955, [database on-line],

California, U.S., Death Index, 1905-1939, [database on-line],

California, U.S. Voter Registrations, 1900-1968, [database on-line],

The Daily Arizona Silver Belt (Globe, AZ)

Jo Conners, comp., Who's Who in Arizona, Vol. 1, (Tucson: Pres of the Arizona Daily Star, 1913)

John Robert Hume, The History of the Hume Family, (St. Louis, MO: Hume Genealogical Association, 1903).

The New York Times (New York, NY)

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