Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Ella E. Greenman, 1855-1921

By Bryce Jepsen, MA Student at California State University, Northridge

Teacher, Activist, Member of the Equal Suffrage League in Oakland, CA, Vice President of the Alameda County Political Equality League

Around the year 1855, Mrs. Ella E Greenman was born to Antoinette H. Whelan and L. Whelan. She was the one of two daughters, her sister being Carrie Whelan (sometimes spelled Wheelan). She married twice and was widowed both times. She married her first husband in 1878. Harmon Greenman was fifty at the time they were married and seems to have died shortly after, due to illness. She had no children with Greenman or with her second husband, Francis A. Blake. There are no official records of this marriage, so it may have been a common law relationship.

Not too much is known about the early life of Ella E. Greenman, but she came from a wealthy family and received enough formal schooling to become a teacher at the Durant School in Oakland, California where she faithfully taught for many years. Greenman wanted to provide a classroom to allow her student to be the best possible versions of themselves. She deplored the traditional rote forms of education and fostered an environment that allowed a guiding hand to help and elevate. This passion drove her not only in her life, but it also drove her to help fight for woman's suffrage.

She became an educator for the Equal Suffrage League in California and was considered one of the first women to push for suffrage in and around Oakland, California. Ella E. Greenman and the other women educators in the Equal Suffrage League became some of the most active women in the fight for women's suffrage by educating through the different supporting organizations. The Equal Suffrage League worked closely with the Woman's Christian Temperance Union which helped strengthen the overall work of the movement. Ella E. Greenman worked as a speaker for much of the state work during her time fighting for suffrage. Furthermore, Greenman worked as the second Vice President of the Alameda County Political Equality Club.

In 1921, Ella E. Greenman passed away at the age of sixty-six and was survived by her only sibling, Carrie Wheelan. While much seems to be a mystery in her life, her passion for teaching at both the Durant School and the Equal Suffrage League allowed her to etch her name in the fight for suffrage. Greenman pushed for the right to vote for much of her life and succeeded in bringing a grassroots movement to Oakland. Her passion for teaching others about a better tomorrow makes her stand out in many ways that others seems to lack. She cared for the fight as much as she cared for her students. For her, the right to vote was just as important as getting an education.


1900 Census; Census Place: Oakland Ward 7, Alameda, California; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0384; FHL microfilm: 1240082.

"Durant School," Oakland, CA LocalWiki. Accessed August 18, 2020.

Harper, Ida Husted. 2009. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI. Project Gutenberg

Oakland Tribune. October 24, 1903

Oakland Tribune. October 6, 1907 (accessed August 29, 2020)

Oakland Tribune. April 26, 1921. (accessed August 25, 2020)

Proceedings of the California Teachers Association and Report of Council of Education: Session of year 1900

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