Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Ethel Lee Rankin (Broatch), 1893-1968
By Amanda Ritter-Maggio, English instructor, University of Arkansas Community College at Hope-Texarkana
Delaware County Chairman, Pennsylvania Women's Suffrage Association
Ethel Lee Rankin, oldest child of Charles and Emma Leona (McCracken) Rankin, was born in Virginia on September 21, 1893. By 1900, Ethel's parents had relocated to Denver, Colorado, where her father worked as a civil engineer. She had three younger siblings--Edna, Virginia Hazel, and Charles.
Sometime around 1914, Ethel moved to the east coast, where she became involved with suffrage activities in Connecticut, New York, and most notably, Pennsylvania. She addressed a group of female Connecticut silk factory workers on June 7, 1914 and soon after was named district suffrage coordinator for Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Newspaper accounts of the time frequently lauded Ethel's suffrage activities; The Delaware County Daily Times reported on May 27, 1915 that "Miss Ethel Lee Rankin of Colorado ... has had so much success in organizing Delaware County for Suffrage." That same year, she tried four times to gain entrance to the Ninth Annual Convention of the Delaware County Firemen's Association meeting "to present the suffrage cause to the firemen" but was "sent on her way." The Kansas City Star reported on December 5, 1915 that Ethel was "the youngest district manager in the recent suffrage campaign" and "although she is only about four feet ten inches tall, Miss Rankin made some big men stand around while she raked up various little grafts and uncovered some of their most subtle frauds. Miss Rankin is just 22 years old, but her worldly-wise ideas of politics probably comes from the fact that she is a native of Colorado and has been interested in the political activity of women in Denver since she was a high school girl."
Ethel was a frequent speaker at suffrage and Woman's Christian Temperance Union gatherings across Pennsylvania in the spring and summer of 1915. In November of that year, Ethel petitioned the Delaware county judge and was granted permission for women to watch the count of votes in that year's election, which included a statewide referendum on a Pennsylvania suffrage amendment. The county newspaper reported, "For the first time in the history of the county, women are watching the progress of the count." Ethel mobilized a group of over 100 women to watch the votes being counted; "every seat in the court room was taken up by suffragettes, and it was necessary for some of them to be given the seats in the jury box," The Delaware County Daily Times reported.
From 1915-1919, Ethel worked with suffragists in New York and Connecticut and also took on various writing jobs, including a brief dabble in advertising writing.
On July 19, 1919, Ethel married Frederick William Broatch, son of John C. and Gertrude (Allison) Broatch in Jersey City Heights, New Jersey. Frederick served as a city councilman and president of the Botta Export Company in New York, New York. The couple lived in Alpine, New Jersey and welcomed a daughter, Allison, on February 9, 1921.
Ethel ran for the office of Republican County Committee Member in Alpine in 1923. After hearing of accusations of voter fraud designed to keep certain residents from voting and ultimately cause her to lose the election, Ethel seized the voter registration books, an action for which she was indicted but not found criminally liable. In turn, however, several county officials were indicted for their actions and found guilty. In appreciation of her stand against voter fraud, many prominent Alpine residents threw a dinner in her honor. The mayor-elect praised Ethel as an "abbreviated Amazon" for her efforts to bring the guilty parties to justice. As a result, Ethel claimed to have received "obscene and libellous letters" in the mail from the Alpine ex-mayor's wife, Emma Mahler; Ethel sued Emma Mahler for those letters in 1924 but lost.
Ethel continued her activism with the Bergen County Women's Republican Club through the 1920's, serving as a frequent speaker. The Broatch family later moved to Old Lyme, Connecticut, where Ethel founded Circle Magazine. Ethel and Allison frequently enjoyed traveling together via steamship to exotic locales. Ethel died on November 30, 1968, at her daughter's home in Globe, Arizona.
"40 Years Ago." Delaware County Daily Times, 6 June 1955. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/65005510/?terms=ethel%2Blee%2Brankin.
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.
Ancestry.com. New Jersey, Episcopal Diocese of Newark Church Records, 1809-1816, 1825-1970 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
"The Busy Women." The Kansas City Star 5 December 1915. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/653743665/?terms=ethel%2Blee%2Brankin.
"County Suffrage Chat." Delaware County Daily Times 27 May 1915. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/5324896/?terms=ethel%2Blee%2Brankin.
"Ethel L. Broatch." Arizona Republic 1 December 1968. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/119837888/?article=9a2fc19b-f876-4386-8fb0-d8cec1cacaf4&focus=0.15653878,0.3806227,0.27267605,0.5285098&xid=3355&_ga=2.58585962.1736401553.1601834522-1743504795.1526954503.
Gauvreau, Christine. "Notes for the August 26th Anniversary of Woman Suffrage Victory." Connecticut Digital Newspaper Project 19 December 2014. https://ctdigitalnewspaperproject.org/2014/12/newspaper-digitization-notes-for-the-august-26th-anniversary-of-woman-suffrage-victory/.
"Grand Inquest Idicts in the Alpine Frauds." The Record, 20 Nov. 1923. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/489755966/?terms=ethel%2Blee%2Bbroatch.
"Grand Jury's Act Leads to Friends Expressing Faith." The Record 26 November 1923. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/489758045/?terms=fred%2Bbroatch
"Mrs. Mahler on Trial for Sending Obscene Letters Through Mail." The Record 9 April 1924. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/489575527/?terms=ethel%2Blee%2Bbroatch.
"Official Count of the Vote in Progress." Delaware County Times 5 November 1915. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/5494954/?terms=miss%2Bethel%2Brankin.
"Senator Calder to Speak on Tariff." The Record 15 April 1929. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/489775296/?terms=fred%2Bbroatch
"Succumbs at 82." The Record 26 October 1960. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/490482935/?terms=fred%2Bbroatch.
"Suffrage Party Notes." Delaware County Daily Times 12 June 1915. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/5327310/?terms=ethel%2Blee%2Brankin.
"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X48W-SY7 : accessed 4 October 2020), Allison Broatch in household of Fred W Broatch, Alpine, Bergen, New Jersey, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 2, sheet 5B, line 93, family 140, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1310; FHL microfilm 2,341,045.