Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Ella G. Fleck, 1875-1972
By Keriana Santana, Undergraduate Student, Central Connecticut State University
Suffragist, anti-child labor advocate
Ella G. Fleck was a Connecticut suffragist. She was born on March 14, 1875 in Pennsylvania, and was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1895 she married a prominent doctor, Harry W. Fleck, who urged her into politics. The couple lived in Bridgeport and Fairfield County throughout their lives, with Fairfield as her last known residence. She died on February 1, 1972 at the age of 96, after living a long and fulfilling life as an accomplished activist.
According to the 1930 Census, Fleck knew how to read write and speak English and her occupation was listed as "home." However, Fleck was not a traditional housewife. She organized the Fairfield County Republican Women's Assembly and, along with Katherine Houghton Hepburn, extended the organization to 28 cities and towns, reaching a statewide membership of 5,000. Their first task was to convince the Connecticut legislature to give women the right to vote, which was accomplished in August of 1920, with passage of the 19th Amendment.
Fleck successfully bridged the divide between the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association, aligned with the moderate National American Woman Suffrage Association, and also served on the national Executive Committee of the more militant National Woman's Party.
During World War I, Fleck was named Vice Chairman of the Bridgeport War Bureau. She organized 30,000 women into a home guard called the "Minute Women." Fleck's "Minute Women" became a model for home guard organizations during the war. In recognizing her work for the war effort, the Veterans of Foreign Wars named her an honorary member. She also served on the War Work Committee of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association.
After the war she joined the Connecticut League of Republican Women. She also advocated for public health services and worked to abolish child labor and provide child welfare. Throughout her life, Ella Fleck was a prominent leader in women's suffrage, an advocate for children, and a supporter of basic human rights.
Information on Ella Fleck's life can be found in local Connecticut publications, such as The Herald (Bridgeport), and The Sunday Independent. See also Carole Nichols, Votes and More for Women: Suffrage and After in Connecticut (New York: Haworth Press, 1983), p. 74. See also a biographical piece about Fleck in the Bridgeport Sunday Post, May 27, 1962, p. 11. Additional biographical information is available through U.S. Census Records and Ancestry.com.