Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists: 1890-1920

Biography of Ethel Merk, 1882-1960

By Heaven Smith, adjunct instructor of history, LSU at Alexandria and Thomas Dublin

Laura Ethel Merk was born in Georgia, most likely in 1882, although census listings provide quite varied dates. Her parents were Marion Washington Merk and Mary Merk. Her father was a farmer and her mother a dressmaker. In 1900 and 1910 censuses, the family resided in Atlanta. In 1920 and 1930 their residence was Campbell County, GA. In 1920 she was recorded as a farm laborer and in 1930 as a farmer. Ethel never married.

Ethel was a strong supporter of woman suffrage and took on leadership positions in Atlanta suffrage organizations. In 1914 she served award chairman for Atlanta's Third Ward for the Georgia Woman Suffrage League. In 1915 she was elected a delegate to the annual convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). In 1916 she attended a suffragist luncheon in honor of Mrs. John Kenny of Nashville, TN. Finally, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, she served as treasurer of Georgia League of Women Voters.

After 1920 she continued to reside with her parents and brother in Campbell County and helped to found the Merk Country Club in 1932 and was elected president of the club. In the 1933 obituary for her mother, she was described as "well known in Fulton County political circles." Her father passed away the next year and her brother in 1936. She continued to manage the family farm, in 1937 advertising for the return of two stray mules. She passed away in Georgia in March, 1960.


Federal manuscript censuses for Georgia, 1900-1930. Accessed via Ancestry Library Edition.

"Ethel Merk,",

Atlanta Constitution

  • "Suffrage Appointments," Oct. 18, 1914, ;. 7.
  • "Woman's Suffrage League,l" Oct. 31, 1915, p. 6.
  • "Luncheon for Mrs. Kenny," Feb. 13, 1916, p. 6.
  • "Merk Country Club Is Organized," July 31, 1932, p. 34.
  • "Mrs. Maron W. Merk, Pioneer, Succumbs," Jan. 29, 1933, p. 8.
  • "William L. Merk, 46, Passes at Hospital," Dec. 19, 1936, p. 13.
  • Obituary, March 24, 1960, p. 24.

Ida H. Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922). [LINK]

back to top