Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Evaline James Ellis, 1884-1967

By Bre Klayum and Emily Perez, student researchers, Montana State University, Bozeman

Silver Bow County Chairman, Montana Equal Suffrage Association; Butte Moral Betterment Committee

Evaline James was born on March 20, 1884, in Osage, Iowa to Mary Virginia James and Edward H. James. She was educated in Osage and completed all four years of high school. At the age of 24 she married 26-year-old J. Bertram Ellis (1882-1968) on August 28, 1907 in Osage. Sometime between 1910 and 1914, the Ellises moved to Montana. The couple had two children, Bertram Ellis, Jr. (1913-1978) and Patricia Ellis (1915-2013). Evaline Ellis died on February 1, 1967 at the age of 82 in Hamilton, Montana. She is buried at Riverview Cemetery in Hamilton.

Around the time Evaline Ellis and her family moved to Montana, Jeannette Rankin emerged as a prominent figure in the Montana suffrage movement. In 1912, potentially around the time the Ellis family moved out West, Rankin was gathering support for the suffrage movement in Missoula, Montana by organizing the Montana Equal Suffrage Association. Beginning in 1914, Ellis (often referred to as "Mrs. J. B. Ellis" in local newspapers) was active in suffrage activities in and around Butte, Montana, the suffrage headquarters of the state. She was appointed the county chairman in the spring of 1914 and described as "a fine woman with the ability to organize and hold the members." In addition to being the Silver Bow County Chairman, it appears that Ellis was a speaker in the Montana suffrage movement and often visited Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson counties. In the fall of 1914 the Dillon Examiner credited Evaline Ellis and Mrs. William Rozsa with making "a short visit to Three Forks, Belgrade, Manhattan, Logan, and Bozeman," where they "stirred up splendid sentiment" thanks to "women in each town assisting Mrs. Ellis and Mrs. Rozsa in getting out crowds. These two women suffragists spoke in the streets each evening to large crowds of people." In the fight for suffrage in Montana, Evaline Ellis appears to have been a motivated and gifted speaker with the ability to organize large groups of people under one cause. The suffragists' work paid off on November 3, 1914 when women in Montana received the right to vote. Ellis was featured on the front page of the Suffrage Daily News celebrating the victory.

Evaline Ellis did not have a formal occupation and was listed as a housewife, but she was an active member of her community even after women won the vote in Montana. In the beginning of 1917 a group of delegates, including Ellis, attended the annual Good Government League meeting in Helena. One of the measures they proposed was "A rock pile for husbands who desert their families, with the payment of wages to the wife and children." Ellis also sat as the Chair of the Law Enforcement Committee, a subcommittee of the Butte Moral Betterment Committee. Evaline Ellis's oratory and organizational skills propelled the Montana suffrage movement forward. After women were able to vote in Montana, she continued her work for women's rights and well-being.


City of Mills, Iowa, Marriage Records, 1880-1940, marriage certificate no. 1394 (1907), J. Bertram Ellis and Evaline James; Department of Public Health, Des Moines.

"The Equal Suffrage Campaign in Butte," The Suffrage Daily News. 2 Nov. 1914, p. 1. Chronicling America,

"Equal Suffrage Department," The Big Timber Pioneer. 6 Aug. 1914, p. 6. Montana Newspapers,

"Good Government Clubs' Convention," The Dillon Examiner. 17 Jan. 1917, p. 12. Montana Newspapers,

"Montana Equal Suffrage," The Dillon Tribune. 29 May 1914, p. 11. Montana Newspapers,

Montana State Board of Health, certificate of death number 6320 (2 February 1967), Evaline J. Ellis, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hamilton.

U.S. Census: "Fourteenth Census of the United States: 1920-Population" Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census; Ravalli County, Montana.

U.S. Census: "Sixteenth Census of the United States: 1940" Department of Commerce Bureau of Investigation; Ravalli County, Montana.

"Weekly Bulletin of the Equal Suffrage State Central Committee," The Dillon Examiner. 1 Jul. 1914, p. 2. Montana News Papers,

"Women Organize for Moral Uplift Move," The Butte Daily Post. 29 Jan. 1917, p. 6. Chronicling America,

Photo Credit:

Suffrage Daily News. 2 Nov. 1914, p. 1. Chronicling America,

Evaline Ellis is second from the left.

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