Florence Ellinwood Allen
(March 23, 1884 - September 12, 1966)
Florence E. Allen was a pioneer for women's rights in the legal field. She was an leading suffragist
and peace activist. She also broke barriers for women in the legal field by being the first woman to
be an assistant county prosecutor (1919), the next year she became the first woman elected to be a
judge beating nine men in the race for a Court of Common Pleas judgeship in Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1921 she became the first woman to preside over a murder trial with women in the jury, and the
first woman to sentence a man to death.
In 1922 she was elected to the Ohio state supreme court, another first, then in 1934, she
became the first woman appointed to an Article III federal court, when President Franklin
nominated her to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1959 she became the first woman chief
judge of a federal circuit court.
Originally born in Salt Lake City, Utah her father had to move to Ohio for health reasons. Later
her father became won a seat in congress in 1895 when Utah became a state. Corinne Tucker was
one of the first students to attend Smith College, though she never graduated.
Allen graduated with honors in music from the College for Women at
Western Reserve University in 1904. She also got a masters in political science from Western.
She went on to a year of the University of Chicago Law School where she finished second in her
class and won praise for her masculine mind. She moved to New York City to work with the New
York League for the Protection of Immigrants at the urging of its head Francis Kellor. Unable to
attend Columbia since it did not admit women she continued her studies at New York University
Law School which already had 80 other women students. She graduated in 1913, and passed the
Ohio bar the following year, receiving the seventh highest score of all test takers.
She opened her own practice and volunteered for the Cleveland Legal Aid
Society since no one wanted to hire women lawyers. When she first won a judgeship the county
wanted to but her in family court, but she declined pointing out that as a spinster she had no
experience to go on, and the many fathers on the bench would serve much better.