The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


April 20, 2012

Judge Florence Allen: First female justice of a state supreme court

Included in the list of notable New Lyme Institute alumni is President Jacob E. Tuckerman’s granddaughter, Florence E. Allen, the first woman to serve as a Ohio Supreme Court justice.

Allen was born March 23, 1884, in Salt Lake City, Utah. She showed an interest in music from her early childhood, and attended New Lyme Institute and Western Reserve University. After graduating with honors from Western Reserve, Allen headed to Germany to advance her music studies. But a nerve injury put a damper on her plans, and she returned to the United States in 1906.

She found an outlet for music background as a critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Concurrently Allen pursued a graduate degree in political science and constitutional law at Western Reserve.

After receiving her degree in 1908, Allen headed to New York, where she worked for the New York League for the protection of Immigrants. She earned a law degree from the New York University School of Law in 1913.

With law degree in hand, Allen returned to Ohio, was admitted to the bar and set up a private law practice that focused on challenging discrimination against women. In 1919 she was appointed assistant prosecutor of Cuyahoga County and elected a common pleas judge the following year. Her win can be seen as a victory for women’s suffrage; the election came after the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.

When Allen won her seat on the Ohio Supreme Court in 1922, she became the first female ever elected to a state supreme court. She served as a justice until 1934, when she was appointed to the Sixth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals — another first for a female. Allen, who was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, went on to become chief judge of the court and remained there until her retirement in 1959.

Allen is a member of the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. She died Sept. 12, 1966, at her home in Waite Hill.

Other notable New Lyme Institute alumni include: Dr. Leroy Waterman, a translator of the Revised Standard Version; E.C. Lampson, dean of northeast Ohio newspaper editors; P.P. Mason, educator; Benjamin S. Chapin, author of “The Son of Democracy” and a Lincoln impersonator; U.S. Tax Court Judge Ernest H. VanFossan; Louis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Theological Seminary; and Delo C. Grover, president emeritus, Baldwin Wallace.

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