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Walworth, Ellen Hardin (1832–1915) - Historic Preservation

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Ellen Hardin Walworth was born on October 20, 1832, to John J. and Sarah Ellen (Smith) Hardin. Her paternal grandfather, Martin D. Hardin, was a United States Senator from Kentucky, and her father was a lawyer and Whig member of Congress from 1843 to 1845; he was killed at the battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican War in 1847. Ellen attended Jacksonville Academy until her mother married Reuben Hyde Walworth, the last chancellor of New York State. The family moved to Saratoga Springs, New York, and Ellen was married a year later to a stepbrother, Mansfield Tracy Walworth, a lawyer and eventually a minor novelist. Ellen converted to Roman Catholicism and had six children in the first nine years of marriage despite the fact that her husband became increasingly violent and unstable. She left her husband in 1861, and over the next ten years reconciled, separated, secured a government clerkship in Washington, and reconciled again when she lost her job. When he physically abused her during her eighth pregnancy, she left permanently in January 1871 and returned to Saratoga to secure what she called a “limited divorce.” Walworth opened a girls’ boarding school and operated it for fifteen years before returning to Washington for health reasons. Meanwhile, her former husband continued to harass her. Eventually her oldest son, Frank, shot his father to death in a New York City hotel room on June 3, 1873. Frank was sentenced to life imprisonment, but Ellen studied law and secured his release in 1877 by reason of insanity.

During her lifetime, Walworth continued to be extremely active in various organizations, local and national, and pursued the art of becoming the first woman in several different organizations. She joined the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1876, the first woman to become active in this organization. She was one of the first women in New York State to hold a position on the board of education, where she encouraged the study of history. In 1876 she helped raised funds for the restoration of Mount Vernon and began an eighteen-year stint as the only woman trustee of the Saratoga Monument Association. She was named chair of the committee on tablets and completed research on every episode of the Revolutionary battle of Saratoga. She then located descendants of participants and obtained funds for marking the sites. She published a visitors’ guidebook for Saratoga in 1877 and wrote a history of the association in 1891. She often delivered speeches and published historical papers, and in 1893 was one of the first to urge the establishment of a National Archives. In 1890 she was one of three women that founded the Daughters of the American Revolution and was its first secretary general. She was also the first editor of the American Monthly Magazine in 1892. Ellen Walworth died in Georgetown University Hospital in Washington of an obstruction caused by gallstones on June 23, 1915.

Wang, An - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: An Wang [next] [back] Walton, Sam - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Sam Walton

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