Monday, February 27, 2006

The Very Red Mrs. Ellis - August 7, 1993 obituary

From the obituary in the Austin American Statesman, dated August 7, 1993, of my grandmother's half sister. Kathy and I remember her as "Maimie" with the fine house, formal Southern manners, and a domestic servant who served meals.

"She looks like a porcelain doll in her August 1902 wedding photo, her delicate neck rising from a stiff collar and her waist probably cinched in a tight corset under all those tucks and ruffles. But, Mary Heard Ellis was hardly a fragile doll. She was an outspoken Austin suffragette who later became an officer in the League of Women Voters.

Ellis was clearly a woman ahead of her time. A newspaper article once reported that, while trudging door-to-doorin Hude Park, making a survey of reactions to women's suffrage, she got the following response: "Yes, I think women should have the vote," said one man, with all seriousness. "That is, if they are people."

Ellis clearly qualified, and lived as a bonifide person until the ripe old age of 83. A close friend described her as a woman who "wouldn't waste her time on bridge and was too intellectual to sew." But she did enjoy plays, political gathering, and dressing well. A newspaper article about her as an octogenarian characterized her thus: "Mrs. Ellis likes to wear handsome clothes. For a dinner the other night, it was a simple dress - but very red."

(Mary's husband, Caswell Ellis, was a pioneer in his own right. He introduced the first abnormal psychology course at the University of Texas at the turn of the century and was a leader in the field of mental health.)

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