By Dana R. Bennett, PhD, Reno, Nevada
Role in Women’s Suffrage: President, Battle Mountain Chapter of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society, 1913-1914
Very little is known about Ella Horton, and historical records are frustratingly silent about her. According to the 1910 census, she was born about 1859 in Pennsylvania. She had married James B. Horton in 1900 after the completion of that census, which had listed him as single. It was, according to the 1910 census, her second marriage and his first. Likely, they wed in Austin, Nevada, where his family operated a successful mercantile business. The census did not record any children.
In 1901, the Horton family acquired the Blossom general merchandise store in Battle Mountain, about 90 miles north of Austin, and James relocated to operate the Horton Mercantile Store, which he did until his death in 1939. The 1920 census recorded that he was widowed, indicating that Ella had died at some point after the end of the successful suffrage campaign. The Spanish influenza pandemic hit Battle Mountain particularly hard, and it is not difficult to imagine that she was one of its victims. The records are not complete.
But her brief moment in the historical spotlight was especially significant. In 1913, the Battle Mountain Chapter of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society was reorganized to make the final push toward winning the vote for Nevada women. The Nevada Legislature had passed the proposed constitutional amendment twice; now it would be up to the male voters of Nevada to approve or disapprove of that amendment. Women in towns all over the state organized chapters and hosted events at which male voters were urged to vote yes.
When the Battle Mountain chapter was reinstated in 1913, Ella Horton was elected by her peers to serve as President. She replaced Edith Jenkins, a prominent northern Nevada businesswoman whose extensive ranching operation was headquartered in Battle Mountain. Clearly, the women of Battle Mountain thought highly of Ella.
The most interesting aspect of her election, however, is that her husband also owned and operated the local bank. In Nevada, the anti-suffrage organization was funded primarily by banking interests, and the officers of the Nevada Association of Women Opposed to Equal Suffrage were nearly all wives of bankers, including Mrs. Charles Henderson in nearby Elko. Although the Horton Bank was one of the smallest in the state, it clearly did not hesitate to stand tall for suffrage.
Under Ella Horton’s leadership, the Battle Mountain chapter hosted parties where speeches urged men to support the women and campaigned near the polling places. The week after the November 1914 election, Ella Horton placed a large advertisement in the local newspaper to thank, on behalf of the Battle Mountain women, the local men for helping to pass the ballot question and grant Nevada women the right to vote.
- Dana R. Bennett, All Roads Lead to Battle Mountain: A Small Town in the Heart of Nevada, 1869-1969, 2014
- Census records, Ancestry.com
- Reno Evening Gazette
- Nevada State Journal
- Battle Mountain Scout, 1913-1914