New Durham New Hampshire’s Educator, Lawyer, Suffragist, Humanitarian and Author: Marilla Marks (Young) Ricker (1840-1920)

Likeness of Marilla M. Ricker from I Don't Know, Do You? by Marilla M. Ricker

A likeness of Marilla M. Ricker from I Don’t Know, Do You? by Marilla M. Ricker

I’m going to run for governor [of New Hampshire], although I have not the slightest idea of ever becoming governor,” announced Mrs. Ricker… I’m running for governor in order to get people into the habit of thinking of women as governors. You know people have to think about a thing several centuries before they can get acclimated to the idea. I want to set the ball rolling. There isn’t a ghost of a reason why a woman should not be governor or president if she wants to be and is capable of it.” [1910, Marilla M. Ricker–found in Grand Forks Daily Herald (Grand Forks, ND) newspaper dated Tuesday, October 11, 1910]

It took less than than several centuries, but it still took 86 years for Marilla’s words to finally ring true.  Jeanne Shaheen was elected governor of New Hampshire in November of 1996 (she was in office January 9, 1997 – January 9, 2003).  In 2012 her words had even more meaning when New Hampshire became the first state in the United States to not only have a female governor, but an all-female congressional delegation. [Maggie Hassan, Kelly Ayotte and Jean Shaheen].

Likeness of Marilla Ricker from March 14, 1897, Colorado Springs Gazette (Colorado Springs CO), page 12

Likeness of Marilla Ricker from March 14, 1897, Colorado Springs Gazette (Colorado Springs CO), page 12

Who was Marilla M. (Young) Ricker?–She was a daughter of New Hampshire, born to Jonathan B. & Hannah/Sarah D. (Stevens) Young in 1840 in the small Strafford County town of New Durham.  Her family was not typical, her father being described as being a “free thinker,” and a broad, liberal-minded man.  He appears to have fostered these same traits in his daughter. She was a teacher, an attorney, an author, a suffragist, a humanitarian, a philanthropist. She married a man much older than herself who died a few years later and left her a wealthy widow, with more rights (such as to own property) than when she was married.

A great deal has been written about her, and so I do not want to repeat what others have written.  Instead I will highlight the major points of her life, and then include her genealogy and include more of her biography there.

Interesting Facts About Marilla M. (Young) Ricker:
1. 1870: Marilla Ricker was the first woman to attempt to cast her vote during elections in New Hampshire by writing a letter to a Dover selectmen (John R. Varney, William Vickery and Charles Shepard). Notes: She failed in her attempt.  As a widow, she was allowed by law to own property in Dover NH, and so she based her right to vote on this. Reportedly her letter stated, “I come before you to declare that my sex is entitled to the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness … I ask the right to pursue happiness by having a voice in that government to which I am accountable … so long as women are hanged under the laws, they should have a voice in making them.”
2. 1882: Marilla Ricker was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar.
3. 1884: Marilla Ricker was appointed examiner in chancery by the Supreme Court of the District of Colombia, and also U.S commissioner, in which capacity she heard many cases. “In this capacity Mrs. Ricker could issue warrants for violations of the statutes, hear cases, and commit to the United States jail for action of the grand jury. She could also take testimony and dispose of cases of divorce. She was the first woman who had been appointed to such an office in the history of the government.” [from Saginaw News (Saginaw MI) page 1, of February 23, 1884.]
4. 1890: Marilla Ricker became New Hampshire’s first woman lawyer in July of this year, and  admitted to the NH Bar [following a July 1899 decision by Supreme Court Judge, Charles Doe, to admit women to the NH bar. NOTE that Charles Doe was the father of Jessie Doe].
5. 1891: May 11, Mrs. Marilla M. Ricker was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States. [Note: She was not the first woman to do so, she was the 9th. The first was Mrs. Belva A. Lockwood on 3 March 1879].

Portrait of Reverend Luther F. McKinney. Rev. McKinney was pastor of the First Universalist Church on Lowell Street, Manchester in the 1880s. Manchester Historic Association Collection.

Portrait of Reverend Luther F. McKinney. Rev. McKinney was pastor of the First Universalist Church on Lowell Street, Manchester in the 1880s. Manchester Historic Association Collection.

6. 1897: Marilla Ricker petitioned President McKinley to be appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States of Columbia, which position was then filled by Luther McKinney of Manchester NH. [Note: She was not appointed to this or any other ambassador position during her lifetime.]
7. 1897: Marilla Ricker announced her candidacy for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st District [per Wheeling Register (Wheeling WV), page 1, Saturday, November 20, 1897]. It was a special election to fill the vacancy caused when Cyrus O. Sulloway died. She did not win.
8. 1898: “Mark this, that the time is not a great way off when it will not be possible for men to prevent women from going as representatives of the people.”  Quoting Marilla Ricker — January 4, 1898, Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo MI), page 7
9. 1906: Marilla Ricker writes a protest to the town clerk of Dover, N.H. when she paid her taxes. “Taxation without representation is tyranny. I hereby protest against the injustice of being compelled to pay taxes without having a vote to protect my property. MARILLA M. RICKER, Dover, N.H.” Mrs. Ricker explained to the Herald that she did not complain of the amount of taxes assessed against her, nor did she seek to obtain a rebate; her action being taken expressly to uphold the principle of equal rights. [found in Boston Herald (Boston MA), page 17, Sunday August 5, 1906
10. 1910: Marilla Ricker again announced her candidacy for governor of New Hampshire. [She filed a formal application with the secretary of state, accompanied by a check for $100, which is necessary to enter her name as a candidate under the new state primary law, to be tried for the first time this fall. The check was forwarded through Mrs. Ricker’s local attorney, per Sunday, July 10, 1910 Idaho Statesman (Boise ID) page 5; A petition bearing the necessary 1000 names had been filed entitling her to the nomination. Being unable to run as a regular Republican, Mrs. Ricker named her party the “Equal Right Republican party,”  per Oregonian (Portland Oregon), page 11, Friday September 30, 1910.]. Her name was NOT placed on the ballot, the NH attorney general ruling she was not eligible. The names that did appear on the ballot were those of Robert P. Bass, and Col. Bertram E. Ellis.
11. 1920: Marilla Ricker was able to legally vote, only a few months before her death.
(a) University of New Hampshire Library
(b) Article by Conor Makem, Rochester  Times, Rochester NH
(c) Various newspaper accounts, as mentioned above.

(According to several sources, Marilla’s father was stated to be second cousin to Brigham Young.  I have found no truth in this statement, unless it was from an alternate line, other than her “Young” line.  I welcome comments and proofs that the line shown below is, or is not, hers).

Thomas Young Sr. & Eliza of Dover. He was born before 1669, died after 1753 probably Dover NH was a cordwainer; petitioned February 20, 1690 for the government and protection of Massachusetts “as formerly”; was counted April 25 1715 among the “householders and inhabitants that live nearer the old meeting house on Dover Neck than the new one at Cocheco”; He presented his claim against the estate of Col. Winthrop Hilton, October 3, 1717; was of Exeter and purchased part of the 600 acres granted to Moses Gilman of his sons Jeremiah, James and Caleb September 4, 1720. His widow, Eliza Young was rated for parish dues at Dover 1753.
Child of Thomas & Eliza Young:
1. +Thomas Young Jr., b abt 1691

Thomas Young Jr., b. abt 1691, died 11 May 1767, aged 76, will proved 27 May 1767; he m. Sarah Folsom, dau of Ephraim & Phaltiel (Hall) Folsom. She b. 1692 and d. 13 May 1768. [See Descendants of the First John Folsom, by Nathaniel Smith Folsom] . He bought John Willey’s proprietor rights in the township of Canterbury, March 16, 1730; committee of Newmarket parish on the settlement of Mr. Moody February 9, 1730; justice 1744; representative “unduly elected” and superseded 1745; petitioned for bridge November 21, 1746; bought a potion of the homestead estate of Benjamin York “over against Lamprey river landing place,” November 9, 1749. His will dated May 2, 1767 but not signed. He died May 11, 1767, aged 76. Resided Newmarket NH. In his will he mentions is wife Sarah and sons Joseph and ThomasMore information about him in the History of Newfields.
Children of Thomas & Sarah (Folsom) Young:
1. +Joseph Young, b 1726 in S. Newmarket NH. [mentioned in his father’s will]
2. Thomas Young, b abt 1715, who had a son John Young. ?Capt Thomas Young, d. 1795 Dover NH

Joseph Young Sr., b. 24 August 1726 in S. Newmarket NH, d. 1806 Durham NH; m. abt 1753 Anna Folsom, daughter of Jeremiah & Mary (Basford) Folsom (Jeremiah-3, Dea. John-2, John-1). She was b. Aug 1731, and d. Oct 1763. The History of Newfields NH states he married 2nd) In 1764 to Mary Foss, daughter of Zechariah & Sarah (Gaines) Foss. She was b 25 Nov 1739 and died 11 April 1806. [see History of Newfields NH, by James Hill Fitts]. He owned lands and part of the mill in Piscassic (Newmarket) NH.[See Descendants of the First John Folsom, by Nathaniel Smith Folsom]. In 1767 “Bond of Joseph Young of Newmarket, innholder” as sureties as administrator of his father’s will.
Children of Joseph & Anna (Folsom) Young:
1. +Joseph Young, b. 5 April 1754 Durham NH
2. Benjamin Young, b. 8 July 1756, d. Wolfeboro NH Dec 1848; m1) Rachel Burleigh dau of William ;m2) Rebecca Bickford
3. Jeremiah Young, b. 15 Nov 1758, d. 14 July 1793; m. 14 June 1781 to Sarah/Sally/Nancy Cram.
4. John Young, b. 3 Dec 1760, d. 25 June 1808; m. 7 Dec 1780 Anna Mason. [called John Young Junr]
5. Sarah Young, b. 25 March 1763, d. 25 April 1844 Wolfeboro NH; m. Eben Meader
Children of Joseph & Mary (Foss) Young:
6. Thomas Young, b. 18 May 1767, d. 30 July 1845
7. Timothy Young, b. 23 Aug 1769, d. 28 March 1834
8. Levina Young, b. 7 Dec 1771; m. James Chapman, son of David. He b. 18 Oct 1780, d. 19 Nov 1814
9. Henry Young, b. 23 July 1773, d. 24 Aug 1810; m. Sally Bennett, dau of John Bennett. She was b.25 Aug 1779 and d 21 April 1853. One child Lydia b 15 June 1803, living in 1887.
10. William Young, b. 11 Sep 1777, died 11 Dec 1844; m. Martha Bennett. She was b. 4 Feb 17u83 and d. 7 March 1862. Had children Joseph (b 1810), William (b 1813, d 1839); John Henry (b 1816, d 1835), Sally C. (b 1818), Thomas (b 1821); Mary Elizabeth (b 1826, d 1846).
11. Mary Young, b. 11 Nov 1779, d. 1 May 1820
12. George Gaines Young, b. 27 Jan 1784, d. 13 Aug 1856 Epsom NH

Maj. Joseph Young, Jr. b. 5 April 1754 Durham NH, d. 6 July 1812 Newmarket NH; He m. 16 June 1774 to Dorcas Margaretta Ewer, dau of Rev. Nathaniel & Drusilla (Covill) Ewer (Rev. Nathaniel-5, Nathaniel-4, Thomas-3, Thomas-2, Thomas-1), She b. in Barnstable MA. [see History of Newfields NH]. In 1792 Joseph Young was one of the committee to oversee the building of the new meeting house in Durham NH and one of the first purchasers of a pew. He served as a private in the militia during the American Revolution. [see records of the Townof Newmarket]
Children of Joseph & Dorcas (Ewer) Young:
1. +Levi Young, b 1774/1775 in New Market NH
2. Joseph Young, who died 6 Aug 1849 in Exeter NH. He was active in the Newmarket parish 1798. He went to Wakefield NH. He married Nancy Young. Their daughter Adaline Mehitable Young married Moses Colby Nay. Probably the Joseph Young 2nd of Strafford County NH who was appointed a justice of the peace in 1838.
3. Nathaniel Young, b. 1796, d. 20 May 1880; m. Mary Cram, daughter of David Cram. They had a child who died 12 January 1828. He was a collector in 1816, on committee of the parish of Newmarket 1817.
4. Thomas Young, settled in Wolfeboro NH, returned to Newmarket and died there.
5. Mary Young, b. 1799, d. 14 Feb 1881
6 several other daughters.

Levi Young was b. 1774 in Newmarket, Rockingham Co. NH and died December 1849, aged 74 in New Durham NH from a falling tree. He was a farmer, and “active in the parish of Newmarket 1797-1798 before he removed to New Durham NH. He and both wives are buried at Chamberlain Cemetery, Meaderboro Rd in Alton NH. He m1st) 1 Jan 1800 in Epping, Rockingham Co. NH to Sarah “Sally” Barker [Epping town records]. She was b 1783 in Epping NH and d. 1815. He married 2nd) 31 Oct 1816 in New Durham NH to Phebe Stockbridge. She b. 1782 in Stratham NH, and d. 1862.
1860 US Census > NH > Strafford > Durham
Thomas Wiggin 53 M Farmer NH
Caroline F. Wiggin 40 F NH
Charles E. Wiggin 17 M NH
Hellen F Wiggin 14 F NH
Caroline A. Wiggin 10 F NH
Ruth Stockbridge 78 F NH
Phebe Young 78 F NH
Children of Levi & Sarah (Barker) Young:
1. Levi Young, b 1801, d. 1801
2. Joseph Young, b. 1803, d. 1832
3. +Jonathan B. Young, b. 20 Feb 1805 in New Durham NH
4. Mary Ann Young, b. 1812, d. 1815
5. Mary Ann Young, b abt 1815. She married 1st) –Frost. She married 2nd) 26 May 1873 in Wakefield NH to Henry B. Horne, son of John & Joanna (Buzzell) Horne, as his 2nd wife, both widows.
Child of Levi & Phebe (Stockbridge) Young:
5. Caroline F. Young, b. 13 June 1819 New Durham NH, d. 18 Jan 1906 Newmarket NH; m. Thomas Wiggin and resided in Durham NH. She was buried in Riverside Cemetery, Newmarket NH

Jonathan B. Young, b. 20 Feb 1805 in New Durham NH d 4 Aug 1891 in Alton, Belknap Co. NH; m. 22 June 1834 in New Durham, Strafford Co. NH to Hannah D. Stevens, daughter of Durrell & Nancy Anne (Hill) Stevens. She was b. 1812 New Durham NH and d. 12 May 1875 in New Durham NH.  He is buried at Riverside Cemetery, Newmarket, NH. Jonathan was a farmer. It has been stated that Jonathan B. Young was a second cousin to Brigham Young [ie would have shared great-grandfathers] but I cannot find any such relationship.
1850 US Census > NH > Strafford > New Durham
Jona B. Young M 40 NH
Hannah D. Young F 36 NH
Joseph D. Young M 14 NH
Marilla M. Young F 11 NH
Frances H. Young F 9 NH
1860 US Census > NH > Strafford > New Durham
Jona B Young M 55 NH
Hannah Young F 47 NH
J D Young M 25 NH
Marilla M Young F 21 NH
Adda Young F 8 NH
Charles H. Fass M 23 NH
Children of Jonathan B. & Hannah/Sarah D. (Stevens) Young:
1. Joseph D. Young, b. 1835 NH; he enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War, serving as Corporal in Company I, 3rd Regiment, NH Infantry. He lost his life in 1862 on Edisto Island, South Carolina.
2. +Marilla M. Young, b 18 March 1840 in New Durham NH
3. Frances Helen “Fanny” Young, b 1841 Durham NH; d. 14 Sep 1870 in New Durham NH, buried Ridge Road New Durham NH; m. 11 March 1859 in New Durham NH to Samuel Gage Jones, son of Samuel & Nancy (Bennett) Jones. He b. 1830 in New Durnham NH and d. 13 June 1868 in New Durham, NH.
4. Adelaide “Adda” Young, b abt 1852 NH; a professional nurse in CT.

Marilla Marks Young, daughter of Jonathan B. & Hannah D. (Stevens) Young, born 18 March 1840 in New Durham NH, and died 12 Nov 1920 in Dover NH. She married 19 May 1863 to John Ricker, Esq. of Madbury NH, son of Isaac & Elizabeth (Ham) Ricker of Madbury NH [33 yrs older] but he died five years later.  He was b abt 1807, d. 1868. They had lived in Dover NH, where John Ricker had a real estate business. At her death she was living at 7 Ham Street in Dover NH. She was cremated and possibly her ashes were scattered (see newspaper notice below). She was a member of the Wimodaughsis club, of Washington, the Portia club and Pentagon club, of Boston, and the Daughters of the Revolution. Politically she was a Republican. Reportedly as a child, “she could run faster, climb trees quicker, and make more noise than any other boy or girl in the neighborhood. She rode all the horses bareback, loaded hay, dropped corn, beans, potato and pumpkin seed…She was passionately fond of books, and when only four years old she cut the large letters out of the newspapers and follower her father around the farm asking him what they were. She could read at five.” [per History of Strafford County New Hampshire and Representative Citizens, page 613.] She is the subject of this blog post.  See notes below and various links to her extensive biographies.
1860 US Census > NH > Strafford > Madbury
John Ricker 53 M Farmer 4000/3000 NH
Elizabeth Ricker 85 F NH
Alice Young 18 F NH
Sunday, 14 November 1920; The Washington Times (Washington DC), page 30
Mrs. Marilla Ricker, Once Practicing Attorney Here, Dies in New Hampshire
Mrs. Marilla M. Ricker, well-known woman lawyer and humanitarian, died suddenly yesterday at her home in Meredith, N.H. Mrs. Ricker practiced law in Washington for a number of years. She was admitted to the District bar in 1882 and was appointed United States Commissioner and examiner of chancery by the District Supreme Court in 1884. Mrs. Ricker was born in New Durham N.H. March 18, 1840. She was educated at Colby Academy, New London, and taught school for many years. After studying law under a private tutor for three years, she was admitted to the bar. Mrs. Ricker for many years was known as “the prisoner’s friend” on account of her practices of visiting jails to help friendless prisoners. She was an advocate of equal rights for women and was the first person to file a petition which opened the bar of new Hampshire for women. She had spoken in various states of the country in the national campaigns of the Republican party. At one time she was a candidate for the governorship of New Hampshire, but was defeated. Mrs. Ricker was noted as a political writer, and especially for her articles in defense of free thought. Some of her well-known works are: “The Four Gospels,” “The Gospel of Ingersoll,” Paine, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards,”I Don’t Know, Do You?” “I am Not Afraid, Are you?” and others.
LAW NOTES, Volume 12, 1909
WANTS HER ASHES SCATTERED.–Mrs. Marilla M. Ricker, of Dover, N.H., the first woman to be admitted to the bar in New Hampshire, is said to have executed a will providing that after her death her remains shall be cremated in Boston and her ashes scattered around a favorite apple tree on the farm where she was born.
No children

Marilla M. (Young) Ricker rightfully deserves the title as “pioneer of the suffrage cause,” and to be listed among those prominent in her day including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, Lucy Stone Blackwell, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Other New Hampshire suffrage proponents should be mentioned here too: Armenia White (Concord) and Sallie Hovey (Portsmouth).


 Marilla Marks Ricker, from The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, by James Terry White
Marilla Marks Young Ricker, from One Thousand New Hampshire Notables, by Henry H. Metcalf and Frances M. Abbott, 1919
A Woman Candidate, from The Granite Monthly: A Magazine of Literature, History and State, Volume 42, by Otis Grant Hammond, 1910
Marilla M. Ricker Achievement Award
I Don’t Know, Do You? by Marilla M. Ricker,

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9 Responses to New Durham New Hampshire’s Educator, Lawyer, Suffragist, Humanitarian and Author: Marilla Marks (Young) Ricker (1840-1920)

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  9. Amy Young says:

    Wow, so much information about my family that I never knew. I’m proud to be aa Young, I have a wonderful family that I’m proud of.

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