On this date in 1840, Marilla M. Ricker (née Young) was born in New Hampshire. She became a trail-blazing attorney, abolitionist, humanitarian and suffragist. Her father, Jonathan Young, reportedly related to Mormon prophet Brigham Young, was a freethinker and proponent of women's rights who took his daughter to courtrooms and town meetings. Widowed at a young age, Marilla read law in Washington, D.C., determined to help the downtrodden. She passed the bar with the highest grade of anyone admitted in 1882. Her first public courtroom appearance was as assistant counsel to Robert G. Ingersoll. (The Ingersoll fan would later offer to buy the full 12-volume Dresden edition of the Works of Ingersoll for any New Hampshire library that would accept them.) She became known as the "prisoner's friend," successfully challenging a district law that indefinitely confined poor criminals unable to pay fees. Ricker, in 1871, had the distinction of being the first U.S. woman to vote using the argument that women were "electors" under the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1890, Marilla won the right of women to practice law in New Hampshire. She was admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court bar in 1891. She was denied the right to run for governor of New Hampshire in 1910, on a woman's rights platform, by the state attorney general. Marilla Ricker was a longtime contributor of pithy columns to The Truth Seeker. Her books include Four Gospels (1911), I Don't Know Do You? (1916), and I Am Not Afraid Are You? (1917). D. 1920.
Marilla M. Ricker
“A religious person is a dangerous person. He may not become a thief or a murderer, but he is liable to become a nuisance. He carries with him many foolish and harmful superstitions, and he is possessed with the notion that it is his duty to give these superstitions to others. That is what makes trouble. Nothing is so worthless as superstition. . . .”
—Marilla M. Ricker, "Science Against Creeds," I Am Not Afraid Are You? (1917). Read more about Marilla M. Ricker in
Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor
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