Date of Award

Spring 1958

Document Type




First Advisor

Thomas Clinch


This thesis has for its purpose an analysis of the life of Ella Knowles Haskell. Special attention, however, is directed toward those aspects of her career which mark her as the pioneer feminist in Montana history. That her life had an impact on the political, legal, and social history of her era cannot be doubted. I have endeavored to explain how this came about, and to illustrate those special talents and traits of character which marked this woman as an outstanding figure of her day.

Ella Knowles Haskell was born at Northwood, New Hampshire, on July 31, 1860. She was the only child of David Knowles and Louisa Bigelow Knowles. Her parents were well thought of in the community. They resided on a farm in what was called the "Knowles District", so named because of forebears of David Knowles who were outstanding residents of the area. Ella Knowles’ life in New England revealed at an early date her intelligent personality and the determination of will which was to mark her character throughout life.

As a small child she was an industrious student, and she graduated from Northwood Seminary at the age of fifteen. She had suffered the sorrow of losing her 2 mother a year before. Later she went on to complete a o course at Plymouth State Normal School." For the next three or four years Miss Knowles taught in neighboring district schools. At the same time she furthered her education by studying Latin and Greek. Her ambition to go to college was hampered by the fact that co-education was being contested in New England at that time."’ Also, her family felt they could give her no financial assistance. Undaunted, Ella Knowles entered Bates College at Lewiston, Maine, in 1880 and graduated with an A. B. degree, "magna cum laude", in 1884. Only four girls had graduated previously from Bates.

Thus, she became involved in the battle for coeducation, and those who advocated it could not have found a better example. No girl before had taken part in public debate, but Ella Knowles dared and carried off the prize from the male debaters. She was the first woman to win prizes in oratory and composition and became the first female editor of the college magazine. Ella Knowles showed that girls could compete with men in intellectual activities and was to show her belief in this in her activities later in life.