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Montana Freemason  March 2015                            Volume 91 Number 1

before the law department of the University of           the Order of Eastern Star (Butte Chapter No. 39). 7
California. He authored the article on “Mines and        She opened her own law office in 1891. In 1896 she
Minerals” published in the Cyclopedia of Law, which      was elected President of the Montana Women Suffrage
is considered as authority on the subjects. Judge        Association and later that year she was selected
Clayberg organized a law department at the University    to attend the Populist Party National Convention.
of Montana in 1911 and was made honorary dean,           She married Henri Haskell (a member of Glendive
filling the chair of mining law and code pleadings       Masonic No. 31) to whom she lost the election as State
until 1912. He was a Mason held his membership in        Attorney General, occurring some 22 years before
Michigan.                                                Montana women received the right to vote. Ella later
Understanding Equality                                   practiced Law in Butte for the next fourteen years. She
                                                         became an expert on mining and corporate law, and
  In December of 1889, prominent Freemasons and          during her career she argued and won cases before
Attorneys Cornelius Hedges, Wilbur Fisk Sanders and      both the U.S. Circuit Court and U.S. Supreme Court.
John B. Clayberg demonstrated their pioneering spirit    She also lectured extensively on Woman’s Rights. In
again and an understanding of equality. Montana          1997, Ella Knowles was inducted into the Gallery of
owes much to these men for the development and           Outstanding Montanans in the Capitol Rotunda in
advancement from a Territory to Statehood, as well       Helena.
as the positive growth of a civil society. The three     References:
Attorneys assembled in Helena as the Board of Bar
Examiners to conduct the bar exam on Ella Knowles
for the Montana Bar. On December 26, 1889, Ella
Knowles became the first woman admitted to practice
before the State Supreme Court and Montana’s first
female lawyer and its first female notary public.

Cornelius Hedges wrote:                                  1. John M. Hodson, William H. Upton, Jonas W. Brown,
“Examined Miss Knowles for admission to the Bar and      Cornelius Hedges, Masonic History of the Northwest
was surprised to find her so well read. She beat all      (1902).
that I have ever examined.”                              2. Paula Petrik, No Step Backward: Women and Family on
                                                         the Rocky Mountain Mining Frontier, Helena, Montana
                                                         1865-1900, Montana Historical Society (March, 1990).

Ella J. Knowles-Haskell was born in 1860                 3. Roger Burt, The Role of Fraternal Organization in
in Northwood Ridge, New Hampshire. Her                   Migration and Informal Labour Organizations in Mining
determination and tenacity helped her became the         Communities (April 12, 2014) and Freemasonry and
first woman lawyer in Montana, the first woman to run    Business Networking During the Victorian Period. Roger
for a major political office as state Attorney General,  Burt, Professor Emeritus of Mining at the University of
the first women to serve as Assistant State Attorney     Exeter and member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076
General and represent a State before the State           and Secretary for the QCC.
Supreme Court. Ella was also the state’s first woman
to be a notary public. Ella had read law in the office   4. Reid Gardiner, For This and Succeeding Generations,
of Joseph W. Kinsley (whose Masonic membership           the Cornelius Hedges Story. ISBN 13: 978-0-9832423-
was held in Massachusetts). During her first year        2-1.
as a lawyer, Ella continued to work with Joseph W.
Kinsley. Ads identified the operation as “Kinsley and    5. Montana the magazine of Western History (Winter
Knowles” with offices in the Helena Masonic Temple.      1973), Montana Historical Society.
Ella was active in many civic organizations including
                                                         6. Capitol Capsules : Legislative Minutes Presented to the
                                                         57th Montana Assembly, Montana Historical Society.

                                                         7. Roeder, Richard B., Crossing the Gender Line: Ella L.
                                                         Knowles, Montana’s First Woman Lawyer. Montana the
                                                         Magazine of Western History, Montana Historical Society
                                                         (Summer 1982): 64-75.

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