Making Democracy Work

Marilla Ricker Portrait Project

Marilla Ricker's portrait deserves a place in the NH State House. Your donation made it possible.

Unveiling Ceremony

Fund raising ad hoc committee members (L to R) Joni Esperian and Liz Tentarelli, with artist Kate Gridley and bill sponsor Rep. Renny Cushing. Missing from the photo (because she was overseeing the details of the outdoor reception) was fund raiser Sara McNeil.

Governor Maggie Hassan spoke just before unveiling the portrait. To right of the portrait is the third member of the self-appointed ad hoc committee to raise the funds for the portrait, Sara McNeil, who is a board member of the League of Women Voters of the Kearsarge/Sunapee Area. (Unable to attend the event was Mary Davies, who served as our treasurer for the project.)

We succeeded! Thanks to the donations of 80 people and organizations, Marilla's portrait now hangs in the NH State House, officially unveiled on Monday, May 16, 2016. Governor Margaret Hassan spoke, as did the ad hoc committee consisting of League members Liz Tentarelli and Sara McNeil and NH Women's Bar Assn. member Joni Esperian Esq. Rep. Renny Cushing, the bill's prime sponsor, also spoke. The Governor and the artist, Kate Gridley, together unveiled the portrait before a crown of 100+. The unveiling was followed by an informal and very breezy reception on the State House Plaza.

Marilla Marks Young Ricker, Esq. portrait by Kate Gridley

Update June 8, 2017: Artist Kate Gridley came by to give the one-year anniversary coats of varnish to the portrait, which both brightens and protects the work. Thanks, Kate.

Boston Globe May 15, 2016, article about the unveiling: online or click here for the pdf

Ricker Plaque

Hanging below the portrait is this temporary plaque:


Ricker (1840 - 1920) was born in New Durham, NH. She became known nationally as a suffragist, attorney, author, free-thinker and humanitarian. In Dover in 1870, Ricker became the first NH woman to try to vote. She was denied a ballot, but for the next 50 years she kept trying to vote.

Ricker studied law to fight society's oppression of women and the poor. She passed the District of Columbia bar exam in 1882 "with the highest grade of all who were admitted at the time" (all others were men). Her law practice was mostly pro bono work on behalf of the poor and incarcerated. Returning to NH, Attorney Ricker petitioned the NH Supreme Court to practice law. When she was denied because she was female, she sued and won, but Ricker never joined the NH Bar.

At age 70, Ricker tried to run as a Republican candidate for governor. Her filing papers were refused because, as a woman, she was not registered to vote and thus not allowed to run. Ricker's tireless work for women's rights paved the way for the many NH women who would later hold public office. She died on November 12, 1920, just months after the 19th Amendment granted women the vote.

In her actions, words and work Marilla Ricker was an early advocate of equality and justice for all.

Who is Marilla Ricker?

NH's own suffragist, female lawyer, would-be governor. Find out more about the remarkable Marilla Ricker (1840-1920) by clicking on this pdf file.

For a more thorough description of Ricker's life and accomplishments, the 2002 thesis project by LeeAnn Richey at Stanford University is an excellent compilation from original sources. Click here to read the pdf

The NH Legislature authorized the installation of her portrait in the State House. After nearly a year's work, LWVNH and the NH Women's Bar Assn have raised the funds to have it painted and installed (see above).

Thank you to all the donors who made this portrait and recognition possible!

Press releases

August 10, 2015 Read Allie Morrison's article in today's Concord Monitor about the portrait of NH's own Marilla Marks Ricker, suffragist and groundbreaking figure for women's rights. Read the article

New Hampshire Public Radio also had a spot on August 10. Their website includes a photo of Marilla Ricker, one of several the artist will use to generate the portrait. See the photo and listen to the 4-minute interview

Boston Globe May 16, 2016, article League of Women Voters NH and the NH Women's Bar Association formed an ad hoc to raise the funds for the portrait.

3 more historic NH women

In the 2017 legislature two bills to recognize the first three women legislators in NH have been introduced. League supports this and we hope the public recognition will happen in time for the 100th anniversary (in 2020) of women getting the right to vote . Click here to read a Concord Monitor article (3/2/17) about the bills and the fascinating women.

Women's History NH--a quiz

Take our Women's History New Hampshire quiz.

Click on the pdf after each question to see whether you are right and to learn more about Marilla Ricker and other ground-breaking NH women.

1. Who was the first female governor of New Hampshire?

A. Jeanne Shaheen
B. Maggie Hassan
C. Vesta Roy
D. Marilla Ricker
Click here for the answer

Click here for the 1910 official election results

2. When were women in NH allowed to vote?

A. 1920
B. 1783
C. 1894

Click here for the answer

3. Who was the first woman in NH to attempt to vote?

A. Susan B. Anthony
B. Marilla Ricker

Click here for the answer

4. When did Marilla Ricker first cast a ballot?

A. 1870
B. 1871
C. 1920

Click here for the answer

5. When were women first allowed to practice law in New Hampshire?

A. 1850
B. 1891
C. 1920

Click here for the answer

6. What is the Marilla Ricker Award?

A. a prize for the woman who is first in line to vote
B. a prize for the woman who refuses to give up in the face of adversity
C. a prize awarded annually to a woman attorney by the NH Women's Bar Association

Click here for the answer

7. When did the League of Women Voters form in New Hampshire?

A. 1919
B. 1920

Click here for the answer