Marilla M. Ricker is the namesake of our signature achievement award.
Setting the standard for equal rights for women in New Hampshire, Marilla Ricker paved the way for women lawyers and advanced their contribution to the legal profession.
Marilla M. Ricker was born in New Durham, New Hampshire in 1840. In 1870, she became the first woman in New Hampshire to attempt to vote, when she presented her ballot at the polls in Dover’s Ward Three. She was refused, and for the remainder of her life, she tried to convince the legislature and the people of New Hampshire that women deserved the right to vote.
In 1882, Marilla Ricker passed the bar exam in Washington, D.C., where she became the first New Hampshire woman to gain admission to an organized bar. She was one of the first women admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. She practiced in Washington, D.C. for a number of years before returning to New Hampshire.
In 1890, Marilla Ricker became the first woman to apply for admission to the New Hampshire Bar. In Petition of Ricker, 66 N.H. 207 (1890), she petitioned the New Hampshire Supreme Court for the right of women to practice law in New Hampshire after she was denied that right simply because of her gender. With all justices concurring, Marilla Ricker won the right women lawyers have today.
In Petition of Ricker, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that women may be attorneys-at-law and eligible for admission to the state bar, upon taking and passing the examination, or upon submitting evidence of admission and sufficient practice in another state. Interestingly, the first woman lawyer in Massachusetts, Lelia J. Robinson, appeared with Marilla Ricker in her petition.
In 1907, Marilla Ricker stated,
“I think we should all work for equal suffrage, and I trust the time is not far distant when no man or woman will even admit that it was ever opposed in New Hampshire. I want New Hampshire to be the banner state of the East on the equal suffrage question.”
From her attempts to vote and her petition to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, Marilla Ricker helped set the standard for equal rights for women in New Hampshire.
Past NHWBA Presidents Jennifer L. Parent, Joni N. Esperian, and Heather E. Krans at the unveiling of Marilla Ricker's portrait at the State House in 2016
State House Portrait
Many people were on hand to see the unveiling of the portrait of Marilla Marks Ricker at the New Hampshire State House on May 16, 2016. Several NHWBA members, past presidents and past Ricker Award recipients were in attendance. The unveiling ceremony was the culmination of a long process of raising the funds needed to commission the portrait and having the portrait completed. The portrait unveiling ceremony was an exciting event and we are pleased that Marilla now has her rightful place in the halls of the State House.
New Hampshire Women’s Heritage Trail
In 2005, the NH Commission on the Status of Women conceived of the New Hampshire Women’s Heritage Trail to give visible recognition to the significant participation of women in the life and culture of this state. The Trail reveals stories of notable women of the past who came from many walks of life with diverse talents and accomplishments.
For a complete list of the women featured on the Trail and to learn more, click here.