Woman of the Century/Ada M. Bittenbender

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BITTENBENDER. Mrs. Ada M., lawyer and reformer, born in Asylum, Bradford county, Pa., 3rd August, 1848. Her mother's ancestors were New Englanders, and her father's family were partly of New England and partly of German stock. Her father served as a Union soldier throughout the Civil War and died soon after from exposures then endured. Her maiden name was Ada M. Cole. Her early education was acquired mainly in private schools near her home. In 1869 she was graduated from a Binghamton, N. Y., commercial college. In January, 1874, she entered as a student the Pennsylvania State Normal School at Bloomsbure, where she was graduated in the normal class of 1875. After graduation she was elected a member of the faculty, and taught in the school one year. She then entered the Froebel Normal Institute in Washington, D. C., and was graduated there in the summer of 1877. On the same day of her graduation she ADA M. BITTENBENDER.jpgADA M. BITTENBENDER. received a telegram announcing her unanimous call back to her Alma Mater normal school, to the position of principal of the model school. She accepted that position and taught there until nearly the end of the ) ear's term, when, being prostrated from overwork, she resigned and retired to her mother's home in Rome, Pa., for recovery. On 9th August, 1878, she was married to Henry Clay Bittenbender, a young lawyer of Bloomsburg, Pa., and a graduate of Princeton College. In November, 1878, they removed to Osceola, Neb. Mrs. Bittenbender taught school during their first winter in Nebraska, and Mr. Bittenbender opened a law office. In 1879 Mr. Bittenbender and Clarence Buell bought the "Record." published in Osceola, and the only paper in Polk county. Mrs. Bittenbender was engaged as editor, and for three years she made it an able, fearless, moral, family and temperance newspaper, Republican in politics. She and her husband were equally pronounced in their temperance views. She strenuously opposed the granting of saloon licenses in the town or county. Mr. and Mrs. Bittenbender reorganized the Polk County Agricultural Association, and Mrs. Bittenbender served as secretary, treasurer, orator and in 1881 as representative at the annual meeting of the State Board of Agriculture. She was the first woman delegate ever received by that body. When the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association was organized in 1881, she was elected recording secretary She with others worked with the legislature and secured the submission of the woman suffrage amendment to the constitution in 1881. At the first suffrage convention following the submission she was made one of the three woman campaign speakers. At the following annual meeting she was elected president of the association, and the last three months of the campaign was also chairman of the State campaign committee She retired from the editorship of the "Record" in 1881, and became the editor of the first Farmers' Alliance paper started in Nebraska. That was a journal started in Osceola by the Polk County Farmers' Alliance. While she was editing the "Record," she read law with her husband, and in 1882 passed the usual examination in open court and was licensed to practice law. She was the first woman admitted to the bar in Nebraska. On the day of her admission she and her husband became law partners under the style of H. C. and Ada M. Bittenbender. The hrm still exists. They removed to Lincoln, Neb., in December, 1882. Mrs. Bittenbender prefers court practice to office work. She ranks as a very successful lawyer, and only once has she lost a case brought by herself. She has had several cases before the Supreme Court, the highest court of the State, which in every instance she has won. She has been admitted to the United States District and Circuit courts for Nebraska. She secured the passage of the scientific temperance instruction bill, the tobacco bill, secured a law giving (he mother the guardianship of her children equally with the father, and several other laws. She is the author of the excellent industrial home bill which was enacted by the Nebraska legislature in 1887, which establishes an industrial school as well as home for penitent women and girls, with a view to lessen prostitution. At the International Council of Women held in Washington, D. C., in March, 18S8, she spoke on "Woman in Law." During several sessions of Congress she remained in Washington, representing the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union as its superintendent of legislation and petitions. She was an indefatigable worker, constantly sending out to the local unions and the press as her base of operations, for petitions, paragraphs, help in the way of influence with Congress to grant prohibition to the District of Columbia and the Territories, protection to women, constitutional prohibition and other measures called for by the national convention. She drafted the bill to accompany the great petition for the protection of women, offered by Senator Blair. That involved much hard work, as she was obliged to go overall the laws of Congress from the first, to learn precisely what had been done already and to make her bill harmonious with existing legislation. It was mainly through her efforts Congress passed the protection bill. She spoke briefly, but with clear, convincing argument, at hearings before the committees of Senate and House in the interest of prohibition in the District of Columbia. On 15th October, 1888, she was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States. The motion for her admission was made by Senator Blair, of New Hampshire. In 1888 she was elected attorney for the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which position she still holds. She is the author of the chapter on "Woman in Law" in "Woman's Work in America" (New York, 1891). In September, 1891, she was placed in nomination on the prohibition ticket in Nebraska for Judge of the Supreme Court of that State. She received 7,322 votes out of a total of 155,000 cast in the State in 1891, the largest vote in proportion ever given for the head of the prohibition ticket. Her practice has been large, and her activity has been incessant. She has spent much time in Washington, D. C. Mrs. Bittenbender is the author of the "National Prohibitory Amendment Guide," a manual to aid in obtaining an amendment to the Federal Constitution which shall outlaw forever the traffic in alcoholic beverages. The "plan of canvassing" contained in her manual has been quite generally indorsed. She is preparing a treatise on the law of alcoholic liquors as a beverage, showing the unconstitutionality of license laws, as deduced from judicial decisions, including procedures in testing the matter and in enforcing prohibition. She and her husband will bring such test cases in the courts to secure decisions. Mrs. Bittenbender has for years borne a wonderful burden of work, showing the capacity of woman to endure the strain of deep thinking and of arduous professional labor. She is a member of the Presbyterian Church and has been an earnest Sabbath-school teacher.