Woman of the Century/Marrilla M Ricker
RICKER, Mrs. Marrilla M., lawyer and political writer, born in New Durham, N. H., 18th March, 1840. Her maiden name was Young. She is of farmer parentage and New England stock. She was educated in the public schools of her native town and afterwards was graduated from Colby Academy. New London, in 1861. For several years thereafter she was a successful teacher in the public schools of her native county, where she attracted the attention and became the wife of John Ricker, a farmer, in May, 1863. He died in 1868, in Dover, N. H., leaving her childless, but with an ample fortune. In 1872 Mrs. Ricker went abroad and spent two years on the continent, mostly in Germany, during which time she acquired a knowledge of the German language sufficient to be able to speak and write it fluently. She has always been fond of travel. She takes pleasure in athletic games, delights in fast horses, likes good living, but has very little taste for exclusively fashionable society. She does not care for children, and has no fixed religious belief, but is agnostic in religion. She is kindly dispositioned, always charitable, and especially so to the criminal classes. For many years, although retaining her home in New Hampshire, she has been accustomed to spend her winters in the District of Columbia, where she may always be seen in and about the courts, and usually in the criminal court room, where she takes a lively interest in everything that occurs. After close application to the law for three years, under a tutor, she was, 12th May, 1882, after a severe examination by the committee appointed by the court, admitted to the bar of the supreme court of the District of Columbia, and the newspapers reported at the time that she surpassed in legal knowledge the twenty-five young men who were examined with her. She has always been considered a careful and critical English scholar. On 11th May, 1891, she was, on motion of Miss Emma M. Gillett, admitted to the bar of the United Suites Supreme Court. Soon after her admission to the bar, in 1882, she was appointed by President Arthur a notary public for the District of Columbia, and in 1884 by the judges of the District supreme court, a United States commissioner and an examiner in chancery, both of which offices she continues to exercise. She has long been known as the "Prisoner's Friend," from her constant habit of visiting jails and prisons, applying for releases and pardons, and supplying prisoners with reading matter, writing material and other comforts. Quite early in her legal career she was instrumental in making a test of the "poor convict's act," in the district, under which the several court judges, and especially the judge of the police court, had been in the habit of sentencing petty offenders to a short term in jail, and supplementing it with a tine, which, of course, a pauper criminal could not pay, and was therefore held in jail for an indefinite length of time. She succeeded in getting a judgment from the District of Columbia supreme court, declaring the fine illegal, and, as a commissioner in chancery, was afterwards instrumental in setting many a poor convict at liberty, and finally broke up the custom altogether. MARRILLA M. RICKER. She was one of the assistant counselors in the famous Star Route cases, following those prolonged trials, which occupied the court for more than six months, with deepest interest, until the final acquittal of all the defendants in that ever memorable contest. She made a test case on a rule established by the district commissioners, under the old Sunday law closing barber-shops on the Sabbath day, having a prominent colored barber as a client, in which she pleaded that shaving was necessary work, and that her client had been employed to shave President Arthur. The Sunday closing was sustained both by the court below and the court above. Her legal work has been almost invariably on the side of criminals, for whom she has the broadest charity, and for the oppressed, spending her means for them freely, and employing counsel when not able to attend to the cases herself. She was the pioneer in her attempt to vote for electors in Dover, N. H., in 1870, and to fortify the effort prepared a constitutional argument for the selectmen of the town. She also offered to vote at the city election in Dover in 1891. She was one of the electors for New Hampshire on the equal rights ticket on which Belva A. Lockwood ran for president in 1884. She opened the New Hampshire bar to women in July, 1890, her petition having been filed in December, 1889. That petition cites the rules for the admission of attorneys of ten States of the Union. Apparently bold and always progressive, she is in reality very timid, and always addresses the court with much shyness and trepidation, as if doubting her own judgment. She is an uncompromising Republican and, as she says, "always votes the straight Republican ticket." She went to California in 1887, and worked for the Republican ticket in 1888, speaking on the tariff, and writing many letters on that subject for papers throughout the country. She visited Iowa in 1892 in the interests of the Republican party. She is very loyal, and while abroad always carried with her the American flag as a part of her passport. In the winter of 1890-91, in Washington, she conducted a class in "Wimodaughsis."