Birthplace: Jamestown, New York
Died: April 24, 1940
Place of Burial: Lake View Cemetery, Jamestown, New York
Contribution: First woman in the state of New York to be elected to the position of County Clerk
Ellen Yates was born and raised in Jamestown, New York, graduating with the class of 1900. After completing school, she worked in the dry goods and notion store of Samuel Thompson on Main Street, Jamestown.
In 1918, Yates entered the field as a candidate for the Republican nomination for the Chautauqua County Clerk. She was nominated in the party primary and elected at the general election. She held office from 1919 until her death in 1940. At that time, she was serving her eighth term and had held public office longer than any other woman in the state’s history. She was opposed in only one primary.
When Yates won the election, every title searcher who worked in the County Clerk’s office quit; they refused to work for a woman. At the time, the job of title searcher had never been held by a woman. The female clerical staff in the office began doing the work of the title searchers, and Miller had to appeal to the county’s Board of Supervisors to be allowed to retain women in those positions.
In 1922, Yates married John Forrest Miller, who worked as second deputy in the County Clerk’s office. The ceremony took place in Jamestown.
Yates Miller also played a role in organizing the New York State Association of County Clerks, and served as the secretary-treasurer of that organization from 1921 when it was formed. She was active in the American Legion, Dunkirk-Fredonia Zonta Club, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Chautauqua County Public Health Committee, and the Chautauqua County Republican Women’s Club.
Yates Miller died on April 24, 1940 after suddenly falling ill at work earlier in the week. More than 400 people attended her funeral in Jamestown, including county clerks from the around the region.
A historical marker was dedicated to Ellen Yates Miller’s accomplishment and can be found in front of the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, New York.
Compiled by Michelle Henry, Chautauqua County Historian, 2017
“Funeral Service for County Clerk Attended by Many…,” Dunkirk, NY Evening Observer, April 27, 1940, 5.
“Mrs. Ellen Yates Miller Dies in Jamestown Hospital…,” Dunkirk, NY Evening Observer, April 24, 1940, 8.
“Retrospective: Items of Local Interest from Observer Files…,” Dunkirk, NY Evening Observer, Sept. 3, 1942, 6.