Ethel Armes

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Ethel Armes

Ethel Marie Armes (born December 1, 1876 in Washington D.C.; died September 28, 1945 in Peterborough, New Hampshire) was a journalist, social reformer and historian.

Armes was the daughter of George Augustus Armes, a former Union officer and aide to General Grant, and his wife, the former Lucy Hamilton Kerr, daughter of John Bozman Kerr, a former U.S. Representative from Maryland.

Armes attended private schools in Washington D.C. and studied journalism at George Washington University. She began her career with the Washington Post in 1898, then joined the staff of the Chicago Chronicle in 1899. After a year she returned to the Post. Between 1901 and 1903 she began a collaboration as editor of the poems and writings of Yone Noguchi, and was briefly engaged to marry him. His undivulged marriage to Léonie Gilmour and dalliance with Charles Warren Stoddard led her to break off the engagement. In 1905 she left the Post and moved to Birmingham to join her brother, engineer George K. Armes, and their mother in Glen Iris.

Armes was hired by The Birmingham Age-Herald and also wrote a regular syndicated column which was distributed across the country. In 1906 she was hired as editor of The Advance magazine. In 1907 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce president Robert Jemison Jr encouraged her to document the history of Alabama industry. He formed a committee with Truman Aldrich and Frank Nelson Jr, to support her work, which was published in 1910 as The Story of Coal and Iron in Alabama. Through her research for the book, part of which was conducted during the 1908 United Mine Workers strike, Armes became an advocate for higher wages, improved working conditions, and social equality for miners of all backgrounds. She befriender United Mine Workers District 20 president William Fairley, and addressed a UMWA national convention on the subject of organizing in Alabama.

In 1911 Armes was one of the founding members of the Equal Suffrage League of Birmingham and served as its first vice president. She helped to establish the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association the following year. With her help, in 1913 the Birmingham Association began contributing a weekly column to the Birmingham News to promote their aims and report developments. She was soon appointed to chair the press committee for the statewide association, responsible for issuing reports, editorials and press releases that were printed across the state. Armes was part of a delegation that represented Alabama at the National American Woman Suffrage Association's annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee in November 1914.

That same year, The Survey employed her as its Alabama correspondent. She reported on progressive bills being considered during the 1915 Alabama legislative session relating to child labor, worker's compensation and court reforms.

Armes moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1917 and later lived with her mother in New York City. She adopted a foster daughter and by 1927 they had settled in Greenwich, Connecticut. Beginning in 1929 she was among the leaders working to secure the preservation of Stratford Hall, the home of Thomas Lee and Henry "Light Horse" Lee, and birthplace of Robert E. Lee, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. She lobbied for its recognition as a National Historic Landmark and authored two books about the house and the Lee family. She also co-founded the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation and served as its national executive secretary.

Armes suffered a heart attack and died in New Hampshire in September 1945. She was buried alongside her mother at Washington D.C.'s Oak Hill Cemetery. At the time of her death, Armes was researching a biography of Robert E. Lee's father, Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee III. At her death she bequeathed her notes to long-time friend and correspondent Alice Wiggin of Franklin, Massachusetts. She was made an honorary director of Stratford Hall in 2002.


  • Armes, Ethel (1910) The Story of Coal and Iron in Alabama. Birmingham: Birmingham Chamber of Commerce
  • Armes, Ethel M. (1910) Midsummer in Whittier's Country: a Little Study of Sandwich Center. University Press of Sewanee, Tennessee
  • Armes, Ethel M. (1922) The Washington Manor House: England's Gift to the World. The Sulgrave Institution.
  • Armes, Ethel M. (1928) Stratford on the Potomac.
  • Armed, Ethel M., ed. (1935) Nancy Shippen: Her Journal Book. J. B. Lippincott & Company.
  • Armes, Ethel M. (1936) Stratford Hall: The Great House of the Lees.


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