Meet The Presses: Ruth Ellis

Each of the namesakes for our presses remind us that diligence and knowledge are the “metal” and force for change. These women have broadened the very definition of femininity. We look to them to help reinforce traditional and modern archetypes that should be available to everyone regardless of their gender.

In this blog series, we'll be sharing more information about each woman and the press that is named after them. Stay tuned for more! 




Ruth Ellis

Ruth Ellis, born in 1899, was the last child and only daughter in her family of four children in Springfield, Illinois. Ellis’ father was the only black mail carrier in the city and brought up all of his children to fight inequality. She came out as a lesbian at the age of sixteen, in the year 1915, when being queer was a crime and most LGBTQIA+ folks were still completely closeted. Her out status made her a target, but she refused to hide.

Ellis attended an all-white high school, where her identities were challenged daily. Undaunted, she graduated with her class, afterwards finding work in a white-owned letterpress shop, where she learned the intricacies of the trade.

In 1937, at the urging of her brother, Ellis moved to Detroit. There she met Ceciline “Babe'' Franklin, and they would be partners for the rest of Babe’s life. Together they opened a letterpress shop which served all comers, but was particularly known for printing church newsletters. Their relationship lasted over 30 years.

Throughout her life, Ellis was an advocate of the rights of LGBTQIA+ and African American persons, offering her home as a gathering place for organizing the communities. Ellis was well known in the Queer scene of that city for being a tireless dancer, often leading the entire club in the Electric Slide. She died in her sleep at her home at the age of 101, just one month after her attendance at the grand opening of the Ruth Ellis Center, a Detroit social services agency serving at-risk LGBTQIA+ youth named in her honor.

About the machine: Ruth is a 10x15 Kluge M series built in 1946.



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