Ellen Lowe Bullock Taylor (1874-1960), educator and community activist

KyWoman Suffrage Discussion

This biosketch was written by Dr. Carol Mattingly, Professor Emerita of English at the University of Louisville. For her full project on “African American Women and Suffrage in Louisville,” visit https://arcg.is/1O8muW.

Born in Louisville the daughter of Mary Snowden and John Bullock, Ellen L. Bullock Taylor taught and became principal in the Louisville Colored Schools. She graduated from Louisville Central High in 1889 and began teaching while continuing her education. She attended Kentucky State University, Indiana University, Indiana State Normal School, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago. In 1892, Ellen Bullock married Samuel Bartlett Taylor, also a teacher and principal, and left teaching. The couple had two sons, Samuel Jr. and E. Raymond. Ellen Taylor re-entered the profession after the deaths of her husband and son Raymond. In 1918, she was assigned to Central Colored High School at 9th and Chestnut as teacher. She later became principal of Portland, Dunbar, Mary B. Talbert, City Summer School, and the Louisville Colored Normal School. Taylor supported night schools and taught at Central Colored High Night School.

Taylor was active in many educational and community organizations. She was a member of the National Association of Colored Women, named the honorary President of the Kentucky Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, and wrote the “First Year Book” for the state federation. She was active in the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools, secretary-treasurer of the Colored Orphans Home Society for 37 years, and secretary of the Board of Management for the Plymouth Settlement House. She was active on such committees as the Booker T. Washington Community Center and Newsboys Improvement Association. Taylor wrote histories of the Colored Orphans Home Society and the Plymouth Settlement House. She was especially honored for “The History of the Colored Normal School.” Her interest in music led to her chairing the White Patrons for Band and Instrumental Fund for Colored Schools of Louisville; she presided over the music program when the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools met in Louisville in 1933.

In addition to being named honorary president of the Kentucky Association, Taylor’s honors included a commendation from the superintendent of Louisville schools for her effort toward passage of the 1925 bond issue in support of public schools, and an evening in her honor during the 175th birthday celebration for the city of Louisville. The Louisville Public Schools honored Taylor with a formal program recognizing her as a symbol of the Louisville Schools’ contribution to the history of Louisville. At that “This is Your Life Ellen L Taylor” celebration, she was commended by many of her former students. According to the official program for the celebration, “Of the 112 persons to have graduated from the Normal School during Mrs. Taylor’s administration, 53 are now teaching in the schools of the city, 3 have been promoted to the position of principal, 4 are working in the Attendance Department, 1 teaches in New York, 2 are teaching in the city schools of Detroit, Michigan, 1 in the Lexington Public Schools, 1 librarian in the city, 2 are social workers in the city, and a number of others are successful in various fields.”

In an official letter to Ellen Taylor in her role as principal of the Colored Normal School, dated September 30, 1933, the superintendent announced he was suspending future classes in the Normal School “because of the large number of teachers on our waiting list.” The suspension of normal school classes because of so many African American graduates highlights both the interest African Americans took in achieving higher education and the Board of Education’s inability to see the Normal School as more than a pipeline for the city schools, despite its overall benefit for the African American community.


Ellen Taylor retired from the Louisville Public Schools in 1944. The above image of her with two of her former students (Evelyn G. Smith, principal of Samuel Coleridge Taylor and Charles Young schools, and Carrie F. Smythe, principal of W.H. Perry Sr., Elementary School), was published in 1953 in the Courier-Journal. She died in 1960 at the age of 87 and is buried beside her husband in Eastern Cemetery.


  • Ellen L. Taylor file, Jefferson County Public Schools Archives.
  • [Louisville] Courier Journal: 3 October 1923; 6 March 1925; 10 December 1931; 28 May 1932; 18 December 1932; 2 August 1933; 4 December 1937; 9 June 1953; 13 July 1953; 15 May 1960.
  • Louisville Leader: 6 March 1948.
  • U. S. Census: 1880; 1900-1940.
  • Williams, Lillian Serece, ed. Records of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, 1895-1992. Bethesda, MD. University Publications of America, 1995. Part 1, Reel 1: Frame 00356. Reel 8, Frame 749.