Wonderful Women of Norwood: Anna R. Ellis
By: Norwood Historical Society Board Members Laurie Kearney, Linda Rau, & Karen DeNapoli
The Norwood Historical Society would like to present Anna R. Ellis as a Wonderful Woman of Norwood.
Anna Rachel Ellis was born in Norwood to John and Harriet Ellis on July 5, 1877. She attended Norwood schools and when she graduated in 1895, she was asked by then Postmaster William Wallace to fill a part time summer clerk position at the Norwood Post office located in the Wheelock Block, in the business center of Norwood. Anna agreed, and even though she had taken courses that would have allowed her further studies, she stayed with the post office in Norwood for the next forty-nine years.
The post office in Norwood was established in 1846 when Norwood was still South Dedham, by Captain Moses Guild and was in Jabez Boyden’s general store. It consisted of a three-foot high cylindrical alphabetized letter rack where you just turned to find your mail under the appropriate letter. This postal rack can still be viewed at the Norwood Historical Society headquarters, The Fred Holland Day House, 93 Day St. When Norwood was incorporated in 1872, Willard Gay became Norwood’s first postmaster.
Anna served as a clerk in all positions of the post office under five postmasters. She was hired by Willard Wallace who served from 1886 to 1903. Frank Fales was postmaster from 1903 until 1916 and it was under Mr. Fales that Norwood became the first post office in Massachusetts to offer the United States Postal Savings System. Anna became the first postal savings clerk.
The United States Postal Savings System was formed after intense lobbying by farmers, workers, and immigrants that had distrust for the banks at that time. It offered a savings plan that at the time was more secure than banks and returned a 2% interest to those who used it. It also provided protection for these savings during the Great Depression as it was insured and backed by the government and not banks. Anna administered this operation until 1919, when, under postmaster Joseph McManus, she was appointed as assistant postmaster.
Anna served as Assistant Postmaster under Joseph McManus (1916-1924), under postmaster Albion Parker (1924-1933), and then under Thomas Mullvehill (1933-1936). Along with her duties of assistant postmaster she oversaw the postal carriers and the postal savings system.
In 1931, during Thomas Mullvehill’s tenure as postmaster, Congressman Richard Wigglesworth notified Norwood that a recommendation had been made to the House Appropriations Committee that a new post office be built in Norwood. An amount of $130,000.00 was appropriated for this endeavor. This set off a contentious town discussion on the location for the new building. It was finally decided in October of 1931 that the site of the old Everett School, where Anna Ellis attended school, was the best place for the new building. Guild Street was opened and extended, and architect William Upham designed the neo-federal building that stands today.
During the building postmaster Thomas Mullvehill was taken ill and Anna Ellis was appointed acting postmaster in 1933 and was charged with the transfer, administration, and opening of the new building. She served in this position until late in 1934. When Mr. Mullvehill died in December of 1936, she was again appointed acting postmaster until being appointed postmaster in August of 1937.
Anna Ellis served as Postmaster/Postmistress until she retired in 1944, during which time she was responsible for the expansion of the carriers in town to eleven, the adding of postal machines, and the institution of parcel post for packages. Anna R Ellis died the following year in December 1945 at the age of 68. She left a sister Rachel Ellis, and an incredible forty-nine years of service to the town of Norwood.
Norwood Historical Society Archives
United States Postal Savings System history
Norwood a History by Patricia Fanning