Ella Virginia Houck Holloway

A newspaper image of Mrs. Reuben Ross Holloway in a large had signing papers.
A newspaper image of Ella Virginia Houck Holloway.


“The Lady Who is in Favor of the Adoption of The Star-Spangled Banner”

In 1931, Congressman J. Charles Linthicum finally succeeded in his quest to make the Star-Spangled Banner the national anthem of the United States. However, the driving force behind his success was Ella Virginia Houck Holloway - better known as Mrs. Reuben Ross Holloway . As President of the Maryland Society of the United Daughters of 1812, a society dedicated to the promotion of patriotism and the preservation of American history, Holloway had petitioned Linthicum back in 1918 to introduce a bill adopting Francis Scott Key’s poem as the national anthem. It took thirteen long years and during this time Holloway worked tirelessly to gather public support, becoming the “back of this movement,” according to Linthicum.

A Baltimore native, Holloway was born in 1862 to Dr. Jacob Wever Houck and Susannah Porter in a house located next to the Shot Tower, which she claimed was the inspiration for her trademark tall “shako” hat. Holloway descended from an old Maryland family, her maternal roots stretching back to the 1664 settlement of Todd’s Inheritance in North Point. In 1892, she married Reuben Ross Holloway, a businessman who manufactured fire engines and extinguishers, and had two children with him.

A typed letter with signatures at the bottom requesting that the Star Spangled Banner becomes the National Anthem.
A Letter from Mrs. Reuben Ross Holloway to Charles Linthicum advocating for the Star-Spangled Banner to become the National Anthem, 1918.


A Firm Believer in Flag Etiquette

Holloway was involved in numerous patriotic activities, including serving as chairman of the United Daughters of 1812’s Committee on the Correct Use of the Flag. She firmly believed that children should be taught to salute the flag every morning before breakfast, and that everyone should stand when the national anthem was played. Holloway also disapproved of using the flag emblem on clothing and other items, including birthday cakes. Some of her positions remain controversial in the present day .

Even though she was a successful woman who held powerful roles and had broad political and social connections, Holloway was opposed to women’s suffrage and jury duty. She believed that “women’s place is in the home.” However, on the topic of patriotism, Holloway was consistent in her drive to promote the flag and the anthem. In her statement to Congress on the Star-Spangled Banner bill, Holloway called for its passage as a unifying measure, to educate both newly arrived and longstanding Americans that there is only one “anthem for the people.”

Holloway died in 1940 at the age of 78, and just as Linthicum described her, she will be forever known as “the lady who is in favor of the adoption of The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Last updated: August 29, 2020

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