Ada Ford was born on March 16, 1877 to Samuel Nelson Ford and Elizabeth Cook. The couple had one other child, Ada’s brother Hoyt Ford, on January 5, 1880. Elizabeth died on November 28, 1885 from congestive fever and Samuel remarried on September 13, 1877. His new wife was Mrs. Anna Jane Beverstock, Elizabeth’s older sister. Anna’s husband, Charles H Beverstock, had died of “a fever of a malignant type” on August 26, 1872. In 1881 Samuel Ford built an 11 room, 2-story frame home on North Diamond Street for $3,000. Samuel Ford was a prominent figure in Mansfield business circles and started from humble beginnings, being born on a farm in Washington Township, Richland County, Ohio. After serving in the Civil War as one of the “Hundred Days’ Men” at the age of 17, Ford entered the lumber business at the age of 18. By 1869 he was in business for himself manufacturing lumber, sash, doors and blinds.
This work ethic was handed down to his children. Hoyt found success in the banking business, while his sister, Ada, would take a more unconventional path for women in her time and become a physician. Along with this work ethic, Ada had natural talent as well. She was an exceptional speaker, even at a young age. At 12 years old she was praised in Mansfield newspapers recitations given at local churches. After completing courses at Mansfield High School, Ada improved on these natural talents by attending the Emerson School of Oratory at Boston. She would then study osteopathy in Kirksville, Mo., then anatomy and physiology under Dr. William T. Eckley at Chicago. In 1909 she would receive her diploma from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Cleveland, part of Ohio Wesleyan University. That same year Dr. Ford would be hired as an Assistant Physician at Athens State Hospital; one of, if not, the first women in that position. Dr. Ford would be in Athens for less than two years before returning to Mansfield where she would open her own practice.
Upon her return to Mansfield, she would live with her father and step-mother on North Diamond. Since the building of his home, Samuel had acquired more property including the former home of James A. Hedges. Sometime between 1902-1909, Hedges’ home was razed and a new home was built. Hoyt Ford would move into the home with his new wife, Carrie Ella Kerr, in 1907. A short time later, Hoyt Ford would build a new home at 425 Sherman Place. Dr. Ford and her parents would move into the new home, while the older home built in 1881 was sold to Dr. G. W. Baughman.
Dr. Ford continued to live with her parents and spent time traveling. She never married. She was involved in many local societies and civic organizations. In an interview in the Mansfield News on July 10, 1921, Dr. Ford spoke of many of the advancements women were making in professions at the time saying: “being a physician isn’t the only thing, of course, that women are succeeding at. I should think women would make the best juvenile judges. There is a broad field for the woman lawyer. For that work needs just a woman’s touch to make it most successful.” Dr. Ford went on to say that she was fortunate and didn’t have to experience the difficulties that many women in her position had to, but she did highlight the struggles and unpleasantness women had to endure to become a success in their field saying that any girl who “can go through all the unpleasantness, and get to feel just casual and indifferent toward it all,” can succeed “but she must learn not to even blink, she must look the bull right in the eye, even if sometimes she wishes the earth would open and swallow her.”
Dr. Ford would retire from medicine around 1936 and spend the next twenty years traveling and working in the community. She was president of the Mansfield Telephone Co. and vice president of the Mansfield Building and Loan Association until her death on September 27, 1956, in her family home at 32 North Diamond. She was the last of her immediate family, as her brother Hoyt had died in 1945. At the time of her death, her estate was worth 1.8 million dollars. Her will stated that the money was to go into a trust fund established by her father and that the executors of the estate were to set up numerous philanthropic ventures. The S. N. Ford and Ada Ford Foundation was created.
- Ancestry.com. Ohio, U.S., Births and Christenings Index, 1774-1973 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
- The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147
- Mansfield Cemetery and Mansfield Catholic Cemetery, Mansfield, Ohio, Vol. 1, p. 197.
- Richland County, Ohio Marriages 1872-1900, p. 108.
- Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio). 29 August 1872, p. 3.
- Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio). 12 May 1881, p. 6.
- Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 27 August 1930, p. 1.