Ellen was born in Ohio, but the family moved to Maryland when she was four.
She attended Parkway Elementary School in Frederick, MD.
She skipped her senior year at Frederick High School and entered
the University of California at Berkeley at the age of 17.
While enrolled at Berkeley she sang in the Treble Clef Society
and Madrigal Group but otherwise stuck to her studies, and
graduated with a B.A. in chemistry. She met her husband,
a Vietnam war era veteran who was studying to be a child
psychologist, while working on a masters in chemical physics
at the University of Oregon. They were married in Berkeley.
After her husband died in an accident, she raised her daughter
as a single mom while going to school and working. She ran
for Congress in 1992, the "Year of the Woman," then finished
her research and was awarded the Ph.D. in physical chemistry
from Purdue University. She has worked both as a project engineer
and as a college instructor.
She retired to New Mexico in 2004 and became active in the
Democratic Party, serving as chair of the Democratic Party of
Otero county 2007-2009 and running for state representative
and now state senator.