Alice Cately was born in Tully, New York, the daughter of Shepard W. Cately, renowned carriage manufacturer. Alice graduated from Cortland Normal School in 1871 and taught for a few years before training as a nurse. She married Henry Ettling but was widowed in 1885 at the age of 35, after only four years of marriage. She had one child and never remarried.
Her father left his carriage business in Tully in 1876 and moved to Cortland where he was employed as a salesman at Fitzgerald and Kinney, wagon manufacturers. He was always an inventive man, and he continued to develop and patent his designs. After her father’s declining health caused him to retire from his occupation, father and daughter would form a business partnership in about 1888 known as Cately & Ettling. Cately invented the gadgets and Ettling marketed them. Eventually, Alice would take over her father’s share of the business and become the only woman to attend the National Carriage Builder’s Association banquets. In 1913, there were over one hundred exhibitors. At that time, she’d had displays at every convention since 1889. As the head of Cately & Ettling, she improved upon an important invention of her father’s, a patented device for raising carriage tops. Evidently, she inherited her father’s inventive genius as well as his head for business. Ettling became the sole proprietor of the family business from the time of her father’s death in 1898 to when the doors were closed in 1916. The carriage and wagon industry had given way to the automobile.
Alice Ettling was active in several organizations, including Eastern Star, the Tioghnioga Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Twentieth Century Club. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church and a life member of the Gideons. Additionally, along with three other women, she raised money to actualize the hospital in Cortland and served on its board of lady managers. She was also instrumental in organizing the Red Cross in Cortland.
Alice Ettling was an enterprising and successful businesswoman at a time when business was very much a male dominated world. She was not afraid to be the only woman at the carriage shows because she knew the value of her products. She carried on as a single parent when her husband died and as the head of a successful company after her father’s death. She was truly an inspiration to a new generation of Cortland County women.