She was the daughter of Fanny Hudson Chapin and Edward William Hooper (1839-1901) of Boston, Mass. She had a sister called Fanny, later Mrs G. S. Curtiss. In 1908 Ellen married John Briggs Potter of Michigan, who, after studying art in Paris in the 1890s, later became curator of paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
In 1890 she posed for Portrait of Ellen Sturgis Hooper y391. She posed for Whistler in t 21 Cheyne Walk, and her father attended all twenty sittings. According to Armstrong, who interviewed Ellen, Whistler 'was interested in Ellen's copper hair and high colouring. She wore a dress made of material sent her by a cousin in Japan, Dr W. S. Bigelow... Whistler talked very little during the sittings... gave the impression of intense concentration'.
US Census 1880, Ancestry.com; Armstrong, J. B., 'Portrait of a Lady: A Recollection of Whistler', Art Journal, vol. 25, spring 1966, pp. 250-51; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.
'Ellen Sturgis Hooper Potter', FindAGrave website.
'Portrait of Ellen Stugis Hooper', Peter Nahum at the Leicester Galleries website.