Clara Hampson Ueland 1860-1927

First President of League of Women Voters Minnesota

 

Clara Ueland selected as one of 150 people, places and things that changed Minnesota

Clara Hampson Ueland

Clara Ueland was an extraordinary woman whose interests included the establishments of kindergartens, the preservation of immigrant crafts, support of the fine arts, clean water and clean air; prison reform, community charities, the abolishment of billboards, the formation of a juvenile court, and the care and education of a talented family of seven children.  In virtually all these and many other activities she played a leadership role, but none consumed her energy so completely as the right of women to vote.  She was President of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association.  1914-19, and then the first President of Minnesota League of Women Voters, 1919-20.  Though Clara Ueland resigned the presidency in her first year, she did so because she preferred to direct the League's work at the Legislature.

Seven years later; returning from the Capitol and a day of lobbying on behalf of a bill for working women, she was run down by a truck as she stepped off a street corner near her home.  A banner headline across the top of the front page of the next day's Minneapolis Journal on March 2, 1927, proclaimed: "Mrs. Andreas Ueland killed."  A memorial service at the State Capitol was the first ever bestowed on a private citizen of Minnesota, as was the broadcast of that service over WCCO radio.

Tributes took many forms.  The photograph of the bronze plaque featured in this exhibit is on permanent display in the rotunda of the Capitol building.  The Clara Ueland Fellowship was established at the University of Minnesota and is awarded annually for the purpose of aiding a woman graduate "in a year's graduate study of problems of government and citizenship."  There was an outpouring of sentiment for this remarkable woman.

Her friends and associates said of her:

"She believed absolutely in liberty of opinion."
"The most courageous and the only truly great woman I have ever known."
"A woman of vision, courage and judgment, she labored long and arduously for the betterment of life."
"No timid doubt, no hesitation, no personal excuses hindered her from doing a need at the moment it should be done.  That kind of moral courage is rare and characterizes the great - the makers of history."

Clara Ueland was a maker of history.  Under her energetic leadership, the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association finally prevailed in its arguments on behalf of voting for "female persons," and the Legislature in special session became the 15th state to ratify the 19th amendment on September 22, 1919.  In 1920, seventy-two years after women had gathered in Seneca Falls, New York, to proclaim their independence and equality, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed.

When she became President of the Suffrage Association, she remarked:  "Of all the honors which have been offered me ... none appeals to me as does this one.  If I can be, in any small way instrumental in gaining the franchise for the women of Minnesota, I shall feel that I have been allowed to be of real use."  She recognized also that "What is a good deal of a burden to a few women can be done with comparative ease by a good many."  Her organizational talents helped to turn the tide.  Realizing that the achievement of suffrage was not the end but the beginning of a larger mission, Clara Ueland prepared a "call to organize the Minnesota League of Women Voters."

She declared, "Great actual and potential power is now in the women of the State.  We must confer in order first - that we may become enlightened voters and, second-to consider plans by which this great power may be directed for the good of the state."

Our Minnesota Suffrage Association will soon cease to exist.  Let us build in its place a mightier organization, which shall include all women and organizations having for their purpose the raising of our standards of living and the safeguarding of our cherished institutions.

Together the women of the state must make wise and farseeing plans to the end that our dreams of a democracy, in which men and women shall have an equal voice must come true." - October 1919

Clara Ueland's living heritage is  League of Women Voters Minnesota.  Marguerite Wells, her successor as Minnesota president and later president of the national League, said of her:  "I believe Mrs. Ueland to have been the ideal citizen.  She was a good citizen because she cared."  (From the "Clara Ueland Wall," League of Women Voters Minnesota office, St. Paul.)

Additional reading about Clara Ueland:

  • O Clouds, Unfold:  Clara Ueland and Her Family by Brenda Ueland
  • Gentle Warriors:  Clara Ueland and the Minnesota Struggle for Woman Suffrage by Barbara Stuhler
  • The Privilege for Which we Struggled:  Leaders of the Women Suffrage Movement in Minnesota edited by Heidi Bauer
     
       

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