Caroline Maria Seymour Severance (1820-1914)


Caroline Maria Seymour Severance, reformer, suffragist, and pioneer organizer of women’s clubs distinguished herself as “The Mother of Clubs,” founding the first club in the East, the New England Woman’s Club (1868), and the first club in Los Angeles. Viewing clubs as vehicles for social reform and a bridge for women from the home to the public arena, she brought political awareness and support of suffrage to the club movement. Deeply involved in reform in the cities where she lived - Cleveland, Boston, Los Angeles - she organized woman’s rights conventions in Ohio, lobbied the Ohio Senate for a married women’s property law, joined the American Equal Rights Association and helped found the American Woman Suffrage Association. A long-time suffrage organizer, she was the first to register to vote when California passed state woman suffrage in 1911.

Born in New York, she married Theodoric Severance, a banker, and had five children. They moved to Cleveland where their home was a gathering place for reformers and woman’s rights activists.  Caroline lectured, wrote, and organized woman’s rights conventions in Ohio and met the suffrage leaders at a Syracuse convention (1852). Moving to Boston, Severance reveled in her association with the leading thinkers and activists, served on the board of the New England Hospital for Women and Children, delivered abolition lectures, and became a suffrage leader. The Severances moved to Los Angeles to be near children. They founded the city’s first Unitarian church and Caroline was president of the L. A. County Woman Suffrage League, led the successful drive to make kindergartens a part of the L.A. school system, and led in establishing California’s juvenile court system. Honored for her lifelong woman’s rights work, she died at 94.


Works Cited:

  • Reprinted from NWHM Cyber Exhibit "Rights for Women"
    Author Kristina Gupta
  • PHOTO: Caroline Maria Seymour Severance, Carrie Chapman Catt Collection, Bryn Mawr College Library