Laura Clay was a Southern suffrage leader, and daughter of Cassius Clay, founder of Kentucky’s first anti-slavery newspaper. She became president of the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Association (1881 - 1912) which achieved significant legal advances for women. A board member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (1895), she was a formidable lobbyist. But she was committed to states’ rights and white racial dominance, helping formulate the “Southern Strategy” that woman suffrage would insure white supremacy.Her parents’ divorce drew her to woman’s rights as “our own unhappy domestic life” showed her “the unjust relations between men and women.” Her leadership of the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Association (1881-1912) achieved married women’s property ownership, women’s control of their own income, women’s right to make wills, and partial school suffrage. As national suffrage organizations focused on a Constitutional amendment, Clay became isolated from mainstream suffrage. She became vice president of the Southern States Woman Suffrage Conference, later denouncing the suffrage Amendment. During the 1920s Clay, a loyal Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for the state senate at 74. She died at 92.
Reprinted from NWHM Cyber Exhibit "Rights For Women"
Author Kristina Gupta
- PHOTO: Laura Clay, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (LC-DIG-ggbain-05116)