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Ueland, Clara (1860–1927)

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Photograph of Clara Ueland, ca. 1918.

Clara Ueland, ca. 1918.

Clara Ueland was a lifelong women’s rights activist and prominent Minnesotan suffragist. She was president of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association when the nineteenth amendment was passed in 1919. That same year, she also became the first president of the Minnesota League of Women’s Voters.

Clara Hampson Ueland was born in 1860 in Akron, Ohio. In 1869, she moved to Minnesota with her family, eventually settling in Minneapolis. She worked there as a schoolteacher before marrying Andreas Ueland, a prominent Norwegian American lawyer, in 1885. The two went on to have eight children, including writer Brenda Ueland. Many of the Ueland children shared their mother’s dedication to gender equality and activism.

Ueland spent much of the 1880s and 1890s raising her children, but her interest in feminism and community advocacy was apparent throughout. In 1892, she campaigned for women to serve on the Minneapolis School Board and established several free kindergartens in the city. She also displayed her feminist beliefs at home, breaking gender norms by teaching her sons to do housework and encouraging her daughters to go to college.

As women’s organizations gained momentum around the turn of the twentieth century, Ueland became serious about the suffrage movement. Her interest was piqued by a Minneapolis suffrage convention in 1901. Soon after, Ueland joined two organizations in support of the cause. She even went on to help found the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis, but left in 1912 to focus her energy on women’s voting rights.

Ueland’s determination and leadership skills quickly pulled her from the periphery to the center of Minnesota’s suffrage movement. In 1913, she founded the Equal Suffrage Organization of Minneapolis, notable for its male as well as female members. The following year, she organized a suffrage parade in Minneapolis with a turnout of nearly 2,000 marchers. Its success propelled her to her most significant leadership role as the president of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA).

As MWSA president, Ueland launched a whirlwind effort to gain support for women’s suffrage. Her leadership style was relatively conservative, and she prized order and restraint over the more radical methods of other organizations. She prioritized outreach outside of the Twin Cities, mailing regular “Dear Suffragist” letters to suffrage leaders statewide and visiting outlying towns to give speeches. Ueland also organized a group of women to call directly on policy makers for change. Praising her leadership, a fellow suffragist referred to her as “the Moses who is leading Minnesota to the promised land.”

Ueland’s efforts finally paid off in 1919 when the nineteenth amendment was passed by Congress. She celebrated with almost fifty other Minnesotan women at a 1920 victory convention in Chicago. She attended the first national congress of the League of Women Voters on the same trip, and soon assumed leadership of the League’s Minnesota branch.

Although Ueland retired from the presidential position soon afterwards, she continued to work closely with the League as head of its legislative council. Ueland had always been quick to note that her suffrage work focused not only on increased rights for women, but also on the good women could do with their votes. She stuck to these words. As leader of a 1922 campaign to pass a child labor amendment, Ueland pushed through repeated failures in an attempt to secure protections for children. She also worked with the League to elect women into office, support workers and mothers, and promote peace between nations.

Ueland remained an activist until the day she died in 1927. After a day of campaigning for stricter child labor laws at the State Capitol in St. Paul, she was hit by a truck near her home. She died almost immediately, her death prompting many to remember the strides she had made for women’s rights. The following year, a plaque was installed in her honor at the Capitol.

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“League of Women Voters to Become Factor in Minnesota.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, October 20, 1919.

Stuhler, Barbara. Gentle Warriors: Clara Ueland and the Minnesota Struggle for Woman Suffrage. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995.

“Suffragists Aid Iowa Campaign by Contribution.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, May 9,
1916.

“Truck Strikes Club Leader in Front of Home.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, March 2, 1927.

Ueland, Brenda. O Clouds, Unfold!: Clara Ueland and Her Family. Minneapolis: Nodin Press, 2004.

Related Images

Photograph of Clara Ueland, ca. 1918.
Photograph of Clara Ueland, ca. 1918.
Photograph of Clara Ueland, ca. 1890.
Photograph of Clara Ueland, ca. 1890.
Photograph of the Ueland family and a pony near their Minneapolis home, ca. 1895.
Photograph of the Ueland family and a pony near their Minneapolis home, ca. 1895.
Entrance hall of the Ueland family home, ca. 1900.
Entrance hall of the Ueland family home, ca. 1900.
Photograph of Political Equality Club members, ca. 1915
Photograph of Political Equality Club members, ca. 1915
Photograph of Clara Ueland's 1916 National Suffrage Convention badge
Photograph of Clara Ueland's 1916 National Suffrage Convention badge
Photograph of Clara Ueland's family, ca. 1920
Photograph of Clara Ueland's family, ca. 1920
Photograph of Clara Ueland, ca. 1925
Photograph of Clara Ueland, ca. 1925
Photograph of A plaque honoring Clara Ueland at the Minnesota State Capitol (1927).
Photograph of A plaque honoring Clara Ueland at the Minnesota State Capitol (1927).

Turning Point

Ueland becomes president of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA) in 1914, launching a tireless campaign to secure the right to vote for women.

Chronology

October 10, 1860

Clara Hampson is born in Akron, Ohio, to parents Henry Oscar Hampson and Eliza Osborn.

1869

Five years after her father’s passing, Hampson moves to Minnesota with her mother and her brother, Fred.

June 19, 1885

Hampson marries the Norwegian-born lawyer Andreas Ueland.

1886

Ueland gives birth to her first child, Anne.

1891

Now with three daughters, Ueland moves her family to a sixteen-bedroom home on the shores of present-day Bde Maka Ska.

1901

Ueland begins her involvement with the suffrage movement by joining the Political Equality Club of St. Paul and the Minnesota Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Organization.

1907

Ueland helps found the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis.

1914

Ueland organizes a large suffrage parade and is later elected president of the Minnesota League of Women Voters.

1919

Ueland’s work comes to fruition when the nineteenth amendment is passed by Congress.

1920

The nineteenth amendment is ratified, and Ueland briefly becomes president of the newly-formed Minnesota League of Women Voters.

1922

Ueland leads an effort to pass a child labor law amendment.

March 1, 1927

At age sixty-six, Ueland is hit by a truck and killed. Earlier that day, she had been campaigning for stricter child labor laws at the Capitol.