Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview
Save to active project

treatment for women in prisons, hospitals, and other state institutions. Finally, her run for office and her influential political career blazed the trail for many women to follow ( Fuller, 1975).

Clay's limited effectiveness on the national level, however, was also due to her political philosophy. Woman suffrage in the South was inextricably entwined with states' rights. The people of the South held strong views on states' rights, and she ably represented those views to the unreceptive national leadership of the movement. Unfortunately for her and her constituency, major movement leaders rejected her fears of federal power in favor of using that power to gain the ultimate goal of suffrage.

Finally, Clay's rhetoric reveals, more clearly than most, the racism of the woman suffrage movement. She adapted her arguments to her native South, but found that her views were welcome in most of the country. Her rhetoric of the 1890s anticipates the movement's gradual abandonment of any pretense of sympathy toward African-Americans in the early 1900s ( IWSM: 199-205). Her racism cannot be excused, but it was not especially rare among suffragists. However, she should not be remembered solely for these views. She was one of the "foot soldiers" that every movement needs; she spoke in virtually every state suffrage campaign whose leaders asked her to appear. She was an inexhaustible rhetor, even in her late seventies during the campaign for Al Smith. While she was not an Elizabeth Cady Stanton or a Susan B. Anthony, Laura Clay spoke simply, often, and well for her gender, for her party, and for her state.


Scholars of rhetoric must rely almost entirely on the Laura Clay Papers (LCP), University of Kentucky, Lexington. Her work occasionally appeared in the women's journals of the day, copies of which are found in her voluminous scrapbooks. The collection also contains a large number of letters between Clay and most of the major figures in the woman suffrage movement.

Selected Biographical Materials

Boyer Paul S. "Clay, Laura." NAW 1:346-348.

Fuller Paul E. "Laura Clay." Encyclopedia of Southern History. Eds. David C. Roller and Robert Tyman. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979, p. 238.

Fuller Paul E. Laura Clay and the Woman's Rights Movement. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1975.

"Miss Laura Clay, Noted Suffragist." New York Times ( June 30, 1941):17.

Chronology of Major Works

"Miss Clay on Kentucky Law." [ 1890s]. LCP, Box 17.

"The Race Question Again." Kentucky Gazette, April 1890. LCP, Box 17, Scrapbook.

"Elections." December 12, 1890. Proceedings and Debates in the Convention Assembledat Frankfort, on the eighth day of September, 1890, to adopt, amend or change the Constitution of the State of Kentucky. 2


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 512

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?