Clara Bewick Colby and the Woman's Tribune, 1883-1909 The Free Lance Editor as Movement Leader
E. Claire Jerry
"Equality for All"
Clara Bewick Colby's newspaper, the Woman's Tribune, was one of the leading papers of the early woman's rights movement. While journalism historians and experts in suffrage history have recognized its importance, it was also widely praised in its own day. Friends of Bewick Colby lauded it: Olympia Brown called it a "fine and interesting paper" that "filled an important place in the history of the cause."1 Suffrage leaders welcomed it: May Wright Sewall deemed it "the most ably edited paper devoted to our cause."2 General circulation newspapers acknowledged its value: the Tecumseh ( Nebraska) Republican pronounced the Tribune"one among the ablest and neatest papers published in the state."3 As this testimony indicates, Clara Bewick Colby and the Woman's Tribune played significant roles in the nineteenth-century movement for woman's rights.
Although Bewick Colby was never elected to a national office in the suffrage movement, her friends and enemies alike saw her as "a free lance," an influential figure without organizational ties.4 In contrast to other affiliated or sponsored papers, the Tribune served as her personal outlet and mechanism to influence the movement and to achieve leadership status. The Woman's Tribune fulfilled these functions in three interrelated contexts: within the movement, between the paper and the readers, and in Bewick Colby's own life. Because of its distinctive place among suffrage periodicals, a