Miss Laura Clay


Miss Laura Clay


Miss Laura Clay was born in 1849 at the Clay mansion of White Hall. She was the daughter of Cassius and Mary Jane Warfield Clay. She accompanied her father and mother to Russia in 1861. She attended the University of Michigan and State College in Lexington, a rare thing for a woman in that day and time.

Although her famous father opposed woman's suffrage, Miss Clay became its champion and in 1887 became president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, which office she held for 34 years. It was through her efforts that women were permitted to attend Central University in 1893. In 1884, through their efforts a School of Pharmacy for Women was opened in Louisville and its graduates were given the right to practice in the state.

Miss Clay opposed the liquor interests and was a strong worker with the WCTU. Laws passed at the instigation of Miss Clay's group provided for separate institutions for boys' and girls' reform schools, and for providing ballots for women at the school elections, where Kentucky law allowed women to vote. This last came about when, in 1913, Miss Clay went to vote in a school election, only to find that no ballots had been provided for women.

Miss Clay was a States Righter and in 1918 she broke with the Equal Rights Association which was pushing for a federal constitutional amendment. She formed her own organization, the Citizen's Committee for a State Suffrage Amendment. After winning her battle in 1920, Miss Clay changed her organization's name to the League of Women Voters, by which it is known today. She had accomplished her goal although opposing the means and bemoaning the loss of states' rights.

Soon thereafter she switched to Democratic politics being a delegate to that party's convention in San Francisco in 1920 where she had vote cast for her for presidential nomination. In 1923 she was defeated by a Republican state senator.

Miss Clay died in 1941 a highly respected citizen of Lexington, the state and the nation. She inherited long life from her father, being 92 when she died.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “Miss Laura Clay,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed August 19, 2018, https://madisonsheritage.omeka.net/items/show/799.