Persistence Exhibition: Hilary Woods

Persistence: Continuing the Struggle for Suffrage and Equality, 1830-2020

Artist: Hilary Woods

Chosen Suffrage Leader: Clara Ueland


Artist Statement & Biography

I was drawn to stained glass at a very young age. Growing up in an artistic family gave me a life-long appreciation of art. I use stained glass as an outlet for creativity and the glass often as inspiration, it’s ever-changing; it’s kinetic. The light and color changes depending on the surroundings and gives measureless ways to connect with each piece.

Stained glass is about light and color and the feelings they evoke. I add a modern touch to a centuries-old art form to make it my own through custom patterns and thoughtful use of color and texture.

Stained glass is a huge passion of mine I love pushing my art with custom patterns, intricate and modern designs; it inspires me on a daily basis. Creating contemporary portraits in glass which brings out the personality of each subject is especially exciting to me. For this exhibit, I hope to portray Clara in a unique way that will draw audiences in to learn more about this visionary woman’s life and how she helped shape the history of Minnesota.

A 2018 City Pages article about Clara Ueland written by Hannah Jones, stood out to me and left me wanting to learn more; “Minneapolis suffragist Clara Ueland was more badass than you, probably”.

Clara Ueland WAS a badass; a Pioneer in many ways. She fought for equality, equal rights, women’s and children’s rights and envisioned a time in which a woman could be president; she was a true visionary.  Clara turned the suffrage movement in Minnesota around, she righted the boat and steered us to victory. The work of Clara and the rest of the suffragists of her time is celebrated but never ending.

As an artist, I will bring Clara’s contributions to life using a non-typical medium to portray this extraordinary woman from our history. Using the Tiffany-style of stained glass, I will create a stylized portrait that will evoke emotions and build a personal connection to her.

Clara Hampson Ueland, ca. 1915

Clara Ueland Biography

Clara Hampson Ueland was president of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association from 1914 until 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified and MWSA became the League of Women Voters. Her leadership, organizational skills, and persistence in the face of multiple legislative disappointments gave the Minnesota suffrage movement the direction and strength it needed to see the suffrage fight through to the end.

Ueland was involved in her community well before she became involved in the suffrage cause. She had worked as a teacher before she married Andreas Ueland, a prominent Minneapolis lawyer and probate judge, in 1885. Her philosophy of raising her eight children was unusual for the time, breaking gender norms: her sons knew how to sew on a button, and her daughters wore knee pants when playing basketball.

Ueland remained interested in education after she stopped teaching. In the early 1890s she worked with the Kindergarten Association to establish free kindergartens in Minneapolis. Clara Ueland was also a clubwoman. She joined the Peripatetics, a Minneapolis study club, in 1893, and remained a member throughout her suffrage years. In 1907 she helped found the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis, which worked to improve the city and support the arts. Through the Woman’s Club she worked with the city on clean air and clean water issues. She also chaired the club’s Industrial Art committee for the state fair, and in 1911 Governor Eberhart appointed her to the board of the state arts society.

Her activities meant that Ueland was a well known and respected clubwoman before she joined the suffrage movement. She was accustomed to meeting with officials and speaking to groups. As a clubwoman she had worked and socialized with many of the society women she would later lead as president of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association.

Ueland’s interest in suffrage began when the national suffrage convention was held in Minneapolis in 1901. She had personal connections to the suffrage movement through friends like Emily Bright and Josephine Simpson, who were also society women, clubwomen, and leaders in the movement. Her daughters, especially Elsa, played a pivotal role in educating her and pushing her to become active in the fight for woman suffrage.

In 1913, Ueland started the Equal Suffrage Organization of Minneapolis. It was one of several suffrage organizations that were founded in this period and as its president, Ueland got experience running a suffrage organization. In 1914 she was elected president of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association, taking over from her friend Emily Bright.

By the time Clara Ueland became a leader in the Minnesota suffrage movement, she had years of experience organizing people and events and talking to men in power. She was well known and respected.

In 1914 Ueland was elected president of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association, the statewide organization, and she remained president until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. When the MWSA voted to become the League of Women Voters, she was elected president, but soon resigned so she could focus on the League’s legislative program.

Ueland brought important changes to MWSA. She reorganized the association to parallel Congressional districts. Since change would come only if the Minnesota Legislature or the Congress in Washington, D.C., voted for new legislation, MWSA needed to know who was representing each district. They needed to know where that man stood on the suffrage question, for or against. They needed to know what MWSA members lived in that district who could write letters or personally lobby that representative or senator. Collecting and organizing that information took time and resources. Recruiting new members and forming new clubs took time and resources as well.

Ueland oversaw this reorganization and breathed new life into MWSA. She raised the money to hire organizers who traveled around the state organizing new suffrage clubs, educating both women and men about suffrage, and finding people to lead petition drives.

By the end of the push for suffrage, MWSA had identified leaders on the ground in hundreds of Minnesota communities who were pressing ahead with petitions and resolutions. The Political Equality Club of Minneapolis and the Hennepin County Woman Suffrage Association reorganized as well, identifying precinct leaders throughout Minneapolis. Ramsey County had the Ramsey County Woman Suffrage Association, the Woman’s Welfare League, and the Everywoman Suffrage Club. Clara Ueland and other suffrage leaders kept track of which side each elected official was on and contacted them repeatedly to be sure of their support.

Each time suffrage was defeated at the state or national level, Ueland was right back at letter writing the next day, encouraging her “troops” to keep up their work. By 1920, she was known and respected throughout the state. When she was hit by a truck and killed in 1927 on her way home from a hearing at the State Capitol, there was an outpouring of grief.

[Note: There are numerous letters and newspaper articles that will demonstrate the statements above. For example, after losing a vote in the Senate on October 1, 1918, she was back at letter writing on October 2, asking women to keep working on petitions. Her letters often ask the women leading the petition work to try just a little harder to meet their quota of signatures from both women and men. There is a letter from Pape Quayle in St. Cloud thanking Clara for all her work. There are newspaper articles that show that the idea of a plaque in her memory in the Capitol began very quickly after her death. We should note that the plaque is still one of only two memorials for women in the Capitol and that she is referred to as “Mrs. Andreas Ueland.”]

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