Biographical Sketch of Katherine Clemmons Gould


Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Katherine Clemmons Gould, 1874-1930

By Elia Tanzer, undergraduate, SUNY Oneonta

Katherine Clemmons was born in Illinois, however, her family moved when she was still very young to California. In 1886, Clemmons, more commonly known as "Viola Dayan," became very passionate about acting after her debut in San Francisco in "Gabrielle de Belle Isle." After her first acting success she decided to move to England for a time to study drama. There, she acted in and produced plays. Her first original piece was "The White Lily." It gained her recognition abroad, although in the United States she would become more famous for a role in "Buffalo Bill's Wild West." In New York City in 1894 she appeared in "A Lady of Venice," and in "Mrs. Bascot" in 1898.

On October 13, 1898, Clemmons married the wealthy financier Howard Gould, son of the railroad magnate, Jay Gould. They lived together for nine years, mostly on a yacht, Niagara. In 1907 Mrs. Gould filed for a legal separation from her estranged husband because of his "abandonment, cruelty and non-support." Katherine Gould won the suit on November 12, 1909. The settlement stated that Mrs. Gould would be awarded "a dower of one hundred thousand dollars in property owned by her husband." and $36,000 yearly, apparently "the largest alimony settlement ordered up to that time."

As a result of the settlement, Gould acquired "Blue Gap Farm" in Lynchburg, Virginia. She had many highly esteemed guests, one of whom was Booker T. Washington. She told him and other friends that she wanted to transform another piece of land she owned in New Jersey into the "Katherine Gould Industrial Farm, a New Jersey corporation for the establishment of an industrial school for free training of young people." This training was meant for numerous young people but especially for "negro Catholics."

Gould became a philanthropist and sponsored many other causes, including the National and International Women's Chamber of Commerce. In 1919 Mrs. Gould became an incorporator for a group that encouraged women to "become investors and proprietors of enterprises everywhere . . . and guide and aide women to the attainment of economic independence." Gould's ideas on women in business were remarkable for the time. She once stated, "Women must first become very efficient, they must learn to love business as men do—to make it a part of themselves."

She also supported the National Woman's Party and was among those arrested in 1917 for picketing the White House. In November 1917, after her release from Occoquan Workhouse, she and two other former prisoners went on a "Dixie Tour" by car and drove across Mississippi, speaking about their experiences in Biloxi, Gulfport, Jackson, and Natchez.

Mrs. Gould died December 24, 1930, at her estate in Lynchburg, Virginia at fifty-six.


"Mrs. Gould in Movement," New York Times (June 4, 1919): 20; "Booker T. Washington House Guest of Mrs. K. Gould," Los Angeles Herald (May 12, 1910): 16; "Gould Estate for School," New York Times (April 30, 1910): 1; "Mrs. Howard Gould Dies in Virginia," New York Times (December 25, 1930): 21; "Wife Drank Heavily, Says Howard Gould," New York Times (April 7, 1908): 5; "Mrs. Katherine Gould Wins Suit," Evening Gazette (November 12, 1915): 2; "Wanamaker Suing Howard Gould," Long Island Farmer (October 22, 1909): 5; "Urges Women to Compete," New York Times (March 20, 1920): 18.

See the Biographical sketch of Joy Oden Young [LINK] who wrote about her "Dixie Tour" with Katherine Clemmons Gould.

Wanda Sobleski, "Votes for Women," TBA Law Blog, August 2015, accessed online at Votes for Women - TBA Law Blog. This article has an account of Gould's Dixie Tour.

"Howard Gould" sketch in Wikipedia. Accessible online at Howard Gould - Wikipedia.

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