Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists
Biography of Victoria Clay Haley, 1877-



By Nell Shea, undergraduate student
Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass.

Victoria Clay was born in Macon, Mississippi on January 1, 1877. She was the daughter of Samuel and Charlotte (Williams) Clay. After graduating from Sumner High School in St. Louis in 1895, Victoria took a course in Business in Chicago in 1899 and was a private pupil of the Perry School of Oratory a year later. She was devoted to public service for the entirety of her career. After completing her school she taught at local public schools for four years. In June of 1904, Victoria Clay married James L Haley. She was also elected the first Vice President of the St. Louis chapter of the Young Women’s Christian Association. Also at this time, Governor Herbert S. Hadley appointed her to be a member board of commissioners State Industrial School for Incorrigible Negro Girls. Haley served in this position for two terms. In addition to her management positions, Haley was an illustrious writer and orator herself. She was a contributing editor to the St. Louis Afro-American, a weekly newspaper, a short story author and lecturer. For this work she was recognized as a member of National Negro Press Association.

In 1913 Haley attended a large regional suffrage conference as a representative of the Federated Colored Women’s Club, of which she was president. The venue chosen was a hotel that did not typically serve black guests. For this reason, some hotel staff and other attendees of the conference insisted that she leave. However, Haley refused to do so as she clearly had to right to attend the conference. This exemplifies the divide along the color line of the women’s suffrage movement as well as Haley’s courage and leadership in proving that black women had just as much a right to be in the same spaces and demand the same rights and respect. When the same conference was held the following year in Des Moines, Iowa, Haley also insisted on attending. Haley also served as the second recording secretary of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. In 1914, as a friend and coworker of Madame C.J. Walker, she pushed a motion through the NACW to support her work.

After the amendment for women’s suffrage, Haley became incredibly active in the political sphere. She was an alternate member of the Missouri delegation to the Republican National Convention in 1920 and the following year directed outreach to black female voters from the Western district. In 1921 she divorced and moved to Chicago adopting the name Victoria Clay Roland. Two years later, Victoria Clay Roland joined the executive board of the Douglas National Bank of Chicago, the only bank at the time to serve blacks that had a membership with the Federal Reserve. While she was not the first black woman in this position, it was considered a significant step for the black female community and point of much pride and respect. Continuing on a path on the economic side, Haley chaired the NACW’s National Headquarters Fund in 1926.


Frank Lincoln Mather, ed., Who's Who of the Colored Race (Chicago 1915): 127.

Lowry, Beverly. Her dream of dreams: the rise and triumph of Madam C.J. Walker (New York: Vintage, 2004).

"NACW Begins Campaign for Headquarters," Pittsburgh Courier, January 19, 1926.

"Negro Woman Political Leader Sues for Divorce," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 23, 1921.

"Suffrage Split Over Race Issue," Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1913.

New York Age, 15 Sep 1923, p. 4.

Tiffany M. Gill, Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women's Activism in the Beauty Industry (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010)

"Woman of Broad Culture," The Appeal, October 3, 1914.

"Victoria Clay Haley elected to Republican committee (1919)." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 20 July 1919, p. 52..

"Victoria Clay Haley Has Brilliant Record," Pittsburgh Courier, November 22, 1912.


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