Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Clara Bradley (Mrs. Robert J.) Burdette, 1855-1954

By Fang He, doctoral candidate, University of California, Santa Barbara

Clara Bradley Burdette (July 22, 1855-Jan. 6, 1954) was born in New York to Albert H. and Laura Coville Bradley. She attended Syracuse University (1872-1876), where she was a founder of Alpha Phi Sorority in 1872. She relocated with her first husband, Nathaniel Milman Wheeler (1854-1886), to Los Angeles, and they had one son, Roy Bradley Wheeler (1882-1923). After the death of Mr. Wheeler, Clara remarried to Colonel Presley Calvert Baker (1835-1893) whom she also outlived. In 1899, Robert Jones Burdette (1844-1914), a minister, humorist and lecturer became her third husband, with whom she often traveled together to give lectures and speeches. Mrs. Joseph Walsh and Mrs. Emma Wheeler Eisinger were listed in a San Bernardino Sun article as her daughters.

Clara Burdette was widely known as a pioneer and leader of club movement. She organized the women's clubs of California into the California Federation of Women's Clubs in 1900, and served as its president until 1902. She worked as the vice president of General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) from 1902 to 1904. She later was appointed as Foreign Correspondent of GFWC, promoting club work on an international level. As a founder and first president of Los Angeles Ebell club, she erected the clubhouse at her own expense. She organized Women's Athletic Club in Los Angeles. She was also a member of Friday Morning Club and Badger Club in Los Angeles and Shakespeare club in Pasadena.

Her contribution to American club movement was highlighted in multiple sources. The Los Angeles Herald, for instance, reported in 1903 that in the past three or four years, she "has visited every state in the Union in the interests of club work, organizing many clubs and inspiring and helping thousands." She traveled to not only big cities but also "small towns and out-of-the-way places, where the weak clubs were struggling for life for lack of encouragement and a touch with the great work outside their narrow circles."

Even though club women differed over the issue of women's suffrage, in 1911 Clara Burdette publicly "declared herself a believer in woman suffrage politically, socially and morally." She also noted that "the most important feature" of 1914 biennial convention of the GFWC at Chicago "was the adoption of the suffrage resolution." After the National League of Women Voters was formed in 1920 , Clara became the chairman of California branch. She stressed, according to Los Angeles Times, its two purposes were" to foster education in citizenship and to support improved legislation." She actively engaged in Republican politics, organizing female voter rallies to support Republican candidates and offering instructions on how to vote. During World War I, she worked as State Director of Food Conservation under Herbert Hoover, and later headed Hoover's campaign for the presidency in California.

Clara also took part in various women's societies and civic groups. She was first regent of Pasadena Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She organized the Chautauqua movement in California. She was chairman of the Finance Committee of the Auditorium Company, and a member of Associated Charities. She served as a trustee of Syracuse University, Mills College, Throop Polytechnic Institute (later the California Institute of Technology), California College in China, Pasadena Hospital and the Southwest Museum of Los Angeles. She organized, and remained active in the Women's Legislative Council of California.


"Clara Bradley Burdette," accessed January16, 2017; accessed January16, 2017;"Rev. And Mrs. Robert J. Burdette to Make Extended Eastern Trip" Los Angeles Herald, September 13, 1903, pp. 7;"Federation's Founder Marks Her Birthday," San Bernardino Sun, July 24, 1950, pp. 11; "Cities and Towns South of Tehachepi's Top--Los Angeles County News," Los Angeles Times, Jul 3, 1914, pp. II8;

BURDBTTE, Clara Bradley, ed. by John William Leonard. In Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, ed. by John William Leonard. (New York, NY: American Commonwealth Company, 1914). pp. 146; Dorothy Grace Miller, "Within the Bounds of Propriety: Clara Burdette and the Women's Movement" PhD diss., University of California, Riverside, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1984. 8504785.

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