Biographical Sketch of Clara B. Byrd

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Clara B. Byrd, 1887-1985

By Jake Bequette, student,

Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Alumnae Secretary, Women's College of the University of North Carolina; Founder, President, The Historical Book Club

Clara Booth Byrd was born June 12, 1887. She lived in Harnett County, North Carolina. She died May 22, 1985 and is buried in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Clara Booth Byrd enrolled as a student in 1908 at the State Normal and Industrial College, a women's college that later became the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in July 1913. In the History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6, the authors mentioned Byrd's speech advocating for women's suffrage. In Women in American Politics, author Doris Weatherford recognized Byrd as a "Prominent Women's Rights Pioneer" in North Carolina between 1913 and 1920.

After the suffrage amendment passed, Byrd became involved in the administration at her alma mater and also taught secretarial classes in the Commercial Department. She also served as the assistant to the college treasurer. In 1922, Byrd became the Alumnae Secretary and editor of the Alumnae News. In this capacity, she increased documentation on the college's graduates and revamped the newsletter to foster greater networking among the alumnae. She also established an office to serve as a station for local community organizations and clubs. Byrd's proudest achievement as Alumnae Secretary was the opening of the Alumnae House in 1937. In order to secure the funds for this building, she successfully petitioned the North Carolina State Legislature and secured donations from alumnae. Byrd retired from her position in 1947.

Even after her retirement, Byrd remained active in many community organizations. She also traveled throughout the state speaking to clubs and associations on topics such as women in education and women's rights. Byrd served a three-year term as the Vice President of the American Alumni Council. She also served as the first Vice President and the Director of Institutes for the North Carolina Federation of Women's Clubs. Consistent with her interest in women's education, she was also the Editor for the Council for Women in Education. In addition, she was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution service society; a charter member of the American Association of University Women; and director of the Delta Kappa Gamma society for outstanding women in education. Notably, Byrd was the founder and first president of the Historical Book Club, a popular, statewide club for women that encouraged reading and learning. For her work establishing the Historical Book Club, Byrd received the Charles A. Cannon Cup by the North Carolina Society for the Preservation of Antiquities. Luther H. Hodges, Governor of North Carolina, praised her for her life achievements.

Sources:

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Brownell Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Ida Husted Harper, History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920 (National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), pp. 490, 494.

"University of North Carolina at Greensboro," Alumnae News, Greensboro, NC, November, 1936," "MyHeritage, accessed October 25, 2016, accessible at https://www.myheritage.com/research/record-90100-134329003/university-of-north-carolina-at-greensboro-alumnae-news-greensboro-nc.

"North Carolina Woman Arouses Enthusiasm for Books in her State," The Christian Science Monitor, June 15, 1959.

"Byrd, Clara Booth, 1887-1985," accessed October 25, 2016, at http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/ark:/99166/w6k08z89.

"Clara Booth Byrd: Alumnae Secretary," accessed October 25, 2016, at http://uncghistory.blogspot.com/2016_03_01_archive.html.

"Clara Booth Byrd (d.1985)," Encyclopedia of UNCG History, accessed October 25, 2016, at http://encyclopedia.wp.uncg.edu/clara-booth-byrd/.

Doris Weatherford, Women in American Politics: History and Milestones (Sage Publications, 2012).

back to top