Biographical Sketch of Clara Permilia Little Campbell

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Clara Permilia Little Campbell, 1846-1931

By Jim Payne
Undergraduate student, Idaho State University

Clara Permilia Little was born on February 12, 1846 in Somers, Connecticut to William Gager Little and Permilia Woodward. She received her education in the public school system and taught music in the same school. She married William Orando Campbell on May 8, 1867 in Vernon, Connecticut. He was a Civil War veteran and had lost his first wife and three children during the war. Clara and William had two sons of their own, William Little Campbell and Howard Earl Campbell, and a daughter, Daisy Campbell. Sometime between 1872 and 1876 they moved to Eugene, Oregon where a third son, Walter Madison Campbell was born July 2, 1876.

In 1878 William accepted the position of superintendent for the Indian school on the Nez Perce Reservation in northern Idaho and Clara became the matron. After spending five years on the reservation they moved to Blaine and then to Moscow, Idaho, where Clara helped found the local chapter of Woman's Christion Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Women's Relief Corps Auxiliary (WRC). The latter was an organization that assisted disabled veterans of the Civil War and war widows. In 1893 they finally settled in Boise, where Clara joined the Congregational Church, the women's suffrage movement, and served as state secretary of the WRC. Clara was nominated for the position of secretary of the Ada County Republican convention in 1898, but declined the nomination, preferring to run for the county treasurer position (she lost the election). She did secure her party's nomination to represent Boise in the Idaho House of Representatives. She won that election by 64 votes and survived a legal challenge by her male opponent. Clara, along with Democrat Harriet F. Noble and Populist Mary Allen Wright, served only one term, each losing to their male challengers in the next election. Clara Campbell helped sponsor the bill that created the University of Idaho while in the legislature. It would be ten years before another woman was elected to either house in Idaho.

Upon completion of her term in the state legislature Clara served as state president of the WRC in 1901-1902 and later served as chaplain of the national WTCU. She and William moved back to Moscow for a few years, relocating back to Boise permanently where her husband died July 24, 1916. Clara was honored for her public affairs work by the WRC and women's clubs of Idaho with the planting of a maple tree on the capitol grounds in 1929. Clara died on December 16, 1931 and is buried in Boise, Idaho.

Clara has been recognized for her role in being one of the first females to serve in the Idaho legislature and for her work in the women's suffrage movement in the state of Idaho.


1880 U.S. Census, population schedule, William and Clara Campbell. HeritageQuest Online.

"Clara L. Campbell." Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series, Number 1051, August 1994.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol 6: 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922.

National Women's History Museum. "Women Wielding Power: Pioneer Female State Legislators in Idaho."

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