Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Ethel Clagett, 1882-1965
By DeeDee Baldwin, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS
Suffrage Activist, Businesswoman
Ethel Mae Clagett was born March 21, 1882, in Claiborne County, Mississippi, to William Eli Hall Clagett and Clara King Stacy. She went on to become an activist for women's suffrage, the secretary and treasurer of the board of directors of the Natchez Chamber of Commerce, and a prominent businesswoman who co-owned a car dealership, among other accomplishments. An historical marker now notes the former location of her dealership.
Clagett was active in the suffrage movement on both the local and state level. She served as president of the Natchez Equal Suffrage League and was a member of the executive board of the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association when it met at the Grand Opera House in Greenville on April 7-8, 1915. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, president of the national organization, was the speaker for that year's convention. One of the events was a showing of “a thrilling melodrama” called Your Girl and Mine, “the new suffrage moving picture play.”
In addition to her suffrage activism, Clagett was a member of the board of directors for the Natchez Chamber of Commerce. She advanced from acting secretary in 1911 to secretary and treasurer in later years. In 1921, the board was reorganized to include women, with the expectation that “the ladies will take an active interest and be a big factor in building up the organization.” The reorganization campaign was “launched along military lines,” and Clagett was given the rank of General.
Her other local leadership roles included a nomination for alderman in 1922, serving as president of the Business and Professional Women's Club in 1922, and a position on the county board of elections in 1924.
Along with her friend, Mabel Porter, Clagett opened a car dealership in Natchez on Main Street in 1914, making Clagett and Porter among the first women to open their own dealerships in the United States. The successful business later moved to the corner of Jefferson and North Union Streets, where the historical marker is located. The dealership operated for over fifty years.
Clagett never married. She died on November 7, 1965, and was buried with her family in Natchez City Cemetery. She was, as the Natchez Democrat wrote of her in 1913, “efficient and indefatigable... she has demonstrated that a woman can succeed where a man has failed.”
This photo of Claggett is used courtesy of a family member on ancestry.com.
1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Beat 2, Adams, Mississippi; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0012. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com.
1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Natchez Ward 4, Adams, Mississippi; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0010. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com.
1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Natchez Ward 3, Adams, Mississippi; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 9. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com.
1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Natchez, Adams, Mississippi; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 1-10B. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com.
Find A Grave. “Ethel Mae Clagett.” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/105998289/ethel-mae-clagett
Gandy, Joan W. and Thomas H. Gandy. Natchez City Streets Revisited. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 1999.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). N.p.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, p. 333. [LINK]
The Historical Marker Database. Natchez in Adams County, Mississippi: Intersection of Jefferson and North Union Streets. https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=108610
Natchez Democrat. “Business and Professional Woman's Club Holds Meeting at White.” February 26, 1922. Accessed through Newspapers.com.
Natchez Democrat. “Chamber of Commerce.” June 22, 1912. Accessed through Newspapers.com.
Natchez Democrat. “Commerce Body Adopts Program to Re-Organize.” April 7, 1921. Accessed through Newspapers.com.
Natchez Democrat. “Foreign Capital in Adams County.” June 18, 1913. Accessed through Newspapers.com.
Natchez Democrat. “Highway Move is Organized at Winnsboro, LA.” September 20, 1916. Accessed through Newspapers.com.
Natchez Democrat. “Miss Clagett Died Sunday; Services Today.” November 8, 1965.
Natchez Democrat. “Vote of Mayor Creates Tie – Also Breaks it When Third Ward Alderman is Elected.” December 7, 1922. Accessed through Newspapers.com.
Social Security Death Index [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com.
The Semi-Weekly Leader (Brookhaven, MS). “Business Woman's Club to Open Home in Natchez.” February 8, 1922. Accessed through ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov.
The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, LA). “Rail Officials Confer with Natchez Trade Board Members.” December 12, 1913. Accessed through Newspapers.com.
The Yazoo Herald. “Call to the Eleventh Annual Convention of the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association.” March 5, 1915. Accessed through Newspapers.com.
U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com.
Weekly Democrat (Natchez, MS). “Commissioners Revise Voters' List.” July 23, 1924. Accessed through Newspapers.com.