Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Clara Craumer Leavens, 1855–1939
By CJ Charbonneau, independent historian
On October 17, 1855 Clara Craumer was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to the Reverend Lewis Craumer and his wife Maria. The Craumers were active in many philanthropic, missionary, and educational causes. The Rev. Craumer was one of the founders of Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, and Clara was a graduate of that institution.
In 1884 Clara married Harrison B. Leavens, a lawyer and businessman. The couple settled in Kansas City, Missouri that same year. The Leavens family would eventually expand to include two sons, Lewis and Arthur. It was in Kansas City that Clara would follow her parents' example of service to the community. She was active in many clubs and organizations dedicated to the welfare of women and children, including the campaign for women's voting rights.
In February of 1911 Clara, Dr. Dora Greene, and Miss Helen Osborne called a meeting at the local Y.W.C.A. to mobilize support for the women's suffrage movement. More than 175 women attended and all but three signed up to join the newly formed Kansas City Woman Suffrage Association. Later that month the organization held the first meeting and elected officers, with Clara Leavens selected as treasurer. In the History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6, her name is given as both Helena and Cora, but this is clearly the same person as Clara sketched here.
As the movement gained traction several branch offices also came into existence. In 1912 the Southside Equal Suffrage League was formed, with Clara serving as president.
Clara also served as the Vice President of the Missouri Equal Suffrage Association, and in 1913 took on the role of President when the incumbent resigned due to ill health.
Mrs. Leavens organized the South Side Suffrage Association, the first Business Women's Suffrage League, and Men's League for Equal Suffrage. In 1914 she headed a committee that staged a suffrage parade in Kansas City.
The National Woman's Party was incorporated in 1918 as an outgrowth of the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage, with its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Activists at the state level joined in the effort to pass a constitutional amendment to guarantee voting rights for women across the nation. Clara Leavens served on the national committee as State Chairman for Missouri.
In 1930 Clara was named by the Kansas City League of Women Voters as one of six women who did the most to bring about equal voting rights. Her name was inscribed on a permanent honor roll in the state capitol in Jefferson City. She continued to be involved in women's causes for the rest of her life.
Clara died on September 21, 1939 at the age of 84. She is buried beside her husband in Mount Washington cemetery in Independence, Missouri.
Clara Craumer Leavens
The early years of the Suffrage Movement in Kansas City are documented in Elizabeth Cady Stanton et. al., The Complete History of the Suffragette Movement—All 6 Books in One (e-artnow, 2017) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, et. al., History of Woman Suffrage (New Hampshire: Ayer Company, 1985). Clara Leavens is incorrectly attributed as “Cora Kramer Leavens” and “Helena Leavens Cramer,” though a copy of a flier for the National Women's Party from History of Women Suffrage lists her as the state chairman for Missouri. The State Historical Society of Missouri's archives reflect Mrs. Leavens' name on the League of Women Voter's honor roll for her suffrage work in Missouri, and her inclusion on a plaque in the state capital in Jefferson City (State Honor Roll, League of Women Voters, January 21, 1931). An article in the Kansas City Post 20 April 1913, “Vice President of Missouri Equal Suffrage Organization, Succeeds Leader Who Resigned,” documents her involvement with the state organization in St. Louis, MO. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2 July 1912, mentions Clara Leavens, Vice President of the Missouri Equal Suffrage Association, in the article regarding fundraising efforts: “$10,000 in 10 Minutes for Suffrage.” Mrs. Leavens's death was reported in the Reading Times, 26 September 1939, as well as the Kansas City Star, 22 September 1939.