Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Clara Waldo, 1858-1933
By Andrea Hodge, student, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA
Clara Ann Humason was born on 23 May 1858 in The Dalles, Oregon, to parents Orlando and Pheobe Humason of a prominent Oregon pioneer family. She married John Breckenridge Waldo in 1877 and they had their only surviving daughter, Edith, in 1884. John died in 1907. She later died in Ojai, California in 1933 after spending the later years of her life there.
Clara worked primarily on behalf of the Oregon State Grange. The Oregon State Grange advocated for causes that supported farmers and rural communities, acting in ways similar to labor unions to organize the farmers' interests more cohesively. Since much of Oregon's population at that time lived in rural settings, the organization's efforts were mostly on behalf of the general populations of Oregon. The Oregon State Grange by that time was supportive of suffrage and equal rights. Early in its development in 1867, the National Grange already allowed women to participate fully in the organization, and the state-level organizations followed suit. Around 1902, Clara became active in grange work and gained ample recognition and reputation working as a local officer.
In 1904, Clara was elected Grange Lecturer for the state of Oregon. Through this position, she toured Oregon to give speeches about topics that applied specifically to rural communities and families in Oregon. The Daily Capital Journal in Salem, aptly reflecting the opinions of many citizens and organizations, praised Clara as “a woman of the highest social qualities” and having “[the] training to make her work successful for the order” as Lecturer. Clara's position as Lecturer in many ways reflected Oregon's desire to move toward equal suffrage statewide. In May of 1908, Clara retired as State Grange Lecturer, though she continued to participate in events that pertained to the grange, speaking at Oregon's Third Annual Commonwealth Conference in February 1911, as well as at other gatherings in March 1911 and October 1916.
In addition to her grange participation, Clara supported equal suffrage and women's rights in Oregon in other ways. In 1905, she was elected second vice president of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association. She spoke to female audiences about issues that concerned her, often addressing the importance of the work of women in rural households and advocating for the education of women in all fields in order to further their prospects both in work and on the grange. Clara was involved in a 1906 “Open Letter” to voters in several Oregon counties which called for suffrage publicly in the newspaper, listing the names of many esteemed women that stood to gain from it. In 1908, she went to France for a year to study agriculture and home economics to further her knowledge on subjects which were of great importance to her. This provided her with even more groundwork to advocate for women's work.
As a result of her work, she was nominated by the governor to a position on the Oregon State University Board of Regents, then called the Oregon Agricultural College. Her ascension to the position of Regent marked the first time a female had held a seat on the Board. Many praised Clara as Regent and she is described as an “educated, able, aggressive woman” and “pertinent and fitting” for the position. She gave the primary commencement address to the 1905 class of the Agricultural College and in some years following. She resigned from the Board of Regents in 1919 in order to care for, in her words, “an invalid sister and a feeble mother.”
Clara sponsored the construction of the first all-female dormitory at Oregon State University in 1907, named Waldo Hall in honor of her work as regent and for the state of Oregon. She periodically donated to the hall and acquainted herself with its occupants after its completion. She also provided funding for an academic award under her name, given to outstanding female students at the university. For her efforts, the university awarded her an LL.D., an honorary law degree, in 1923.
Photo at left: Clara H. Waldo
Accessible online at “Oregon Digital”
Photo at right: “Clara Humason Waldo,” Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Oregon State University, accessed May 18, 2019, http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/omeka/items/show/8636.
“A Grand Woman.” Oregon State Monthly, March 1933, 9.
"Clara Ann Waldo." Salem Pioneer Cemetery. Accessed April 19, 2019. https://www.salempioneercemetery.org/records/display_record.php?id=6957.
Clara H. Waldo. 1910. Historical Images of Oregon State University, Oregon State University. In Oregon Digital. Accessed April 19, 2019. https://oregondigital.org/catalog/oregondigital:df719k51q.
"Clara H. Waldo." Where's Waldo? Exploring Waldo Hall History - Special Collections & Archives Research Center. Accessed April 29, 2019. http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/waldo/waldo/clarawaldo.
“Dr. Anna Crayne Loved by Students.” East Oregonian (Pendleton), April 11, 1911. Accessed April 19, 2019.
Humason Waldo, Clara. “Excerpts of letter.” May 23, 1923.
Humason Waldo, Clara. “Household Economy.” The Oregon Countryman, June 1908, 14-15.
Humason Waldo, Clara. 1905. “The Woman on the Farm.” In The Souvenir of Western Women, edited by Mary Osborn Douthit, 169-171. Portland, OR. Presses of Anderson & Duniway Company.
“Local and Personal.” Corvallis Gazette, Jan. 17 1908. Accessed April 19, 2019.
"Mrs. Clara Waldo." Daily Capital Journal (Salem), May 28, 1904. Accessed April 19, 2019.
“Mrs. Clara Waldo Dies.” The Oregonian (Portland), Feb 15, 1933. Accessed April 19, 2019.
“Open letter to the voters of Salem and Marion County.” Daily Capital Journal (Salem), June 2, 1906. Accessed April 19, 2019.
“Recognizes Woman.” East Oregonian (Pendleton), Jan 6, 1906. Accessed April 19, 2019.
"What Is the Grange?" Oregon State Grange. Accessed April 19, 2019. http://orgrange.org/oregon-state-grange-foundation/.
The archives of Oregon State University, formerly the Oregon Agricultural College, provided many documents related to Clara Waldo that would have been otherwise inaccessible. Many thanks to the librarians, as their assistance has been invaluable in obtaining information about this remarkable woman.