Biographical Sketch of Effie (Mrs. Clayton B) Simmons

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Effie (Mrs. Clayton B) Simmons, 1875-1961

By Pamela Swing, Research Scholar, Brandeis University

Mrs. Clayton B. (Effie) Simmons was born in 1875 in Santa Cruz, California; her maiden name was Euphemia Dicken Comstock. Her youngest sister, Alta, was physically disabled, and their mother, Adeline, bequeathed all of her modest estate to Alta to provide for her. Effie Simmons's interest in social reform may have had its roots in her family's care of her sister. There is no record of her education; her sister Edna's graduation from San Jose Normal School indicates that the family was open to educating their daughters.

Effie Comstock married (date not known) Clayton B. Simmons, vice president of Brown, Walker, Simmons, an investment company that specialized in oil securities. Their son Rouse was born in 1899, followed by Helen in 1905. By 1908, the family moved to Portland, Oregon, possibly so that her husband's California-based investment company could open a Portland branch. They resided for many years at 495 Heights Terrace. Their second daughter, Frances, was born in 1909. Her husband pre-deceased her in 1924.

Like many other women of the Progressive Era, Effie Simmons refused to be restricted to the domestic sphere and sought ways to channel her considerable energy towards self-education and civic and social issues. In 1908, Effie Simmons joined the 13-year-old Portland Woman's Club, one of thousands springing up nationwide, and attended meetings about art, literature and psychology. The Portland Woman's Club became a central part of her life; from 1916-18, she served as President. Her initial interest in suffrage was through the Portland Woman's Club participation in Oregon's sixth and successful attempt in 1912 to have the word “male” removed from voting privileges in the Oregon Constitution. As her commitment to suffrage grew, she joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and was a staunch supporter of their conservative, non-confrontational, state-by-state approach. When Alice Paul and the newly formed National Woman's Party sought a constitutional suffrage amendment, Effie Simmons, along with many other local NAWSA members, strongly opposed their tactics of picketing and other forms of protest, although NAWSA also came to support the national amendment.

Effie Simmons was a founding member and the last president of the Oregon State Suffrage Alliance (later called Oregon Equal Suffrage Alliance), formed in 1915 to work with NAWSA on achieving nationwide suffrage. Along with other NAWSA suffragists, she suspended suffrage work during the United States involvement in World War I and directed her efforts towards raising money for Liberty Bonds, refuge relief and the Red Cross. Her son Rouse joined the French Army when the war began, and she submitted his letters describing the war effort to The Oregonian. After the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress in 1919, she played a pivotal role, along with Mrs. Elliott Corbett and Mrs. Harry Beales, in convincing Governor Olcott to call a special session of the Oregon Legislature to vote on ratifying the 19th Amendment.

She was a member of the first board of directors of the National League of Women Voters and a co-founder of the Oregon League of Women Voters. As the first Regional Director for Western States, she helped organize branches of the National League of Women Voters in Oregon and other Western states. In 1922, she became the first woman elected to the Oregon Legislative Assembly from Multnomah County.

Throughout her adult life, Effie Simmons played leadership roles in many civic organizations in Portland, from organizing Christmas treats for institutionalized children to a capital campaign for a new hospital. She was Vice-President of the Waverley Baby Home Association, and on the board of directors of Goodwill Industries and Community Chest. After a lifetime devoted to political activism and social reform, Effie retired to Willamette View Manor, Portland, where her family loyalties remained strong to the last, for her disabled sister, Alta Comstock, resided with her. Effie Simmons died in Milwaukee at the age of 86 on December 11, 1961.

Note: Newspaper articles cite her as Mrs. Clayton B. Simmons, Mrs. C.B. Simmons, Mrs. Effie Simmons, Mrs. E.C. Simmons, and Effie Comstock.

Oregonian, Dec. 13, 1961, page 33--Ex-Solon Dies at 86
Oregonian, Dec. 13, 1961, page 31--Death notice

This is a valuable source of information on Mrs. Clayton B. (Effie) Simmons, including a photo:
More Power Than We Knew: The League of Women Voters in Oregon: 1920-1995
Mary Alice Moore and Donald E. Moore
The League of Women Voters of Oregon, Salem
Scanned and digitized 2010

League of Women Voters at

Jensen, Kimberly, Woman Suffrage in Oregon

History of Women's Suffrage, 6 volumes, Feb. 14, 1920
Mrs. C B Simmons appointed Regional Director of Region Seven of League of Women Voters: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and California

Walker's Manual of California Securities, Volumes 1-2
San Francisco: H.D. Walker, 1909, p. 230

Newspaper articles:

San Francisco Call, Jan. 30, 1897

Edna Comstock graduates from San Jose Normal School

San Francisco Chronicle, July 25, 1902
Provided for Weakling

Colorado Springs Gazette, May 8, 1908, Times Good in Colorado

Sunday Oregonian, March 27, 1910
Social Events of Past Week
Coming Events
Woman's Club Psychology Department Meeting

Morning Oregonian, Jan. 27, 1912
City News in Brief
Psychology Club to be Guest

Morning Oregonian, Dec. 17, 1912, Portland Women Honor Club Birth

Morning Oregonian, May 1, 1914
Clubwomen to Give Program for Benefit of Prisoners

Morning Oregonian, March 10, 1917
Kenosha Publisher Dies
Samuel B Simmons, brother of Clayton B Simmons, dies

Morning Oregonian, Sept. 12, 1917
Society News
Meeting of the Oregon State Suffrage Alliance

Sunday Oregonian, July 15, 1917, Trench Life Liked

Sunday Oregonian, Aug. 12, 1917, War Life Depicted

Sunday Oregonian, Sept. 16, 1917, Shells Not Feared

Morning Oregonian, Sept. 28, 1917
Portland Woman's Club meeting, Mrs. C B Simmons, president, will speak

Morning Oregonian, Nov. 1, 1917
Literature club of Portland Woman's Club meeting at home of Mrs. C B Simmons

Morning Oregonian, Jan. 4, 1918
Literature department of the Portland Woman's Club meeting

Morning Oregonian, Jan. 23, 1918
Meeting of Baby Home Association; Mrs. C B Simmons chosen Vice President

Morning Oregonian, Jan. 17, 1918,
Letters from Boys in France, compiled by Mrs. Frank Wilmot, selling for the Red Cross

Sunday Oregonian, March 3, 1918, Ambulancer's Life is Rather Gruesome One

Sunday Oregonian, Aug. 11, 1918, Women's Patriotic Service

Morning Oregonian, Dec. 19, 1918, Yuletide Cheer for Youngsters wanted

Sunday Oregonian, March 21, 1919, Clubwoman to Aid Starving Armenian People

Morning Oregonian, March 28, 1919, Opinions Divided on Uniform Girls' Dress

Morning Oregonian, Oct. 13, 1919
Mrs. C B Simmons on Woman's Committee for building a hospital in Portland

Morning Oregonian, Feb. 3, 1920
Drive Plans Progress
Women Prepare for Near East Relief Work

Morning Oregonian, Feb. 15, 1920
Christmas Seal sale, Mrs. C B Simmons in charge of Portland downtown booths

Morning Oregonian, Feb. 28, 1920, p. 20
Announcement of meeting about recent convention of suffrage women in Chicago.

Sunday Oregonian, March 6, 1921
Women's Activities
Mrs. CB Simmons organizing relief appeal for China and Near East in answer to appeal from Carrie Chapman Catt

Morning Oregonian, Oct. 15, 1921
Woes Laid to Allies
Near East Relief meeting

Morning Oregonian, April 10, 1922, Mrs. Simmons in Race

Morning Oregonian, May 5, 1922
Mrs. C B Simmons Home
Pan-American Conference of Women in Washington Attended

San Luis Opisbo Telegram-Tribune, Oct. 5, 1951, Runaway Vehicle Injures Owner

Oregonian, March 1, 1986, Women Making History quiz

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