Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Julia Clark Hallam, 1860-1927
By Pat Schultz, Nora Springs, Iowa, retired educator, author of Amazing Women of Early Mason City
Julia Clark Hallam brought a new, and to some upsetting, militant approach to the effort to win the vote for women. As vice president at the 1909 Iowa Equal Suffrage Association's convention in Des Moines in her speech entitled "Let Us Fight" she said, "When the legislature refuses to consider our bill we can talk." She continued, "Not all of us need talk at once, but one woman can block the legislature until she is put out and then another can take her place. This is not an invasion upon the legislature, but it is our purpose to see that we have our rights. If a policeman takes me by the arm I will not surrender to the law. I am a citizen of the United States and had no power in placing these men in the legislature. I will be there to fight for my rights as did my forefathers, and why have I not the same right to fight for a voice of the governed."
After her speech, she was elected president of the association for the 1910-11 year. One newspaper titled its story "Just Like Bryan: Mrs. Hallam's Oratory Almost as Fervid as that of 'Peerless one'." In that speech she expressed her willingness to go to jail if necessary, and "intimated a readiness to stick a couple of yards of hatpin into the anatomy of any policeman who interfered with her. "The sister was so warmly militant that the chandeliers in the room gave indication of melting under the withering fire of her oratory."
Small rural newspaper editors published a flurry of comments, such as her husband should take her home and "make her stay there," and when does "Mrs. Hallam have time to cook J.W.'s beefsteak and darn his socks?" Even within her organization, the move toward British-style militancy met with some disagreement.
Julia had begun her suffrage work much earlier. She was a speaker at the national convention in 1898 when Susan B. Anthony was the leading force. She is noted as a regular attendee at national meetings of the association and among the most prominent of Iowa women involved in the movement in Susan B. Anthony and Ida H. Harper's History of the of Women's Suffrage. She was secretary of the Iowa Women's Federated Clubs in 1901-2 as well as vice president of the Iowa Mothers Congress in 1901. She presided over Sioux City's Political Equality Club, was a member of the Congregational Church, president of the local PTA and a member of the Child Study Club. In 1905 she wrote an article for the Missouri Valley Times titled "Clubs are Good for Mothers." In it she took aim at Grover Cleveland's opinion that clubs kept women from what they should be doing at home. She cited the growing membership in Iowa's Federation of Women's Clubs, explaining that women need support and fellowship and a way to work on common causes. Clubs, she said, provide intellectual stimulation, give women purpose, and encourage them to learn things to enhance their child rearing. That same year, Julia attended the executive board meeting of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association in Des Moines.
Also, in 1905, Julia wrote an impassioned letter to several newspapers after a speech in Sioux City by Maria Weeds about child labor in the garment industry. For some reason, a few who heard the speech or read about it interpreted Weed's words to suggest infanticide was better than what children, especially girls, faced. Julia's letter explained that was not true and went on to elaborate on the labor conditions affecting children, suggesting garment manufacturers be required to carry labels indicating where their products were being made so their work conditions could be checked.
Julia was called the backbone of the Iowa women's group of the Federated Clubs of Iowa to undertake a study of food laws in the United States, as recorded the Food Journal of 1905. The Iowa Journal of History and Politics included her compiled suffragette songs in I.S.U. campus songs – "Words Fully Spoken." (1905, p. 317)
In 1910, Julia presided over the state suffrage meeting held at the fairgrounds in Des Moines where she also gave a speech detailing the reasons women should get the vote. At the 1911 convention, she gave a report on the work of the resolutions committee. She was a state delegate to the National Child Labor Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, in March of 1913.
Julia created considerable controversy again in 1917 when she wrote "The Price of Home" for the New Republic. In it she declared that being a housewife and mother was essentially boring and lacked mental stimulation and development. She said, the housewife "masters in a year or two years at the most details which must nevertheless be repeated, although all the freshness and interest have gone out of them, as long as life lasts. In a vague and unanalyzed way she feels the inexorable effects of child raising and housekeeping upon her own mental life and powers. She has a sense of injury that she has fallen jupon a career so uninteresting and uncongenial." The magazine received many letters in response, both agreeing and disagreeing with Julia's beliefs.
Throughout her lifetime, Julia was a prolific writer of articles, letters and books as well as an articulate speaker for many organizations. Her most common topics were suffrage, child care, and child labor. Her books included Study of a European Tour, 1900, which was illustrated by Iowa cartoonist Ding Darling; Studies in Child Development, 1913, and The Relationship of the Sexes from a Scientific Standpoint. In the latter two, she advocated sex education in the schools as part of personal hygiene instruction. Julia was listed as a notable author by Marquis Who's Who.
Julia Clark was born in 1860 in Wisconsin, the daughter of Jonathan Clark and Louise Holley Clark. She attended Madison High School before attending the University of Wisconsin in 1877 and earned a degree in classical studies in 1881. The next year she completed her A.M. degree. Julia then taught in the Madison schools for two years. She married fellow University of Wisconsin graduate from Iowa, Joseph W. Hallam, an attorney, in 1883. In 1910, Julia was awarded an honorary M.A. degree in from the University of Chicago. The couple had four children. Her heritage is in lineage volume 20 of the Daughters of the American Revolution as is her mother's. Her brief biographic sketch is in Woman's Who's Who in America, 1914-1915. [LINK] After leaving Sioux City, she and her husband moved to the Chicago area in 1913. In 1915 she was teaching in the Philippines. From 1919 to 1921 she was in charge of the philosophical library at the University of Chicago. She died August 10, 1927, at their summer home in Chikaming, Berrien, Michigan at age 67.
1. "Prominent Suffragetes (sic) Des Moines Visitors." Des Moines Daily News, 25 Feb. 1912, p. 5.
2. "Former S.C. Woman Dies." Sioux City Journal, 13 Aug. 1927, p.7.
3. "Woman's Enemy is Man." Baltimore Sun, 15 Feb. 1898, p. 2.
5. "Clubs are Good for Mothers." Missouri Valley Times," 18 May 1905 p. 4.
6. The University of Wisconsin: Its History and Its Alumni, with Historical and Descriptive Sketches of Madison, Part 1, 1900.
7. "Society." Des Moines Daily Leader, 2 Oct. 1901, p. 11.
8. Harper, Ida H. et al., eds., History of the of Women's Suffrage vol. 6 [LINK]
9. Suffragists and Officials." Fairfield Jefferson County Republican, 2 Sept. 1910, p. 7.
10. "Sioux City Stirred." Waterloo Daily Reporter, 16 May 1905 p. 2.
11. Sioux City Journal, 7 Nov 1909, p. 13, quoting other newspapers from around the state responding to Hallam speech.
12. Des Moines Register 28 Oct. 1909, p. 1.
13. "Julia Clark Hallam." Prabook Biographies at prabook.com.
Note: newspaper articles accessed at NEWSPAPERARCHIVE.com and Newspapers.com, 23-24 Oct. 2019.