Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Clara E. Comstock Russell, 1866-1935

By Emily Mueller, student, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Oshkosh, WI

President of the local Ladies' Literacy Club (1906-1908); Chairman of the Republican Women's State Executive Committee; first Vice-president of the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association; Kent County chairman, Council of National defense; secretary for the Mississippi Valley Suffrage Convention, Chicago, IL (March, 1914); State Chairman of the Women's Branch of the Engineer's National Committee; a presidential elector; president of the local St. Cecilia society; president of Kent Garden Club; organizer of the State Anti-Tuberculosis Association and a member of its board; member of the D.A.R.; the American Legion auxiliary; first vice president of the local Salvation Army board; secretary and president of the Women's Board of Butterworth hospital for 25 years.

Clara Comstock was born on April 5, 1866 to Charles Comstock of New Hampshire and his wife Cornelia Guild Davis of New York. In 1884, at the age of eighteen, she married Huntley Russell and the couple had two sons, Charles Comstock and Francis T. Clara Comstock Russell became a leader in Grand Rapids, Michigan women's activities, and fought for women's advancement throughout her life.

She was a member of many organizations, including the group of women who were largely responsible for the eventual passing of an amendment to the Michigan state constitution, which allowed women to vote. Clara began her interest in the suffrage movement during her presidency of the Local Ladies' Literacy Club. She was intrigued by a local newspaper that was petitioning to remove the word "male" from a section about elections that was presented to voters. She printed and distributed 73 petitions to local groups and organizations. The controversial petitions were presented at the constitutional convention and were later presented to legislature. During this same time Clara also served as a secretary during the two-day Mississippi Valley Suffrage Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

Mrs. Russell was made the first vice president of State Equal Suffrage association and held the position for five years. With her own money she traveled to 53 counties in the state of Michigan during her time in this position.

In 1910 Mrs. Russell helped to organize the Grand Rapids Equal Franchise club, which grew to have a membership of 116. Mrs. Russell was also the president for four years. This was a club that provided information and literature about the suffrage movement.

During World War II, Clara served as Kent County chairman, Council of National Defense, she organized 23 units in Kent County that did war work. She organized entertainment for soldiers at Camp Custer.

In 1920 Mrs. Russell set out to prove that politics were something to be taken seriously, as this was protested by opponents of women's suffrage, so she hosted a series of meetings in the Ladies Literacy Club rooms. These meetings turned into the Women's Lincoln Republican Club, that Clara was president of for many years.

Clara Comstock Russell accomplished much in her time as a woman's suffragist, she lived near the Grand River in a home named one of Grand Rapids's ten most beautiful homes, until her death on June 18, 1935.


Carlson, Lauren. "The 10 most interesting homes in Grand Rapids". Rapid Growth. Last modified August 23, 2018. Accessed November 4, 2019.

"Clara Comstock Russell". Accessed October 31, 2019

"Clara E. Comstock Russell". Find a Grave. Accessed October 31, 2019.

History of Woman Suffrage vol 6: 1900-1920. New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922.

Laug, Cindy. "Clara Comstock Russell, Woman Activist". History Grand Rapids. Last modified March 24, 2014. Accessed November 4, 2019.

"Mississippi Valley Suffrage Conference program, March 1914." University of Iowa Libraries. Accessed November 7, 2019.

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