Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Clara Smith (Beatty), 1889 – 1967

By Colleen Seale, Selector for Women's, Gender and LGBT+ Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida

Clara Smith was born in Nevada on December 22, 1889, the daughter of Plumas County, California pioneers. She attended public school in Reno, Nevada. In 1912, while attending the University of Nevada, she was unanimously elected president of the university's chapter of the Equal Suffrage League. As noted in the University of Nevada's 1914 yearbook, Artemisia, "under her direction equal suffrage was given prominence in every possible way." During her tenure as president, monthly meetings of the suffrage league were held and once a semester, the entire student body was invited to an open meeting where papers were presented on the suffrage movement. Among their other activities, a play. "How the Vote Was Won," was performed by members of the league at Reno High School in Reno and the nearby towns of Carson and Sparks. In 1914, she and league members promoted an essay contest in schools across the state of Nevada offering a five dollar prize. The essay topic was the contemporary issue of women's suffrage. Although they were accused of trying to influence the political ideas of Nevada youth, Smith defended the contest as non-political and the league's efforts as attempting to inspire different perspectives and facilitate debate. The President of the University of Nevada, Dr. Joseph Stubbs, also defended their work.

Clara graduated from the University of Nevada in 1914 with a degree in history. She married Jesse O. Beatty and together they raised two sons. After holding various positions at the Nevada State Historical Society, Clara became Executive Secretary and Director in 1950 until her death in 1967. She also served on the Editorial Board of the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly. In 1954, she was named to the Society of American Archivists. She gave frequent presentations on Nevada history and artifacts to organizations and students from grade school to high school.

She was active in the Republican Party and served as Acting Secretary of the Reno Republican Headquarters (1940s), the Republican State Chairman and the Republican National Committeewoman for Nevada

After a life of early suffrage activism and continuous political activism and a career as a leading authority on Nevada history, Clara Smith Beatty died on October 15, 1967. She is buried at the Masonic Memorial Gardens in Reno, Nevada.


Artemisia [yearbook], 1914: University of Nevada : Internet Archive. (2013). Internet Archive.

Harper, I. H. (1922). The History of Woman Suffrage (Vol. 6). New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association. [LINK to NV state report]

Kleinendorst, S.; Ford, J. (1994). Defining Moment in Women's Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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