Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Nettie McKenzie Clapp, 1869-1935

By Emily Martell, student, Michigan State University

Nettie MacKenzie was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 22, 1869 to William B. Mackenzie and Lucretia Lansbury. She attended public schools in Cincinnati. After high school she attended the Cincinnati School of Art. Here, she studied to become an interior designer, but ultimately became an illustrator of children's books in her early career. She married Harold T. Clapp, a physician, in 1891. After the couple's marriage, they moved from Cincinnati to Cleveland. They had one child during their marriage, Dorothy Annette Clapp. Nettie Clapp died at the age of 66 in Cleveland in 1935.

While living in Cleveland, Nettie MacKenzie Clapp was very engaged in civic affairs. She joined the Cleveland Woman's Club and the Women's City Club. In addition to these, she was also extremely active in local organizations dedicated to women's suffrage. Furthermore, during World War I, she was active in support to of the war effort. She worked with the Red Cross, was a Ward Organizer in the interest of food conservation, and served on the Women's Executive Committee of the Victory Loan Drive. This was the period of time in which Clapp's name became well-known, and this popularity enabled her to jumpstart her political career.

Despite her activity, one can only find scattered references to Clapp's civic activity. In 1917 she served as recording secretary of the Women's Civic Club of Cleveland Heights. In October 1919, Clapp sat on Cleveland's first all-women jury, hearing an adultery case. The jury recommended that the woman defendant not be sent to the workhouse along with the man involved, but their recommendation was overruled by the male judge who gave both defendants the same three-month sentence.

After Ohio ratified the 19th Amendment in 1920, Republicans were eager to increase support for their party and encouraged women to become more involved in politics. As a result, the Republican Party endorsed Clapp's run for the House of Representatives in 1922. She ultimately won the vote and became one of the first six women to be elected to the Ohio legislature and held this position for four consecutive terms. The main goal of her legislations was promoting the idea of good citizenship; her creed being "Service to Humanity." During her time in politics, she became the first woman to sponsor a bill in the Ohio legislature that was enacted into law. The bill made the teaching of both the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions mandatory in public schools across the state. More broadly, she focused on civic problems, including education, prison reform, and wages. In 1924, she was chosen to serve on the executive committee of the Republican National Convention held in Cleveland; this position had never before been given to a woman. Her political career, however, eventually came to an end in 1930 when she lost the vote for state senate in the Republican primary.

Nettie Mackenzie Clapp was extremely active in the women's suffrage movement and politics in the early 1900s. Her intense activism during this time earned her the reputation of "one of the busiest and most able women" in Cleveland.


"CLAPP, NETTIE MACKENZIE: Encyclopedia of Cleveland History: Case Western Reserve University." Edited by Marion Morton, Encyclopedia of Cleveland History | Case Western Reserve University, 15 Nov. 2019,

"LADIES' GALLERY." Nettie MacKenzie Clapp | Ohio Statehouse,

Lee, Leonard. "Their Place in History." ProQuest, 3 May 2004,

"Nettie Luddington MacKenzie Clapp (1868-1935) -..." Find A Grave, 6 May 2011,

Standiford, Ethel C. "Clapp, Nettie." Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery, Cleveland Public Library,

"Jury of Clubwomen Munch on Bonbons as They Pass on 'Love Case,'" Washington Times, Oct. 31, 1919, p. 1.

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