Clark, Adele Goodman, papers A Guide to the Adele Goodman Clark papers, 1849-1978 M 9 A Collection in Special Collections and Archives, James Branch Cabell Library, Collection number M 9

A Guide to the Adele Goodman Clark papers, 1849-1978 M 9

A Collection in Special Collections and Archives, James Branch Cabell Library, Collection number M 9


VCU James Branch Cabell Library

Special Collections and Archives 901 Park Avenue
Richmond, Virginia 23284
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Special Collections and Archives staff

VCU James Branch Cabell Library
M 9
Adele Goodman Clark papers 1849-1978
128 Linear Feet
Clark, Adèle, 1882-1983
English .

Administrative Information

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Restrictions on Access

Collection is open to research.

Preferred Citation

Adele Goodman Clark papers, Collection # M 9, Special Collections and Archives, James Branch Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

Biographical / Historical

A founding member of the Virginia suffrage movement and a prominent supporter of the arts in Virginia, Adèle Goodman Clark (1882-1983) exemplified the influential role civically active women played in the major social reform movements of the twentieth century. Calling politics and art her "creative spirits", Clark was involved in a number of reform initiatives throughout her century of life that championed the rights of women and promoted the arts.

The second oldest daughter of Robert Clark (1832?-1906) and Estelle Goodman Clark (1847-1937), Adèle was born in Montgomery, Alabama on September 27, 1882. Before moving permanently to Richmond, the Clark family lived in New Orleans, LA, as well as the small town of Pass Christian, MS. It was in a one room school house in the latter town that Adèle developed a fondness for the arts. After her family moved to Richmond in 1894, Adèle enrolled in the Virginia Randolph Ellett School (now St. Catherine's). Adèle also studied art with Lilly M. Logan, who ran the art school at the Art Club of Richmond. In 1906 she was awarded a scholarship to the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts (the Chase School of Art), where she studied under Kenneth Hays Miller, Douglas Cannal, William M. Chase, and Robert Henri, leader of the "Ash Can" school of painting. Upon her return to Richmond, Clark began a teaching career at the Art Club of Richmond. It was here that Adèle began her long association and friendship with acclaimed Virginia artist, Nora Houston. When the Art Club of Richmond was dissolved in 1917, the women went on to establish The Atelier. Under their direction this private art studio, located adjacent to Clark's Chamberlayne Avenue residence, became a training ground for such noted Virginia artists as Edmund Archer, Eleanor Fry and Theresa Pollack (founder of the VCU School of the Arts). Two years later they founded the Virginia League of Fine Arts and Handicrafts, where they both held the title of artistic director. During this period, they participated in a fundraising campaign for the resurrection of the old Academy of Sciences and Fine Arts. Their goal became a reality in 1930 when the new Richmond Academy of Arts, forerunner to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, was established on Capitol Street.*

Clark's interest in the suffrage movement began in 1909 when she was asked by novelist Ellen Glasgow to sign a petition calling for Virginia women to gain voting privileges. On November 27th of that year Clark, along with eighteen other civic-minded women, held a preliminary meeting to discuss the establishment of a state-wide suffrage organization. At this first meeting of what would become the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, Clark was elected secretary, a position she held for one year. She later helped direct legislative initiatives, organized suffrage rallies and went on speaking tours that helped establish new League chapters throughout the state. Clark also served for several years as chair of the ratification committee and head of the Equal Suffrage League lobby to the Virginia General Assembly.

After passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 (which was ratified by Virginia in 1952), the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia was transformed into the Virginia League of Women Voters (VLWV). For nearly two decades Clark played a major role in the VLWV.

Selected as the VLWV's first chair in 1920, Clark became president one year later. She held this position for eighteen years (nonconsecutively). Her work in the VLWV involved constant study of legislation involving social issues and governmental efficiency and administration. In 1924, Clark was elected to the board of the National League of Women Voters (NLWV) as Director of the Third Region. The region included Washington, D.C., Virginia, and six other southern states. The following year she was elected Second Vice President of the NLWV, in which capacity she served until the Spring of 1928. During that period Clark traveled to conventions in twenty-four states on speaking tours. Along with other officers of the NLWV she helped resolve league organizational problems.

In addition to her work for the VLWV and NLWV, Clark also served on two important state government commissions. In 1922, Governor E. Lee Trinkle appointed her to the Commission on the Simplification of State and Local Government, on which she served for two years as secretary of the Commission. In addition to performing the editorial and clerical work of the Commission, Clark also authored several of the chapters of the Commission's final report (January 1924) to the Virginia General Assembly. Four years later, Governor Harry F. Byrd, Jr. appointed Clark to the Liberal Arts College for Women Commission, on which she also served as secretary. The nine member Commission studied the feasibility of establishing a new liberal arts college for women in Virginia. The second report of the Commission (January 1930), which contained the "set-up" of the proposed college [now Mary Washington College?], was the product of research conducted by Clark with the assistance of Commission advisors.

Clark's strong commitment to higher education was exemplified in several other ways. From March - September, 1926, she served as the Social Director of women students at the College of William and Mary. She was also instrumental in the establishment of citizenship courses for women through the University of Virginia's Extension Division. The courses were designed to educate women about the intricacies of governmental institutions.

During the New Deal era, Clark distinguished herself in two important agencies. In 1933, she was selected as a field supervisor for the National Reemployment Service (NRS). Along with the state reemployment director and other field staff, she assisted in the organization of local reemployment offices throughout Virginia. After stepping down as field supervisor for the NRS, Clark became the Virginia Arts Project Director of the Work Projects Administration (WPA). This particular branch of the WPA was created to provide employment opportunities for artists in Virginia. In addition to producing murals for public buildings, artists employed by the WPA executed hundreds of paintings that were then distributed to local and state tax-supported institutions for display. One major accomplishment during Clark's tenure at the WPA was the establishment of new art galleries, such as the Southwest Virginia Museum at Big Stone Gap.

In the later years of her life, Adèle Clark remained active in the Richmond community. After converting to Roman Catholicism in 1942, Clark utilized her political experience as a member of the Richmond Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (RDCCW). From 1949 to 1959 she served as the chair of the RDCCW's Legislative Committee. Clark also continued to speak out against a number of issues affecting women, such as the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion.

Clark remained an active supporter of the Richmond art community. From 1941 to 1964 she was a member of the Virginia Arts Commission. The Commission helped to produce many of the murals and portraits displayed in state government buildings that depict the history of Virginia. Moreover, Clark's dedication to the teaching of art did not wane in these later years. She taught art to both the young and old in hospitals, schools and church classrooms. She also continued to enjoy creating her own artworks. Clark's paintings, mostly portraits and landscapes, have been exhibited in several states. One of her paintings, "The Cherry Tree", is in the permanent collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Clark had a unique perspective on the influence of art on her political ideology. She once stated, "I've always tried to combine my interest in art with my interest in government. I think we ought to have more of the creative and imaginative in politics."

Adèle Clark died at the age of 100 on June 5, 1983.

[Information from newspaper accounts and the Adèle Goodman Clark Papers.]

Scope and Contents

The Adèle Goodman Clark papers document the life and activities of Miss Clark (1882-1983) throughout her adult life, as well as those of her closest friends and relatives. Miss Clark was a member of a small group of civically active Richmond women whose names appear throughout the collection. Of particular note are members of Clark's family, Edith Clark Cowles, Willoughby Ions, and friends Roberta Wellford, Lila Meade Valentine, Lucy Randolph Mason, Ida Mae Thompson, Eudora W. Ramsay Richardson, Nora Houston and Josephine Houston. A list and chart describing the family relationships follows the Series Description and Arrangement, which specifically details the arrangement of the collection and highlights areas of particular significance within each series.

The collection is comprised of five major components, each with its own depth of coverage, usually dependent upon the length of Clark's involvement. The first major component of the collection contains materials pertaining to the Clark and Houston families with their multiple activities, responsibilities and affiliations. The documents in this section include the personal correspondence of Adèle Clark, Nora Houston, and members of both the Clark and Houston families. Correspondence from Estelle Goodman Clark, Cely "Nainaine" Ions, and Estelle Adèle Goodman

Willoughby Ions provide a richly detailed account of the more significant events within the Clark-Ions family. Also included is personal, business, and legal correspondence between members of the Goodman family, predating the Civil War, and personal correspondence to Clark and Nora Houston from close friends and associates such as Cornelia Adair, T. Bowyer Campbell, Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon and Roberta Wellford. Additional family information is provided by legal and real estate correspondence, biographical sketches, family and genealogical histories, composition books, diaries, journals, and poetry by various members of the Clark and Houston families. Some items of significance include handwritten memoranda and notes, poems, short stories and other fictional material written by Adèle Clark during her lifetime. The Virginia Historical Society holds additional Clark family materials (see Appendices).

The collection also includes correspondence from businesses and civic organizations with which Clark, Edith Clark Cowles, and the Dooley/Houston family were affiliated during their lifetimes. A list of the more significant organizations includes the Virginia Society for Crippled Children and Handicapped Adults, Commission of Inter-Racial (or Interracial) Cooperation, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, National Consumers League, and Social Science Research Council-Committee on Public Administration. There is also correspondence from prominent local and state government officials that further document the political activities and biases of these women. Brochures, memoranda and publications from these organizations are scattered throughout the collection.

While the family correspondence provides information about Clark's early years, the greatest significance of the collection lies in its documentation of the activities of the suffrage movement, both locally and nationally. The collection is particularly strong in its representation of correspondence, reports, memoranda and publications reflecting the sentiments and political positions of both the pro- and anti- suffrage movement from 1913 until the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. A large portion of this segment also documents the actions of the post-suffragists in their work through the national, state and local chapters of the League of Women Voters (LWV). Clark's considerable role of participation in the Virginia League of Women Voters (VLWV) in the first two decades of the organization provides an abundant amount of material chronicling the many social and political issues in which local and national LWV members were engaged. Although the documentation of the activities of the LWV continues well into the 1970s, the collection is not as strong for the later years as it is for the earlier period.

The suffrage materials, the second and largest component in the collection, are composed of documentation of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia (ESLV), Richmond League of Women Voters, the VLWV, and the reorganized League of Women Voters of Virginia (LWVV). The ESLV materials includes correspondence, committee and financial memoranda, convention material, notes, reports and miscellaneous literature. There is a large quantity of outgoing correspondence created by the corresponding secretaries of the ESLV which pertains to the efforts of organizing local suffrage chapters throughout the state and between officers of the ESLV, state and national government officials. Also included is correspondence between ESLV President, Lila Meade Valentine, and women of significance within the suffrage movement including Carrie Chapman Catt, Anna Howard Shaw, Maud Wood Park and Kate Gordon. While there is a substantial amount of correspondence generated by the central office of the ESLV, between 1909-1912 there are some major gaps. A portion of this documentation for the early history of the ESLV can be found at the Library of Virginia (see Appendices). Throughout its eleven year existence, the ESLV compiled an enormous amount of literature on the suffrage movement published by the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and other organizations. Materials generated by the movement and represented in this portion of the collection include petitions, photographs, enrollment cards, posters, suffrage maps, sashes and other ephemeral items. Additional publications have not been indexed but are available for research.

The bulk of the materials of the remaining suffrage organizations represented in the collection fall within a fourteen year time frame, 1920-1934, and includes President/Executive Secretary correspondence, bulletins, circulars, committee memoranda, and financial statements as well as records relating to the Virginia Cookery Book, the Governor's Ball and the citizenship courses sponsored by the VLWV. Clark also corresponded with the President of the NLWV and other officers in the national organization. The significant correspondents include Maud Wood Park, Belle Sherwin, Katherine Ludington, and Gertrude Ely. Incoming correspondence from prominent Virginia women such as Faith Morgan, Roberta Wellford, Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon, Kate Waller Barrett, Mrs. John L. Lewis of Lynchburg, Mrs. John H. Lewis of Ashland, and Mrs C.E. [Jessie] Townsend of Norfolk can be found in both the President/Executive Correspondence files and the Board of Directors/Executive Committee/Standing Committees file of the VLWV.

The records of the VLWV document in great detail the legislative agenda over a fourteen year period. The VLWV materials contain correspondence, circulars, memoranda questionnaires and reports pertaining to the Children's Code Commission, Virginia Women's Council Legislative Chairman of State Organizations and other major committees of the VLWV; revealing which major pieces of legislation were of utmost concern to Clark and the VLWV. Like its predecessor, the VLWV collected a wide variety of literature from state, national and international organizations which championed a spectrum of causes of interest to Clark and her associates. These organizations include the League of Nations Association, National Council for the Prevention of War, National Women's Trade Union League of America, and Southern Council of Women and Children in Industry.

Documentation of the NLWV (1920-1945) and the later reorganized League of Woman Voters of Virginia (1946-presents) includes correspondence and memoranda produced by Clark as Second Vice President in charge of Legislation and Law Enforcement and Third Regional Director for the NLWV. In addition to correspondence, memoranda, minutes, notes and reports there are materials detailing her involvement in nationally sponsored speaking tours throughout several regions of the United States. Items from the national office consist of mimeographed Adèle Goodman Clark correspondence and memoranda, reports, press releases and various publications created by the major standing committees and departments of the NLWV. Clark's activity in both the state and national leagues diminished to a great extent after 1934. Records of the latter local, state and national organizations primarily consists of bulletins, newsletters, and other literature published and distributed by the organizations.

Clark was very involved in the commemoration of the contributions of Lila Meade Valentine to the suffrage movement. The collection contains the organizational records of the Lila Meade Valentine Memorial Association (1921-1937), which was established to raise money for a memorial tablet dedicated to Mrs. Valentine to be placed in the Capitol Building in Richmond. Much of the material consists of correspondence and memoranda between the association's chairperson, Adèle Clark and the individuals who contributed to the memorial fund. There is also correspondence between Clark and the sculptor chosen to produce the memorial tablet. Other material includes financial data, contributors lists, minutes, notes and reports documenting the association's fundraising activities.

The collection of materials related to state and national politics comprises the third major section of the Clark Papers. These materials include correspondence, memoranda, minutes, reports, statistical data, and literature generated by or related to the work of the Commission on the Simplification of State and Local Government (1921-1927) and the Liberal Arts College Commission (1918, 1929-1933). Material pertaining to both of these government commissions highlight the research and information gathering work undertaken by Clark and the members of these commissions before presentation of the final reports to the Virginia General Assembly. The collection also contains the annotated drafts and proofs of the reports in various stages of development. Correspondence, notes, reports and travel vouchers highlight Clark's duties as a NRS Field Supervisor and her involvement with the National Reemployment Service (1925-1937). Correspondence between Clark and the State Reemployment Director reveal the types of reemployment projects in which the NRS was actively engaged throughout the state. In addition, correspondence between Clark and other field staff demonstrate the extent to which Clark participated in managing local reemployment offices during her tenure with the NRS. Published reports, speeches, manuals, newspaper clippings and other ephemeral materials are also included.

The fourth area of interest of Adèle's, as reflected in the collection, was religion. Included here are the organizational records and personal items documenting the religious activities of Clark, Nora Houston, and several members of the Houston family. It should be noted that Clark was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church and later became a devout Roman Catholic after Nora Houston's death in 1942. Included is correspondence between both women and various religious organizations, church leaflets, pamphlets and prayerbooks, periodicals and other items of a religious nature. Some of the organizations with which Clark and Houston corresponded include the Catholic Woman's Club, National Council of Catholic Women, National Conference on Christians and Jews, and Catholic Daughters of America. Beth Ahabah Museum and Archives holds other materials of a religious nature relating to the Goodman family.

The final component of the collection, second in size only to that of the suffrage and voting rights material, is that of art, particularly art in Virginia. An artist by training, Adèle Clark worked ceaselessly for increased public awareness of the traditions and richness of art within the Commonwealth. To this end, the collection documents the contributions of Clark and her colleagues in the following endeavors: the Art Club of Richmond, Atelier, Virginia League of Fine Arts and Handicrafts, Richmond Academy of Arts, Virginia Arts Commission, and Works Project Administration-Federal Arts Project. In addition to containing the correspondence relating to the operations of these organizations, the records also contain memoranda, minutes and reports of committees, and materials on exhibitions sponsored by these organizations. Of particular significance are the records of the Academy Committee of the Art Club that document the committee's role in attempting to resurrect the arts academy. Materials relating to the WPA and the Virginia Arts Commission emphasize Clark's substantial role in making the public a more active player in the promotion of the arts. Clark's monthly and narrative reports on several WPA art galleries, as well as data on the Index of American Design, provide a detailed account of the variety of art projects the WPA underwrote in Virginia.

The collection also contains a range of art and art school publications, art supply advertisements, catalogs, exhibition bulletins and notices from local and national art institutions. A small number of drawings, sketches and miscellaneous artwork created by Adèle Clark, Nora Houston and other artists are also represented. Some of the more notable pieces include Clark's original lithograph "Richmond Market at Christmas", copies of Nora Houston's house sketches and artwork produced by children of various ages. Lastly there are numerous kinds of illustrations and reproductions that Clark and Houston utilized in their art classes.

Significant portions of the collection are in fragile condition, particularly newspaper clippings and photographs. Reference copies of the photographs are available for use. A large portion of the clippings have been photocopied and the process will continue as time and staff permit.

Special Collections has also purchased suffrage and related materials. Please ask a staffmember for information about these supporting items.


Series I--Correspondence and Family Materials (n.d., 1849-1971) ; Series II--Business/Civic Organization Correspondence (n.d., 1903-1971) ; Series III--Equal Suffrage League of Virginia (ESLV) (n.d., 1892-1926) ; Series IV: Richmond League of Women Voters (n.d., 1920- 1978) ; Series V--Virginia League of Women Voters (VLWV) (n.d., 1915-1967) ; Series VI--The League of Women Voters of Virginia (n.d., 1945-1970) ; Series VII--The National League of Women Voters (n.d., 1919-1947) ; Series VIII--League of Women Voters (n.d., 1946-1976) ; Series IX--Commission on Simplification of State and Local Government (n.d., 1921- 1927) ; Series X--Liberal Arts College for Women Commission (n.d., 1918-1938) ; Series XI--National Reemployment Service (n.d., 1925-1938) ; Series XII--Lila Meade Valentine memorial Association (n.d., 1921-1936) ; Series XIII--Religious Materials ; Series XIV--Art (n.d., 1850-1971) ; Series XV--Ephemera and Photographs (n.d., ca. 1850 - ca. 1970)

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Significant Persons Associated With the Collection

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Container List

Series I: Correspondence and Family Materials, 1849-1971
Series II: Business/Civic Organization Correspondence, undated, 1903-1971
Series III: Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, undated, 1892-1926
Series IV: Richmond League of Women Voters, 1920-1978
Series V: Virginia League of Women Voters, undated, 1915-1967
Series VI: League of Women Voters of Virginia
undated, 1945-1970
Series VII: National League of Women Voters
undated, 1919-1947
Series VIII: League of Women Voters
undated, 1946-1976
Series IX: Commission on Simplification of State and Local Government
undated, 1921-1927
Series X: Liberal Arts College for Women Commission
undated, 1918-1970
Series XI: National Reemployment Service,
undated, 1925-1938
Series XII: Lila Meade Valentine Memorial Association,
undated, 1921-1936
Series XIII: Religious Materials,
undated, 1893-1970
Series XIV: Art,
undated, 1850-1971
Series XV: Ephemera and Photographs,
1850s - 1970s