Wolfe, Clara M. Snell (1874–1970)

By: Elaina Friar Moyer

Type: Biography

Updated: June 19, 2019

Clara M. Snell Wolfe, teacher, suffragist, activist, and organizer, was born in Milledgeville, Illinois, on May 9, 1874, to bee farmer Francis Adam Snell and Ellen Rosamond (Campbell) Snell. Clara Snell graduated from Milledgeville High School in 1891 and went on to graduate from Illinois State Normal University in 1898. She served as a high school principal in Dundee, Illinois, from 1898 until 1899 before becoming a critic teacher at Illinois State Normal University from 1900 to 1901. Snell continued as a critic teacher at Eastern Illinois State Normal School from 1901 to 1906. In April 1906 she authored Lessons in Fourth Year Geography—Topic: The Work of Water for Eastern Illinois State Normal School. Snell also was a lecturer in the teachers’ institutes from 1905 until 1909. She participated in the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association as a recording secretary, was a member of the College Equal Suffrage League, and an organizer for the Woman Suffrage Party in Cleveland, Ohio.

Clara Snell married Albert Benedict Wolfe in Milledgeville, Illinois, on September 6, 1906. In 1908 the Wolfes moved into a house at 272 Oak Street while Albert taught at Oberlin College and Clara worked on her degree. She received her A.B. degree from Oberlin College in 1909. She then became the corresponding secretary for the Ohio Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1911 and in 1912 was the speaker and organizer for the Ohio suffrage campaign. Clara Wolfe published “The Aim and Content of the Undergraduate Economics Curriculum” in The Journal of Political Economy in 1913.

By 1914 her husband obtained a job as a professor at the University of Texas, and the couple stayed in Texas until 1923. While in Texas, Clara Wolfe remained active in the suffrage movement and founded and became the president of the Texas branch of the National Woman’s Party. She also travelled to California to help establish a National Woman’s Party branch there. Wolfe also participated in the watch fire campaigns in Washington, D.C., and was arrested on four different occasions. While living in Texas, she actively campaigned for suffrage by letter writing, arranging meetings, and petitioning for woman suffrage with Senator Charles Culberson. She also contributed five dollars to the passage of the Federal Amendment in 1918 and continued to sign new members up for the Suffragist magazine produced by the National Woman’s Party.

In 1923 Wolfe moved back to Ohio with her husband, who began working as a professor at Ohio State University until he retired in 1946. While he worked at the university, Clara Wolfe continued to further her education. She earned her master’s degree from Ohio State University and wrote her dissertation, “An Examination of the available prose works of Sir Walter Scott for traces of Spanish, particularly of Don Quixote.” In 1932 she studied French as a graduate student at the University of California-Berkeley.

Wolfe remained an active member of the National Woman’s Party and often gave speeches on equality. In 1938 she spoke to the Elko Women’s Club in Elko, Nevada, about the Equal Rights Amendment. The next year, Wolfe gave a speech about the Equal Rights Amendment in Wilmington, Delaware. By 1942 she was elected as Second Vice Chairman of the National Woman’s Party. She was the Executive Council Vice Chairman of the National Woman’s Party in 1949.

Clara and Albert Wolfe participated in the women’s movement for most their lives, and they also funded a scholarship as part of their philanthropic work. From 1962 until 1971, they sponsored a scholarship at Oberlin College. Albert Wolfe passed away in 1967, in Columbus, Ohio. Clara Snell Wolfe died on June 12, 1970, in Upper Arlington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. They did not have any children. Wolfe was buried in Union Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.

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Elizabeth Schmidt, “Biographical Sketch of Clara Snell Wolfe,” Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender, Binghamton University State University of New York (http://chswg.binghamton.edu/WASM-US/crowdsourcing/CaraSnellWolfe.html), accessed October 3, 2018. Woman's Who's Who of America (New York: American Commonwealth, 1914).

  • Women
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Civil Rights, Segregation, and Slavery
  • Suffragists and Antisuffragists
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Austin
  • Central Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Elaina Friar Moyer, “Wolfe, Clara M. Snell,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wolfe-clara-m-snell.

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June 19, 2019

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