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Clara McDiarmid, Arkansas Reformer

Old State House Museum - Monday, November 09, 2015

Our Brown Bag Lunch Lecture Series continues this Thursday at noon with Danyelle McNeill, Digital Archivist at the Arkansas History Commission, who will share her research on Clara McDiarmid, one of Arkansas's most influential reformers in the nineteenth century.

OSH: Danyelle, can you give us a quick summary of what you will be discussing?

DM: I will be talking about Clara McDiarmid, her life and family and her work with suffrage and temperance. Much has been written about Clara, some accurate and some not so accurate. I think it’s important to give a more rounded view of who she was.

OSH: In a sentence, who was Clara McDiarmid?

DM: I don’t think I can say just one sentence about her. I think Clara was complex and strong. She had been raised to be an educated abolitionist and suffragist who supported temperance. Consequently, she was passionate about supporting these issues but ended up living in an area of the U.S. that didn’t necessarily support all of these causes 100%. I think this made her an outsider sometimes. For example, she was an abolitionist from Kansas who was married to an abolitionist, Republican northerner who could easily have been called a carpetbagger. Also, much of her adulthood was difficult and painful- the loss of children, her husband’s illness, etc. Clara was a strong woman . . . someone who knew how to persevere.

OSH: How did you become interested in her?

DM: I recently created an online digital collection for the Arkansas History Commission about women’s history in Arkansas. In the course of my research for the collection, I came across information about Clara several times. The secondary information I came across was interesting and compelling. When I started to dig into the actual facts about her life, I became even more intrigued.

OSH: What can we learn about Arkansas from her life?

AM: Arkansas was ripe for the suffrage movement. In fact, as early as 1868, the topic of giving women the right to vote in Arkansas was being discussed. Clara was literally in the right place at the right time in terms of her support of suffrage. Arkansas was a bit more progressive than other southern states when it came to considering the rights of women.

OSH: Can you share an interesting fact about her you have discovered in your research?

DM: I think what’s interesting about Clara is what’s been written about her by many people versus who she really was and what she really endured. There’s more to her story than has been previously acknowledged.

Come to the Old State House Museum this Thursday, November 12, to find out more! Feel free to bring your own lunch; soft drinks will be provided.