Jan 292016

Adele Goodman Clark


Adel Clark in 1916

Adel Clark in 1916

Adele Goodman Clark (1882–1983) was an American artist, active suffragist and lover of women.  She was born in Montgomery, Alabama.

Her father was a railroad worker from Belfast, N. Ireland and her mother, Estelle Goodman was a Jewish music teacher originally from New Orleans.

In 1894 the family moved to Richmond, Virginia.  Adele was a bright young woman and won a scholarship to the New York School of Art.  She returned to teach art in Virginia.

Nora Houston

Nora Houston

This was the right move, because she met her love, Nora Houston at the Art School of Richmond, Virginia. They would be together for over thirty years until Nora died in 1942.

The Love Relationship That Was Socially Active

In 1919, Adele and Nora joined several women in founding the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia.  I am going to mention their names because they need to be honoured as what I have named as “The Famous Four”

The famous four

The famous four

Ellen Glasgow, Lia Meade Valentine, Kate Waller Barrett and Mary Johnson.  Adele served as its secretary for one year.  With additional women, they lobbied the Virginia General Assembly for the right to vote.  In 1910, Adele was chosen to be a delegate to the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in Washington, D.C (the home of Congress and the Senate).

Back in Richmond, Virginia, Adele and Nora combined art with politics by setting up their easels on a street corner.  People would gather to admire their paintings and the lovers would chat about the suffragette movement and give out pamphlets.

Another challenge for Adele and Nora was the dissolving of the Art Club of Virginia in 1917.  Two years later, Adele and Nora founded the Virginia Academy of Fine Arts and Handicrafts.

Suffragettes and Black Women Segregation*

* (At this time, the term ‘Afro-American’ did not exist).

Women (black and white) were given the vote in 1920.  During this period of history, there was deeply entrenched laws and voices of segregation. In the 1920 political elections, threats were issued and challenges were directed towards black women voters.  Adele and Nora invited black female voters to their studio in order to confront the problems.

They decided that the white suffragists would patrol polling locations in cars.  They met with success.  The Equal Suffrage League became the Virginia League of Women Voters  and Adele was its first chair and the following year became its president.  She kept the title from 1921 to 1925 and again from 1929 to 1944.  It seems that public recognition for Adele was widespread because she was elected to the National League of Women Voters in 1924.

A Nest of Their Own

The year 1928 was a particularly happy year for Adele and Nora.  Women had the vote and now they purchased  a house together on Chamberlayne Avenue in Richmond, which came to be known as “The Brattery.”  As mentioned previously, these lovers were involved in the issues of society. After the Great Depression and Roosevelt’s New Deal was in place to provide work and USA recovery, Adele held a position as supervision for the National Reemployment Service.  In 1936, she became the director of the Virginia Arts Project and was on the Virginia Arts Commission from 1941 5o 1964.

The Death of Nora

Nora was a Roman Catholic and she died in 1942. (She like so many people of religious faith, found being a lesbian was not incompatible with Christianity.  Adele’s cousin, Willoughby Lons, also an artist moved into the home that had been the joy of Adele and Nora.  Adele had converted to Roman Catholicism and chaired the Richmond Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s Legislative Committee from 1949 to 1959.  Adele died in a retirement community on June 4, 1983.  She was 101 years old.

paula:  As I read the lives of Adele and Nora, I was very proud of their achievements.  It must have been difficult for them both to live as lovers, but most people would have seen them as art lovers, suffragettes and political activists.   R.I.P

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