Born: October 29, 1846
Birthplace: Peterboro, New Hampshire
Died: February 28, 1900
Place of Burial: Evergreen Cemetery, Sinclairville, New York
Contributions: Suffrage leader, writer, and editor
Evaline Rowena Clarke was born on October 29, 1846 to James Parker Shedd and Martha W. (Nichols) Shedd. She was the oldest of five children, including brothers Ezra, Lot, and Harland, and a younger sister, Lucy.[i] At the age of thirteen, Evaline and her family migrated from New Hampshire to Ellery Center, New York, where James was a farmer.[ii]
On December 24, 1866, Evaline married John Henry Clarke in Jamestown, New York. John and Evaline had one son, Clarence Byron Clarke, on September 9, 1868.[iii] Sometime between 1874 and 1881, the family moved to South Stockton, New York and lived in a house John built on top of a hill. It was noted that John H. Clarke was a carpenter, and Evaline was listed as keeping house.[iv] A Civil War veteran who had also held public office, John was later credited with building several other houses in the area.[v]
Evaline was a dedicated suffragist with a talent for writing. In 1889, she founded a monthly journal devoted to “the industrial, legal, and political interests of women.”[vi] Equality was published by Archie McLean from a print shop in Sinclairville, New York.[vii]
In addition to editing Equality Evaline also wrote many of the magazine’s articles. Several of her writings spoke of women’s unique merits and the benefit their voting would have for American society. In one article she passionately wrote about an important difference she observed between women and men:
A woman always seeks to impart what she has learned, for the benefit of others; but a man buttons his coat over his breast and puts on his hat in a way that says, “I’m a deal wiser than you are, but maybe you’ll learn it some day, the way I have, and then I’ll talk to you, my boy.”[viii]
Elsewhere in the article she pointed out how women had dutifully educated themselves. Therefore, men no longer held superiority over them. She challenged men, stating they had no intent to educate their wives and children or help them become successful individuals. Fortunately for the cause of women’s suffrage, Evaline and other women diligently dedicated their lives to educating themselves and others.
The women’s suffrage movement formally began near the time of Evaline’s birth. On July 13, 1848 in Waterloo, New York, a group of determined women gathered for tea and discussed the struggles women faced. The meeting resulted in organizing the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. A notice for the Seneca County Courier invited all women to attend the momentous event. [ix] Years later, many women in New York State formed clubs in different towns and counties to advocate for women’s suffrage. Yearly conventions were held to gather ideas and to consider the political status of women, as well as other business agendas regarding women’s rights.
During this momentous time in history, Evaline became an active member of the Political Equality Club of Chautauqua County, which soon became the largest county suffrage club in the nation. At the third annual county convention held November 1, 1890 in Dunkirk, New York, Evaline was elected chair of this club’s executive committee.[x] On October 18, 1893, at the sixth annual county convention held in Kennedy, New York, she was elected president of the county suffrage organization.[xi]
Evaline also held offices within the New York State Woman Suffrage Association. In 1891, proving her hard work and dedication, she was appointed as state suffrage organizer. In this capacity, she visited Wyoming County later that year to organize political equality clubs in various towns.[xii]
Evaline R. Clarke passed away February 28, 1900 and is buried next to her husband in the Evergreen Cemetery in Sinclairville.[xiii] Newspaper articles from November 1895 and July 1896 mention Evaline being very sick, which may be why there wasn’t much reported about her suffrage activities after the early 1890s.[xiv]
Evaline proved her hard work advocating for women’s rights with her many accomplishments, starting with her creation of the Equality periodical. She also contributed several writings to newspapers, and saw a poem of hers published in a national women’s rights collection.[xv] She held key leadership roles within the county and state organizations campaigning for women’s suffrage. Evaline’s devotion throughout her life paved the way for the victorious strivings of future suffragists.
Compiled by Amanda Little, 2018
Primary Sources to Explore
Issues of Equality held in the collection of the Schlesinger Library, Harvard University
[i] Frank E. Shedd, Daniel Shed Genealogy: Ancestry and Descendants of Daniel Shed of Braintree, Massachusetts, 1327-1920 (Boston: The Shedd Family Association, 1921), 366-367, accessed January 2, 2019, https://archive.org/details/danielshedgeneal00shed/page/366.
[ii] 1865 U.S. Census, Ellery, Chautauqua County, New York, population schedule, sheet no. 17, dwelling, family, Evaline R. Shedd, Ancestry.com, accessed April 6, 2018.
[iii] Shedd, Daniel Shed Genealogy, 367.
[iv] “Historic Structures in the Town of Stockton,” 5629 Route 380, Sinclairville, Architectural Inventory: Nineteenth Century Structures in Chautauqua County, NY, Chautauqua County Historian, February 2009, accessed April 24, 2018, http://app.chautauquacounty.com/hist_struct/chsdb.html.
[v] Shed, Daniel Shed Genealogy, 367; “South Stockton. The Late J. H. Clarke…” [Jamestown, NY] Evening Journal, March 14, 1902, 11.
[vi] Equality vol. 1, no. 1 (January 1889), Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
[vii] Elnora Monroe Babcock, “Political Equality Movement,” in The Centennial History of Chautauqua County, New York (Jamestown, N.Y.: The Chautauqua History Company, 1904): 1, 513.
[viii] E.R. Clarke, “Men Must Keep Pace,” Equality vol. 1, no. 1 (January 1889): 7.
[ix] Carmen E. Arroyo, “Women’s Suffrage in New York State,” New York Assembly, accessed April 15, 2018, http://www.assembly.state.ny.us/member_files/084/20090313/.
[x] Babcock, “Political Equality Movement,” 514.
[xi] John Phillips Downs, ed., History of Chautauqua County, New York, and Its People (New York: American Historical Society, 1921): 1, 353.
[xii] “Local brief mention”, Wyoming County Times, December 10, 1891, New York State Historic Newspapers, accessed April 6, 2018, http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn84035923/1891-12-10/ed-1/seq-6/.
[xiii] George McGonegal and Donald Jordan, compilers, “Evergreen Cemetery Est. 1818,” The Painted Hills Genealogy Society, June 10, 2017, accessed April 6, 2018, http://paintedhills.org/CHAUTAUQUA/EvergreenSinclairCem/EvergreenC-E.htm.
[xiv] “South Stockton,” [Jamestown, NY] Evening Journal, November 16, 1895, 7; “South Stockton,” [Jamestown, NY] Evening Journal, July 3, 1896, 3
[xv] E.R. Clarke, “Be Just, And Fear Not,” in The Yellow Ribbon Speaker: Readings and Recitations, eds. Rev. Anna H. Shaw, Alice Stone Blackwell, and Lucy Elmina Anthony (Boston: Lee and Shepard Publishers, 1891), 143-145.