Another family portrait! Caroline (Clark) Woodward, c. 1890s

UPDATED – October 9, 2021, with clarification that “NWCTU” means, indeed, the National (and not Nebraska) WCTU.
UPDATED – October 8, 2021, to correct typos in the date range of the photo. Correct (maximum) date range is 1889 to 1900. Also removed a few randomly duplicated words in the first paragraph.

More Big News! It was only a few weeks ago that we presented a previously unknown photo of the youngest child of Jonathan M. and Mary (Turck) Clark, Dr. Jennie Clark Morrison. Today we have another great find, a professional photo portrait of the Clark’s eldest child, Caroline Mary (Clark) Woodward (1840-1924):

Townsend Elite Studio, [Portrait, Caroline M. (Clark) Woodward], inscribed “Mrs. C. M. Woodward, Supt. Work among Railroad Employes, N.W.C.T.U.”, photograph, circa 1889-1900. Photo courtesy Frances Willard House Museum & WCTU Archives, Evanston, Illinois. Click to open larger image in new window.

Clark family descendant Liz Hickman and I have been gathering information about Caroline for many years. Spurred on by this new photo of Caroline in her prime, I think it’s finally time to assemble the sources, line up the facts, and begin to share more of what we know about Caroline’s remarkable life as a teacher, wife, mother, and social activist. There is a lot of material to work with, so today let’s stay focused and just take a closer look at this new-to-us photograph.

Taking a Closer Look

Today’s image of Caroline (Clark) Woodward appears to be a sepia-toned photograph on paper, in vertical (portrait) orientation, glued to a piece of ivory-colored card stock with straight edges and rounded corners. This appears to be in the popular photographic format known as a cabinet card, and probably measures about 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall.1 Below the photograph, the card is imprinted with the photographer’s name and studio information: Townsend, Elite Studio, 226 S. 11th St, Lincoln, Neb. A cursive inscription in black ink (fading to brown on the photo) reads: Mrs. C. M. Woodward. Sup’t Work among Railroad Employes [sic], N.W.C.T.U.

The photo is a bust-length portrait of a middle-aged white woman posed in front of a plain, white, background. Her torso is turned toward the camera, her head looks to her proper left. Her long, light-colored hair is pulled close to her head on the sides and gathered in a bun or chignon at the back; the hair above her forehead is shorter and frizzed into a tuft of short curls. Her hair color is not black or dark brown; it may be blond, light brown or, possibly red,2 and may be graying a bit.

Her face is generally oval in shape. She has full, dark brows above light-colored (blue? green?) eyes. Her nose is full and straight. Her mouth is closed. Considering that Caroline was at least 49 years old when this photograph was made (more on that, below), the skin on her face is remarkably smooth and even. It’s possible that photographer Townsend employed a bit of 1890s “studio magic” to smooth out any wrinkles or blemishes in Caroline’s skin; I am not expert enough to know.

We surmise she is wearing a dress, although we can only see the bodice. Her dress is made of a medium-dark fabric woven or printed with a darker pattern of large stylized flowers and leaves. The front of the bodice is styled in the manner of a gentleman’s waistcoat. The bodice fastenings are obscured by a cascade of lace or similar material, also dark in color. The bodice is finished with a tall collar, which may be made of—or is overlaid with—dark lace. The sleeves are tight to the arm, except at the shoulders, and feature a kick-up at the shoulder that may be about two inches higher than the shoulder itself.

She is not wearing earrings, but there is a bright metal pin at the center of her raised collar. It comprises a smooth horizontal bar supporting two intertwined rings made of twisted circles of a similar bright metal. Above her proper right breast3 she has pinned a small bow of white ribbon, the official symbol of the W.C.T.U. and of the temperance movement in general.

The white ribbon bow symbolizes purity. Members are often known as “white ribboners.” The membership pin is worn over the heart.


Where did it come from?

Today’s photo comes to us courtesy of the Frances Willard House Museum and Women’s Christian Temperance Union Archives, Evanston, Illinois, and their expert and collegial archivist, Janet Olson.

Turner, Philip, photographer, Frances E. Willard House, 1730 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Cook County, Illinois, 1933, full information at Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress. Click to open larger image in new window.

I knew that Caroline Woodward had been very active in the Nebraska and national W.C.T.U. for much of her adult life. I also knew about the historic Frances Willard House and the W.C.T.U. archives.4 So not long ago, I sent the W.C.T.U. archives an email, asking whether they had any photos of Caroline in their collection. A few days later I received a reply with two attachments: scans of today’s portrait photo and of Caroline’s obituary as published in the W.C.T.U.’s official magazine, The Union Signal. (I’ll share and discuss that obituary in an upcoming post.)

The Frances Willard House Museum and Women’s Christian Temperance Union Archives have graciously allowed us to republish the photo here on the blog and use it at the Clark House Museum. You may also use the photograph, but if you do, please be sure you always include the appropriate source credit.5


Our photo is inscribed: Mrs. C. M. Woodward. Sup’t Work among Railroad Employes [sic], N.W.C.T.U. We know “W.C.T.U.” represents the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, but what about the “N”? The “N” must represent either “Nebraska” or “National,” as Caroline was active in both.

According to a biography of Caroline published in 1893, she was first appointed “associate superintendent of the department of work among railroad employee[s]” at the W.C.T.U.’s Atlanta convention [i.e., in 1890]. Since this inscription mentions a version of her national title, my initial surmise is that the “N” in N.W.C.T.U. stands for “National.”7

Other photos of Caroline

There are at least two previously-known images of Caroline. One of them was taken at the David City, Nebraska, studio of photographer Harvey L. Boston in 1901. The other appeared in a 1916 Omaha Bee article about a much older—but still active—Caroline.

The 1901 Boston Studio photo is still under copyright, so I can’t publish that image today. But if you click here, you can enjoy that 1901 portrait of Caroline via the Nebraska Memories–Butler County Gallery website. That web page also includes this description of her 1901 studio portrait:

A 5″x7″ glass plate negative, portrait photograph of Caroline Woodward, David City, Nebraska, wearing a long-sleeve print dress with split bodice, white figured under blouse with stiff high-stand collar with black trim, narrow rows of black trim outlining the bodice opening, sleeve hem and across the bodice yoke, and wire-rimmed glasses with her gray hair twisted up into a knot and held with a large stick pin, a ring on her finger, an ink pen in her hand, sitting in a wooden chair at a table with figured table rug with a sheet of paper in front of her and the pen poised as if to write.

I think her W.C.T.U. white ribbon is visible in the folds of her blouse and dress, just above her left breast. And for what it’s worth, if the Boston Studio negative has been correctly printed it appears that Caroline wrote with her left hand.

Dating our N.W.C.T.U. photograph

According to an article in the May 3, 1902, Lincoln, Nebraska, Capital City Courier, T. W. Townsend established his Elite Studio in Lincoln in 1889. Various local newspaper items and advertisements from 1889 onwards confirm that 226 South 11th Street was the original and consistent address of Townsend’s studio. Assuming that our photo is an original from Townsend’s Elite Studio—and it appears to be such—it suggests that our photo dates from no earlier than late-1889.

According to my (limited) knowledge of 19th-century U.S. women’s fashion, Caroline’s hairstyle in the Townsend photo was in vogue around 1883-1889, while the details of her dress were characteristic of the earlier part of the period 1893-1896.

Compared to her post-1889 Townsend portrait, the 1901 Boston Studio photo shows a visibly older Caroline with a more rounded face and what appears to be substantially grayer hair. I am confident that our Townsend Elite Studio portrait was taken some years prior to the 1901 Boston Studio photograph.

Looking at all the evidence, I believe the Townsend photograph shows a thoughtful, mature, “Western” woman who favored a slightly out-of-date hairstyle coupled with a current, but conservative and professional, style of dress. We can say with confidence that the photograph was made between 1889 and 1900, and more likely taken between about 1893 to, perhaps, 1896, when the sitter—Caroline M. (Clark) Woodward—would have been about 53 to 56 years old.

Many thanks…

Once again, I’d like to thank the Frances Willard House Museum and Women’s Christian Temperance Union Archives, Evanston, Illinois, and their ace archivist, Janet Olson. I’ve been trying to locate photos of our Clark House family for almost a decade. This photo of Caroline from the Willard House and W.C.T.U. Archives is a real find, and I’m very grateful for their generous assistance.

Coming up: a lot!

Caroline M. (Clark) Woodward led the longest—and certainly the most public—life of all the Clark children. And although I have not yet been able to find any of her manuscripts, speeches, or letters, her life of service to the causes of temperance, suffrage, the Methodist church, and to the condition of women and children in general, are well-documented in the press.

There is a lot of information about Caroline’s life to sort and discuss, and I’ll start to do that with next week’s posts. Stay tuned…



  1. I neglected to check with Janet Olson at the WCTU archives to confirm the medium and dimensions of this photograph. I will check to see if anything is amiss with my description and make corrections as needed.

  2. We know Caroline had some red-haired relatives on the Turck side of her family, so red hair is a possibility.

  3. The W.C.T.U practice is to pin the white ribbon over one’s heart, which we typically think of as on our left sides. So I wonder: was this photo “flipped” on the vertical axis, due to some aspect of the 1890s photo-making process? I’m not sure; it’s a very minor point in any case.

  4. I grew up not far from the Willard House and have many memories of driving by that unique bit of American Gothic architecture, holding firmly to its historic place in the middle of modern, bustling, Evanston, just around the corner from Northwestern University.

    It’s very interesting to learn more about Miss Willard and the W.C.T.U. as I dive deeper into Caroline’s life and work, and it’s been a real pleasure corresponding with W.C.T.U. archivist Janet Olson. When I have a little spare time, I’m looking forward to visiting the Willard House and hunting for more Caroline Woodward records in the W.C.T.U archives.

  5. Suggested proper credit: Photo courtesy Frances Willard House Museum & WCTU Archives, Evanston, Illinois.

  6. Willard, Frances E. and Mary A. Livermore, editors, A Woman of the Century: fourteen hundred-seventy biographical sketches […] of leading American women, Buffalo, 1893, p. 799.

    I’ll have much more to say about this biographical sketch and its source in an upcoming post.

  7. UPDATE – In an Oct. 8, 2021 email, W.C.T.U. archivist Janet Olson confirms that the “N.” stands for “National” W.T.C.U. And for future reference and clarification, I have now found an 1886 petition signed by the Nebraska state W.C.T.U. leadership (including Caroline), and they all indicate their organizational affiliation by signing [Name], [title, e.g., Treasurer], Nebr. W.T.C.U. This seems to be standard usage for Nebraska W.C.T.U. members.

    I’ll have more to say about this 1886 document in a future post.

7 thoughts on “Another family portrait! Caroline (Clark) Woodward, c. 1890s

  1. This is wonderful information and the pictures are so precious…. Thanks for your continued sleuthing!!


    • Thanks, Liz.

      I know you tried to get some WCTU info a while ago and without any luck. I believe the organization has been doing some substantial renovations and repairs on the Evanston headquarters for the past several years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the problem. My recent experience has been top-notch.



  2. As you delve into the W.C.T.U. be sure to view Ken Burns’ excellent documentary “Prohibition”. Regards, Sam


    • Thanks, Sam!

      Yes, the Burns’ “Prohibition” series is excellent, as is the PBS “American Experience” multi-part documentary about women’s suffrage, “The Vote.” Both are really well researched and presented and, in a way, can be thought of as companion pieces, as many of the leading activists were involved in both movements.

      Caroline (Clark) Woodward was a vigorous and outspoken activist for both causes for the better part of 50 years. Stay tuned for some interesting stories.



  3. Pingback: Caroline M. (Clark) Woodward: first steps toward a biography | Clark House Historian

  4. Pingback: Caroline Clark – from student to teacher | Clark House Historian

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