I must have drifted off…

Inman, Henry. Rip Van Winkle Awakening from his Long Sleep, 1823. National Gallery of Art, gift of William and Abigail Gerdts. Public Domain.

A long “nap”

Unlike Rip van Winkle, I haven’t been asleep the whole time since our previous post. But we are well overdue for new blog material. I’ve got a big backlog of documents and images to share with you; all I need to do is get writing. But first…

Be sure to vote today!

It’s election day today, and your vote counts. If you haven’t already done so, get out of the house, over to your polling place, and vote. Voting is your right and responsibility as a citizen, and an indispensable element of our nation since the earliest days of the Republic.

Not surprisingly, voting and public service were an important part of life in the Clark House era. From 1840 onward, Jonathan M. Clark, Peter Turck, William T. Bonniwell and many other relatives and neighbors sought, and won, appointment or election to a wide variety of local, territorial and state offices. Voting—then limited to white males only—was a priority for Mequon’s early settlers, and they never failed to turn out in large numbers for each election. Their passion for civic engagement and electoral politics was, in turn, passed to the next generation.

“Silence is no longer golden; speech is golden and silence is criminal.”

—Frances E. Willard, from the masthead of the (Lincoln, Nebraska) New Republic, Dec. 27, 1888.

By the mid-1880s, Jonathan and Mary (Turck) Clark’s eldest daughter Caroline M. (Clark) Woodward—already nationally known for her temperance work— became increasingly active in politics as a member of Nebraska’s Prohibition Party.

(Lincoln, Nebraska) New Republic, December 27, 1888 p. 1

(Lincoln, Nebraska) New Republic, December 27, 1888 p. 1

Caroline twice stood for election to statewide office in Nebraska. Although most American women—including Caroline—would not be granted the right to vote until 1920, in the 1890s Caroline Woodward appeared on the Prohibition Party ticket in two state elections. In 1891 she ran for regent of the state university, and in 1894 she sought election as representative for Nebraska’s fourth congressional district.

(Lincoln, Nebraska) New Republic October 13, 1894, p. 1.

The Nebraska Prohibition Party was a small third party, and could not compete with the large and well-established Republican and Democratic parties. None of the Prohibition Party candidates were elected in either 1891 or 1894. And while complete statewide returns are hard to locate, preliminary research shows that Caroline was one of the Nebraska Prohibition Party’s top vote-getters in both the 1891 and 1894 elections.

Caroline was busy

Caroline (Clark) Woodward lived a long and productive life, of which national and statewide politics and temperance work formed a significant part. But she was also active as a devoted wife and adoptive mother, lifetime member of the Methodist Church, avid participant in the Chautauqua movement and, in her later years, an agent for the Equitable insurance company.

Much of Caroline’s life, from about 1876 until her death in 1924, is exceptionally well documented in the newspapers of the day. For several decades, articles about her work with the W.C.T.U. and other organizations were published and re-published in papers across the nation. There are thousands of articles that mention her name during the years 1885 to 1924. I’ve read several hundred already; I’ll never be able to read them all.

All of which means that a full picture of Caroline’s life will take some time to sort through and process. Rather than trying to “do everything” about Caroline’s life at once, I think we’ll examine just a bit of her life from time to time as we get key documents organized and on the record. After a while, we can try to weave all the threads together for an adequate portrait of this remarkable woman.

And that’s not all

Before the year is done I also want to wrap up our Alfred Bonniwell document series, and I’ll have lots more to say about the Bonniwell family Bible. Plus the usual miscellany of new Clark-era documents, news clippings, photos and other period artwork. See you soon with more.

And don’t forget to vote. It was important in 1840, and it’s still important in 2022.

One thought on “I must have drifted off…

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