A History of Hardworking and Persistent Women

“May her memory save us from all pettiness, all unworthy ambition, all narrowness of vision, all mean and sordid aims… so may there be none in us, as she fought ever, without malice and without hatred, so may we fight.”

The plaque in the Capitol Rotunda memorializing “Mrs. Andreas Ueland 1860-1927″

This quaint and almost hidden plaque honoring Clara Ueland is affixed to the northwest corner of the Rotunda amongst the many battle flags and war memorials. It is one of only two memorials recognizing a woman within the State Capitol. When you look into Mrs. Ueland’s life you find out that she is one of our state’s persistent heroines of the Minnesota Women’s Suffrage Movement in the early 1900s.

Clara Hampson arrived in Minnesota at age 8 with her widowed mother and older brother from Ohio in 1867 in search of a new future on the Western frontier. Despite her poverty Clara was a very determined and successful student. Like many learned women of her time she became a teacher. She raised eight children in a devoted marriage to a Norwegian immigrant, Andreas Ueland. Through hard work and dedication Andreas became a probate judge in Minneapolis.

Clara joined the long struggle for women’s suffrage in Minnesota in the early 1900s and was quickly recognized as a leader within that movement. She demonstrated great poise and grace as the movement persisted through several failures at the State Legislature. She became a self-taught lobbyist who learned how to work in the rough-and-tumble world inside the Capitol Rotunda where she is now recognized by the plaque. The Women’s Suffrage Movement was finally victorious in our state at the ratification of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution on September 8, 1919.

At the time of this great victory, Clara Ueland was the president of the Minnesota Women’s Suffrage Association. She recognized that the battle was not complete and led the effort to transform her association into a new organization to encourage women to engage in their newly won civic responsibilities. That organization is known as the Minnesota League of Women Voters and Clara Ueland was elected its first president.

In part thanks to the vision cast by Clara Ueland Minnesota has been blessed with some hardest-working and persistent women politicians who, among other issues, have championed the preservation of our great outdoors for future generations. Two of those individuals deserving recognition as conservation champions for their work today at the Capitol are Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono) and Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka). Both women represent districts that have some of our most beautiful lakes. As a result they have been leaders in the effort to preserve these pristine waters from aquatic invasive species. Several breeds of plant, carp and aquatic mussels are now invading our lakes and rivers with a devastating effect on our ecosystems and our way of life. Both Doepke and Bonoff are rising to the challenge of this very complex issue.

Sen. Bonoff proposed an amendment to the Omnibus Environment bill last session that would have boosted boat license fees to be dedicated for the battle against invasives. The amendment unfortunately failed despite the support of many conservation groups. This was a courageous move in this era of the no tax Tea Party. Though there was funding put together from several different sources for the short term, a dedicated boat fee is a critical factor in ensuring the long-term research and enforcement can continue into the future.

Doepke along with John Ward (DFL-Brainerd) has been leading a bipartisan effort in the House to attack this extremely complex issue. Through her efforts several provisions strengthening our laws regarding boat inspections and limiting the movement of these invasive species was passed during this legislative session and signed by the governor.

Both Doepke and Bonoff remain committed to continue their aggressive defense of our precious lakes and rivers from aquatic invaders. This kind of dedication to a complex issue exemplifies what Clara Ueland envisioned when helping establish the “League” nearly 90 years ago to encourage women to engage in their newly won civic responsibilities. Those of us in the conservation community are indebted to these two conservation champions for their tireless work to protect our way of life for our children and our grandchildren. Clara Ueland would have been proud.

About John Tuma

John is a former state legislator and litigation attorney. He served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for eight years from the Northfield area, beginning in 1994. Elected as a Republican, John was known for his independent thinking and ability to work across party lines. He is well-known in Minnesota state government circles.
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