• March of the Women

Clara Helene Stoehr (1867-1944)

Clara Helene Stoehr came from a wealthy Manchester family. She was the daughter of Emil Moritz Stoehr, a merchant, and his wife, Helene. Both parents were born in Germany and became naturalised British subjects in 1857. Emil’s naturalisation certificate issued in 1874 listed his nine children, Clara, listed as Helene, was the sixth child. She was born in 1867 and in the 1891 census she was described in the returns as a student at Newham (Newnham) College, Cambridge. She was indeed a student at Newnham, a women’s college supported by Millicent Fawcett and attended by her daughter, Philippa.

Clara and her siblings were raised in a socially active family and in 1866 Clara’s mother, Helene, signed the first Women’s Suffrage Petition presented to Parliament.

Clara herself was involved with the establishment of the University of Manchester Settlement which was established in the poor district of Ancoats in 1895. This was modelled on Toynbee Hall in the East End of London. The Settlement was intended to bring learning and culture to the poor of the district, while introducing students and staff of the University to the social conditions and difficulties encountered by the working classes. Clara lived at the Ancoats Art Museum whilst organising and developing the work of the settlement.

In about 1910, after living in London in the early years of the twentieth century, Clara bought a house in Hindhead, near Haslemere, possibly because in 1909, her younger sister, Susanna and her husband, Sir Walter Napier, had come to live at Chinton Hanger in Churt, only about 5 miles away. The 1911 census shows Clara and her elder sister Mary, as visitors at the Napiers.

Copy of 1911 census showing Clara and her other siblings as visitors at the family home of the Napiers, Chinton Hanger, Churt. (Courtesy of The National Archives, London, England. Class: RG14; Piece: 3136; Schedule Number: 312. 1911 England Census: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA), 1911).

1911 census showing Clara and her other siblings as visitors at the family home of the Napiers, Chinton Hanger, Churt.
(Courtesy of The National Archives, London, England. Class: RG14; Piece: 3136; Schedule Number: 312. 1911 England Census: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA), 1911).

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Clara was a very active suffragist. From 1912 she appears in innumerable newspaper reports described as ‘chairman’ or ‘speaker’ at meetings throughout London and Surrey sharing the platform with many of the other leading suffragists.

In 1912, in response to Philippa Fawcett’s appeal in the newspaper the Common Cause, Clara spent a short Easter ‘holiday’ with two other ladies at Brockham Green and Betchworth, two adjoining villages in Surrey, holding several open-air meetings spreading the cause of Votes for Women.

Clara was an active committee member of the Haslemere Society for Women’s Suffrage. In 1912 she was in charge of the open-air meetings held in Haslemere Suffrage Week and had meetings in her house, Down End, Hindhead. In 1913 she organised a Haslemere campaign designed to interest working men and women in women’s suffrage.

Image of the Suffragist march through Haslemere High Street, most likely the pilgrimage, 1913 (courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum, ref PN.4.221)

Suffragist march through Haslemere High Street, most likely the pilgrimage, 1913 (courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum, ref PN.4.221)

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Clara was a generous giver of time and money to many different causes. These included in 1912 the General Fund, in 1913 the McLaren Memorial Fund and in 1914 the Active Service Fund (all reported in Common Cause). In 1915, in response to an appeal in Common Cause for cups and saucers to enable a buffet to be started at the Union Jack Club for Girls, Clara sent a sum of money for their purchase.

In 1914 she worked with the International Women’s Relief Committee formed at the Headquarters of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance, helping to interview applicants and assess their difficulties. Clara also became the Honorary Organising Secretary of the South Kensington Hostel for Belgian Refugees during the First World War.

She supported the Millicent Fawcett Hospital Units and donated to their cause in 1918. During the First World War these units brought female medical units to the Front line.

Copy of passenger list for 9 October 1924, showing Clara Stoehr aboard ‘Anchises’, bound for Cape Town, South Africa (Reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England, digitised by www.findmypast.com)

Passenger list for 9 October 1924, showing Clara Stoehr aboard ‘Anchises’, bound for Cape Town, South Africa
(Reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England, digitised by www.findmypast.com)

In 1924, Clara sold her house in Hindhead, and on 9 October sailed from Liverpool to Cape Town, South Africa. The ship’s passenger list shows her age 59, resident at the University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, W1, London. In the following years she returned to England many times often staying at the University Women’s Club. She died on 9 March 1944 at Vokes Hospital, Cape Town.

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Contributed by a local historian for The March of the Women project.

Sources:

Ancestry – Census returns and Electoral registers
Ships passenger lists on Find My Past
Haslemere Educational Museum, Cubitt & West Register of Houses
British Newspaper Archive
LSE Women’s Library

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