Adèle Clark and Nora Houston — Winning and Wielding the Vote

Adèle Clark (1882–1983) and Nora Houston (1883–1942) were artists, activists, and partners who worked tirelessly first to enfranchise women and then to engage them in politics. In 1909, they were among the twenty Richmond women who founded the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia (ESL), the leading pro-suffrage organization in the South. They both held leadership positions in the ESL and campaigned across the Commonwealth for voting equality for women—often confronting opposition from those who believed that women should not descend into “the filthy pool of politics.” 

With suffrage secured in 1920, Clark and Houston transferred their efforts to Virginia’s League of Women Voters (successor to the ESL), which mobilized women’s new political voice to influence legislators. 


This article was featured in the Virginia Magazine of History & Biography, Vol. 128, No.2 in connection with the VMHC exhibition, Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today

The Virginia League of Women Voters with Virginia Senators Claude A. Swanson and Carter Glass. (Left to Right): Maris Leaker, Adele Clark, Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon, Roberta Wellford, Julia Woone, Sen. Claude Swanson, Nora Houston, Sen. Carter Glass, Dudley Heinrich, Mrs. Hope, Mrs. Josephine Houston. Accompanying type-written note reads: "The Virginia League of Women Voters who aim to cooperate with all of the educational forces in Virginia in encouraging the study of government for more efficient citizenship. November 12, 1923." (VMHC 2002.222.1-2. Gift in 1979, from the Houston Family Papers)