COLORED CONVENTION HEARTLAND: BLACK ORGANIZERS, WOMEN AND THE OHIO MOVEMENT
Abstract: Consuelo Clark Stewart was born in Ohio in 1861. She became one of the earliest African American woman physicians. Consuelo Clark’s direct involvement and contribution to the Colored Conventions in unclear due to the lack of accreditation or recognition in documents related to the conventions. However, Consuelo Clark was connected to these conventions through her husband, attorney William R. Stewart, and her father, Peter H. Clark. Consuelo Clark is well known for her high achievement in the medical field, becoming the “first African American woman licensed to practice medicine in Ohio” (Taylor 74). She also maintained a lifelong commitment to women-led organizations and charities. Ironically, despite her accomplishments, much of what we know about her life comes from sources focused on her better-known father and husband.
Consuelo Clark was born in the year 1861 to parents Peter H. Clark and Frances Ann Williams Clark. She was one of three children. Her education included Gaines High School, Cincinnati’s Art Academy, and Boston University School of Medicine. Clark’s parents suffered economic difficulties early on in her childhood, moving to eight different residences between 1858 and 1869. Nikki Taylor in America’s First Black Socialist: The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark argued that Peter spent little time with his children, and that he set extremely high standards for their achievements academically (Taylor 73).
In 1884, at the age of 23, Conseulo Clark received her Medical Doctorate from the Boston University School of Medicine. BUSM had been formed from the merging of Boston University and the New England Female Medical College, which had been the first institution in the country to train women doctors, including the first Black woman doctor. As a result, BUSM was one of the first co-educational medical schools in the country. It was also one of the few schools in the 1880s which would have been open to a Black woman medical student like Clark (“History”, Boston University School of Medicine).
After her medical training, Conseulo Clark returned to Cincinnati and practiced medicine at the Ohio Hospital for Women and Children. The Ohio Hospital, only a few years old at the time, was run entirely by women, from the medical staff to the governing board. It gave young women doctors like Clark the opportunity to gain experience as well as provided free services to poor women and families. It was also an example of the kind of women’s community and philanthropic work Clark herself would engage in later in her life (Consuelo Clark-Stewart Obituary; King 170).
In 1886, while she was practicing at Ohio Hospital, Conseulo Clark met William R Stewart, a 22-year-old law student from Pennsylvania. Stewart had graduated from the Rayen School in 1883 and worked with a railroad company until he was given the opportunity to read law in the office of Benjamin Franklin Wirt and Laurin D. Woodworth, a congressman and state senator respectively (Baker). The two married in 1890 and relocated to Youngstown (Baker). During William’s busy political career, Consuelo established a private medical practice, organized in the local YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association), and sponsored Youngstown’s first free kindergarten (Baker; Consuelo Clark-Stewart Obituary). She also cared for her mother at the end of her life in 1902 (“Mrs Peter H Clark Dead”).
William Stewart was a state representative from 1896 until 1899 and the first African American man to represent Youngstown, Ohio in the state legislature (Baker). In 1895, William R. Stewart began his campaign against James B. Chambers for state representative (Baker). Stewart’s opponent was white, and race was a primary standpoint in his debates. Eventually, a Republican newspaper entitled The Youngstown Weekly Telegram brought up this issue, explaining that race should not be a factor whatsoever. Stewart won the position as state representative that November, and was nominated for re-election the following term (Baker). In addition to his state representative position, William R. Stewart was also involved in “the convention of The National League of Colored Voters of Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and West Virginia” (Baker). He delivered the welcoming address in 1897, and was a very significant public supporter of the convention. “In 1947, Stewart was honored for being the first person to organize a committee for interracial work in the Youngstown area” (Baker).
At only 49, Conseulo Clark Stewart passed away on April 17, 1910 from “pernicious anemia”, which she had suffered from most of her life (Consuelo Clark-Stewart Obituary, Taylor 74). Two days before she died, she was recorded in the US Census as a patient in the Massillon State Hospital in Perry County. Nearly all the other names in those pages of the census were marked as white (United States Census 1910). Conseulo’s last days at that overwhelmingly white hospital are an interesting coda to the work of the 1858 convention. As their advertisement in The Cleveland Morning Leader explained, the Ohio State Anti-Slavery Society formed from the convention aimed not just to abolish slavery, “but to use all its energies to remove the legal and social disabilities under which the colored people of Ohio are now laboring.” They were working for a plethora of rights, including “The right to enjoy the benefits of County Infirmaries and State Asylums” (“To the Public”).
In 1958, 47 years after Clark, William R. Stewart passed away in his home on April 5th.
Although she was only forty-nine years old when she passed away, Consuelo Clark had amazing professional accomplishments. One might come to the conclusion that Consuelo acquired her perfectionism and work ethic from her father, and was given the opportunity to live out her dreams through her husband, but deeper in her family tree, her great-grandmother Elizabeth Clark Gaines paved their way by standing up for her own and her family’s freedom. Conseulo Clark followed in those footsteps, even if her own work was less documented than that of the men around her. Her obituary was recorded in the “Proceedings of the American Institute of Homeopathy,” indicating that she was active and well-known in national medical circles (Consuelo Clark-Stewart Obituary).
Throughout the sources collected for this paper, it was never made clear or evident as to what her role would have been in the Colored Conventions. Her father and husband were both parts of these conventions, and took strides on African American equality and rights. With such a woman as intelligent and driven as Dr. Consuelo Clark Stewart, it might be fair to assume that she was in the background during these major discussions and decisions, and could have potentially aided in them. It seems that these sources highlighted both William R. Stewart and Peter Clark on numerous occasions, but Consuelo’s accomplishments were often mentioned along the way with little emphasis. Many women during this time could have potentially helped their husbands and fathers with decisions regarding the Colored Conventions, but very few were made apparent.
Women in politics during this time period, regardless of race, were often given diminished recognition for their work.
Written by Mackenzie Carroll. Taught by Dr Christine Anderson, Xavier University, Spring 2016
Edited by Nancy Yerian, Independent Historian
Baker, J. (n.d.). “William R. Stewart was city’s 1st black attorney and state representative.” ValleyVoice News.
Conseulo Clark Stewart, Obituary. Transactions of the … Session of the American Institute of Homoeopathy. Vol. 65. Place of Publication Not Identified: Nabu, 2012. Web. Volume II, No 10, June 1910.
Convention of the Colored Freemen of Ohio (1852 : Cincinnati, OH), “Proceedings of the Convention, of the Colored Freemen of Ohio, Held in Cincinnati, January 14, 15, 16, 17 and 19, 1852.,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed October 3, 2017, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/250.
Convention of the Colored Men of Ohio (1858 : Cincinnati, OH), “Proceedings of a Convention of the Colored Men of Ohio, Held in the City of Cincinnati, on the 23d, 24th, 25th and 26th days of November, 1858.,” ColoredConventions.org, accessed October 3, 2017, https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/254.
“History,” Boston University School of Medicine, accessed October 3, 2017. https://www.bumc.bu.edu/busm/about/history/
King, William Harvey. History of Homeopathy and Its Institutions in America. New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1905
Lawrence County, Pennsylvania Marriage Index, 1850-2010. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://search.ancestrylibrary.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?gl=BMD_MARRIAGE
“Mrs Peter H. Clark Dead,” The professional world. (Columbia, Mo.), 15 Aug. 1902. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89066321/1902-08-15/ed-1/seq-1/>
“Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X88W-9M4 : 8 December 2014), Consuela Clark Stewart, 17 Apr 1910; citing Youngstown, Mahoning, Ohio, reference fn 22427; FHL microfilm 1,927,360.
Taylor, N.M. (2013). America’s First Black Socialist: The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark. University Press of Kentucky.
“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MLJJ-B3S : accessed 13 March 2017), Consuelo C Stewart, Perry, Stark, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 220, sheet 18B, family , NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1231; FHL microfilm 1,375,244.