Clara (Clarinda) Cramond Fish Roberts

3 Sep 1876-26 Oct 1965

Introductory note from WWHP member Karen Board Moran who moved to Arizona in 2005 —

Yesterday (January 14, 2012), I debuted my new AZ historic character Clara Fish Roberts (1876-1965) at the AAUW Tucson luncheon to celebrate AZ statehood in 1912. I always thought equal suffrage was in the 1912 AZ Constitution, but discovered it was not gained until an initiative referendum passed on Nov. 5 that year. Now, I'm in search of who the first women voters were--especially the Mexican Americans who were gradually being shoved aside by the newcomer Anglos. I have confirmed that Clara was the first Tucson woman to register to vote on Monday, March 17, 1913. It had taken the AZ legislature until March 12 to pass the law allowing women to register--long debating whether women would be required to state their exact age. Clara was allowed to state she was "over 21". Lots more to learn…

Clara Fish Roberts, founder of the Collegiate Club of Tucson (now the American Association of University Women), reminisces on its early years from 1909-1913. She is portrayed by Karen Board Moran, past WWHP Board member, to celebrate Arizona's centennial year of statehood.

Clara's parents were among the many New Englanders seeking adventure and economic security in the west during the mid 19th century. In 1873 her mother, Maria Wakefield Fish, became Tucson's first professional female school teacher, but quickly married since there were few single Anglo women in Tucson at the time. Born in upstate New York three years before the Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention, her parents migrated west to Minnesota to homestead. Her grandfather was Solomon Brown, the man widely reputed to have fired the first shot of the Revolutionary War, the "shot heard round the world", at Lexington, Massachusetts.

Her father, Edward Nye Fish of Bedford, Massachusetts, had joined with twenty friends to build and dismantle wood homes, transport them around the Horn to San Francisco and then reassemble them to sell to 49ers. His share of the profits was used to start many successful enterprises both in California and Arizona.

Clara, the first student to register at the University of Arizona in September 1891, went on to teach in Tucson and Northern Arizona Normal College before her marriage to Frederick Roberts. Among her many accomplishments was her election as the first woman on the Tucson School Board in 1917-1919.

Clara and her parents helped Americanize Tucson, a presidio and trading center in the Gadsden Purchase of 1854. Clara was part of the women's network which made Arizona the ninth state where women had the elective franchise at the time. Clara Fish Roberts helped change her community and the role of women before and following Arizona statehood on February 14, 1912.

Published Date: 
February 14, 2012