Section J, Lot 6
Women from the Bluegrass State were important national figures in the beginning of the women's rights movement.
Mary Jane Warfield Clay was the wife of hot-headed abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay, Ambassador to Russia. Born into a wealthy Lexington family, Mrs. Clay, like so many of the women of her time, did not live a life of idle luxury. Like most prominent public figures, her husband was away from home most of their married life. Mrs. Clay raised their large family, paid for the education of six children, managed her husband's farm, enlarged his mansion White Hall, and paid his debts. During the Civil War, one source of her income was raising and selling mules to the Union Army. "I have had upwards of a thousand mules on the farm, eight hundred and fifty are gone now," she wrote. When her husband returned from almost nine years in Russia, he brought with him the scandal of his philandering abroad and ultimately proof of his adultery: an illegitimate son.
The Clays divorced in 1878, and their daughters learned the realities of women's legal rights. Although their mother had not only maintained his property but improved their father's financial situation, she was not legally entitled to any recompense, nor did she have any legal right to the custody of the children.