A Renaissance Man is defined online as “a person with many talents or areas of interest.” It used to be that this term was used only for males, but now there are definitions of Renaissance Women too. The Urban Dictionary’s is the most developed. I have written about Renaissance Men in the past, but now I’m focused on a true Renaissance Woman named Clara Driscoll whom I learned about in Austin.
In a book about Clara that Ruth and I saw at Laguna Gloria, her Austin residence, we learned that she had several nicknames including “Texas Belle” and “The Toast of Broadway”. The photos I took of her didn’t turn out as well as her husband’s. His name was Hal Sevier. The picture of her above is an online alamy stock photo. His photo above hers was taken when he was 17 in 1895. Hal was then a young journalist and editor from Tennessee seeking his fortune. He did succeed. They were a handsome couple who married in 1906.
The daughter of a rancher and granddaughter of a man who fought with Sam Houston, Clara Driscoll was born in St Mary’s, Texas. She learned to rope cattle but attended private schools in San Antonio, New York, and Paris. She studied languages like German and French. She lived in Spain for 6 months. While still young, she wrote a book and some plays. Her musical entertainment called Mexicana was produced on Broadway by the Schubert Brothers. She married Hal in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and they took a 6 month wedding trip. Returning to the USA, they moved into a house on Long Island. Hal became the financial editor of the New York Sun newspaper. Their neighbor on Oyster Bay Road was Teddy Roosevelt.
When Clara’s Dad died, she and Hal moved to Texas and she oversaw the construction of Laguna Gloria while he founded a newspaper called The Austin American. They eventually built a 2nd home in Corpus Christi where Clara also created a hotel and returned to ranching. For 16 years she was a Democratic Committeewoman from Texas. After President Franklin Delano Roosevelt named her husband Ambassador to Chile, Clara campaigned for Franklin.
At some point she embarked on an endeavor to save The Alamo. Quoted as saying, “If women work together their field of activity is unlimited,” Clara’s mission proved this true after she became a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. She donated lots of money to preserve The Alamo and make the Daughters its custodians. Her actions kept The Alamo a free attraction. The State of Texas eventually repaid her for saving its most illustrious historic building. Queen of the San Antonio Festival 3 times, Clara died relatively young and left money in her will for the construction and operation of a children’s hospital in Corpus Christi.