If you attended the recent exhibit of the works of internationally recognized artist Oscar Miller, you may have seen the portrait he painted of his wife, Clara. Clara is another one of those remarkable Portsmouth women. Oscar was drawn to Portsmouth by the artists’ community that centered around Sarah Eddy. Sarah introduced him to Clara and to prepare for their marriage, Oscar built a home and studio on the Mitchel property on Bristol Ferry Road. As the wife of a painter, Clara traveled to Europe and New York, but Portsmouth was always a part of their lives.

Clara – painted by Oscar Miller

Clara came from a family with long roots in Portsmouth. The Mitchel Sisters – Cora, Sophie and Floride – were very active in Portsmouth culture and social reform movements.  Through their mother, Sophia Brownell Mitchel, they had long roots in the Bristol Ferry area.  Their father, Clara’s grandfather, was a cotton merchant in Florida before the Civil War and the Mitchel family had to literally escape the South once the fighting began.  They came to Bristol Ferry because it was an ancestral and summer home for them. Clara was the daughter of Floride Mitchel May.

Clara took part in many of the activities that her aunts and mother pursued.  She was among those doing suffrage work. In 1917 she was one of the Vice Presidents of the Newport County Women’s Suffrage League.  Her aunt, Cora Mitchel, was the first president of the group. As the women of Portsmouth prepared to vote, the sixty women at the voter orientation meeting elected Clara Miller to be chairman.  Once the women got the vote, Clara was active in Republican politics.  In 1920 she was one of the organizers of the Newport County Women’s Republican Club.  She was a delegate to the state Republican convention.  Even after her husband’s death she continued as a patron of the arts and was active in the arts exhibits in the County Fair.