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Ann Kathleen Otto


Masterful Storytelling

In an earlier blog on progressive women of the early 1900's I mentioned Clara Wolcott Driscoll, artist with the Tiffany Studios in New York. Yours in a Hurry takes place in the same period. Since then I've gotten to know Clara's ancestor, Linda Alexander who is well-known in Northeast Ohio for her masterful storytelling of Clara's life. I asked her about her passion for Clara's story and what she thought about how Clara's workplace challenges compare to those of women today. Her is her reply.

Lessons from the Past

I recently gave my 90th presentation about my distant cousin, Clara Wolcott Driscoll (1861-1944).  I shared her life’s accomplishments with the Women’s Professional Group at JoAnn Stores, Inc. corporate offices. Their theme this year is Women of Influence, and I had the privilege of comparing Clara’s work life at the turn of the last century with today’s woman in the workplace. (Linda at right, with Beth Vidmar, Manager, Training, JoAnn Stores, Inc.)

Clara was a phenomenon of her day.  Gutsy, fearless, creative beyond measure, and she had an uncanny business savvy for a woman of her time.  She was hired by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1889 to work in the mosaics department of his company, Tiffany Studios, in Manhattan.  And over the next 20 years, she assumed ever-increasing roles; i.e.,  managing his workforce, overseeing his production team,  balancing the budget and meeting with his Board of Directors – and all the while, coming up with the design of most of the beautiful leaded glass lamps for which he is famous, as well as pottery artifacts and jewelry.  She mentored her staff, fought for their and her rights within the company (equal pay, credit for her work), and smartly learned how to work around roadblocks for the betterment of the company.

Fast Forward

Not much has changed through the years, except that married women can work outside of the home today whereas they could not in Clara’s time.  Clara married twice and suffered a broken engagement during her tenure with Tiff’s – and she had to quit work each time.  Fortunately, Mr. Tiffany welcomed her back each time she was single again.  Her life was exciting and she overflowed with ideas that coincided with her boss’s glorious interpretations of “Tiffany” masterpieces.  They breathed art together and made the name Tiffany generic for leaded glass lamps.

Clara faced the same challenges as today’s working woman.  People are people.  We still have to learn to budget our time, work within the parameters of the company, work as a team, keep within the budget, meet deadlines, and keep the creative juices flowing.   And, somehow find balance between work and home.  Clara struggled with these issues. 

I love to share her story and my speaking ability pales in light of her incredible journey.  Learn more about her from my website –

Note from Ann: I hope you have the opportunity to attend one of Linda's presentations sometime. But go early—there's usually a full house.

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