But her composure was tested greatly in the weeks, days and even hours leading up to her Bowling Green wedding on June 30, 1915.
Few brides have had to contend with such craziness.
For starters, there was her father. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Champ Clark was excited about walking his daughter down the aisle.
But, in true political style, he was so afraid of offending anyone who didn’t get a formal invitation that he told all three-and-a-half million residents of Missouri they could attend.
Then, there was a cataclysmic world event which put America on the brink of war. Meanwhile, a local train wreck forced the mother of the bride to traipse through soggy fields to see if relatives were unhurt.
Oh, and Genevieve’s brother, Bennett, stole part of her thunder by announcing his own engagement just a few days before her nuptials.
Genevieve had been drawing national attention since her engagement was announced the previous December, with updates in newspapers almost daily.
Her words and photos appeared in everything from the Corpus Christi Caller and the Harrisburg Telegraph to the Idaho Recorder and the Bogalusa Enterprise.
Readers of The Mahoning Dispatch, Laclede Blade, Donaldsonville Chief and the Owosso Times got the latest. Even the Spanish-language Western Liberal of New Mexico and the German-scripted Tagliches Cincinnatier Volksblatt of Ohio couldn’t resist stories.
Speaker Clark was one of the most prominent populists in the country, but for six months in 1915, he couldn’t hold a candle to Genevieve’s sun.
There was “no more popular girl in Washington, indeed in the country,” reported one D.C. paper.
“Bowling Green will see a time such as it has never seen in its history,” proclaimed The Intelligencer of Anderson, S.C.
Bowling Green’s population of around 1,600 residents would grow dramatically as crowds estimated at 5,000 to 12,000 people assembled to watch the 20-year-old bride marry her 38-year-old beau, New Orleans newspaper publisher James Thomson.
The ceremony took place on the lawn of the Clark home, Honey Shuck, on what was then known as Cyrene Boulevard (it’s now named Champ Clark Drive).
Perhaps the much matrimonial chaos was par for the course. The journey to the altar began at what was one of the most disappointing moments in the family’s history.
It was altogether fitting that the daughter of a man whom the Constitution placed just two tragedies away from the White House should fall in love at a political event.
James and Genevieve met at the 1912 Democrat National Convention in July at Baltimore. He was 34. She was four months shy of her 18th birthday.
Genevieve was smart, headstrong, independent, adventurous and talented. She hoped someday to be a journalist, drawing a love of words from her father and writing ability from her mother.
As was custom at the time, the Clarks chose not to attend the convention. But the high-spirited Genevieve could not be restrained. So, her mother’s sister, Anne Hamilton Pitzer of Colorado, stepped in to chaperone. Pitzer was the only woman delegate at a time when most states barred females from voting.
Speaker Clark was the frontrunner for the nomination, and James and Genevieve both spoke on his behalf. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin called her “a keen and enthusiastic politician” in her own right and a “firm believer in her distinguished father’s fitness” for the nation’s top job.
Reporters lauded her beauty, wit, charm and temperament. The Washington Times said Genevieve was “quite the center of attention on all sides and received an ovation wherever she went during the day and evening.” Genevieve pinned Clark buttons on convention-goers and used her great singing voice to strike up a chorus of her father’s theme song, “They Gotta Quit Kickin’ My Dog Around.”
“The delegates recognized her and cheered her repeatedly,” said the Salt Lake Tribune. “The cry was taken up all over the hall. ‘Hurrah for Genevieve!’ it rang out.”
With her father leading after the 10th ballot but still not getting the required majority needed for the nomination, Genevieve took the rostrum around 1 a.m. draped in an American flag. She held another one in her hand and began waving it.
“The sight of the young girl was the occasion for a fresh outbreak (of applause), in which many...in the delegations and in the galleries enthusiastically joined,” one newspaper said.
Delegates for New Jersey Gov. Woodrow Wilson sat quietly and watched as the festivities went on for more than 45 minutes. Bennett Clark strolled the convention floor to keep his father’s delegates whipped up.
The San Francisco Call said Genevieve “never misses a session and pays closer attention to the proceedings than most of the men.”
There was a great deal of economic and social unrest in the country at the time. People were questioning what it meant to be an American and debating which candidate offered the best vision for the nation’s future.
Clark’s old buddy, Nebraska Congressman and three-time failed presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, accused the Missourian of being beholden to powerful business interests and the rich. Clark denied it, but as the convention wore on, the delegate count slowly started turning in Wilson’s favor. Genevieve tried to stop the tide.
“I think this is just awful,” she proclaimed from the podium.
But it was too late. Wilson got the nomination on the 46th ballot. Genevieve turned for solace to her friend, Thomson’s sister Imogen. The newspaper editor quickly provided a shoulder.
“He had serious affairs of his own at the convention, but the cry of anguish from his sister’s friend aroused all the chivalry of the South,” the Quincy Daily Whig told readers.
Thomson escorted Genevieve back to Washington. She accompanied her father and brother to Wilson’s New Jersey retreat to offer congratulations.
Champ was angry with Bryan, but not with Wilson. If fact, he remained Speaker throughout Wilson’s presidency, and helped push through the House many of the former governor’s progressive initiatives.
“I never scratched a Democratic ticket or bolted a Democratic nominee in my life,” Champ said just after the 1912 convention. “I shall not change the Democratic habit now. I am too seasoned a soldier not to accept cheerfully the fortunes of war.”
Bryan later offered a cloaked apology of sorts for his actions at Baltimore, but the Clark women never forgave him. Genevieve’s mother said Bryan “never lost an opportunity to knife (Clark) in the back.”
She also used her acerbic wit in writing a hysterical poem entitled “Isle of Wishes.” Among other things, it blasted states which did not support her husband, including Texas. Part of it reads:
O, Texas, Texas,
Thy solar plexus
I’d like to give it a rap.
O, would my name were a magic spell
I’d give you a slap
That would wipe you off the map.
Next time: Genevieve remains coy about her future.