Clara Colby was born in England in 1846 and moved with her family to Wisconsin when she was young. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin as valedictorian in 1869. After marrying Leonard Colby, a Civil War veteran, future general of what would become the Nebraska National Guard and a future U.S. assistant attorney general, they moved to Beatrice, where she played a key role in forming the city’s first public library.
In 1883, she started the Women’s Tribune suffrage newspaper, serving as its publisher for most of its existence. She helped organize the Nebraska Women’s Association and served as president for many years.
Colby moved the Women’s Tribune to Washington, D.C., in 1886, and became a well-known speaker in the United States and Europe for the women’s movement. She was also appointed as a war correspondent during the Spanish-American War.
When she and Leonard divorced in 1906, she moved to Eugene, Oregon, and continued to work for suffrage. She later moved to California when she became ill to live with her sister, and died there in 1916.