Clay, Mary Jane photograph. Circa 1863.
Box 3, Folder 11. Image number 0010-006-08 Cassius M. Clay Collection. Special Collections and Archives, Eastern Kentucky University Libraries, Richmond, KY. Date accessed 23 May 2016.
Mary Jane Warfield Clay (January 20, 1815- April 29, 1900) was the daughter of Elisha and Mary Barr Warfield. In 1833 she married the abolitionist orator and writer Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903), who was appointed by President Lincoln as Ambassador to Russia in 1861. Cassius lived there during the 1860s after Mary Jane and the children left and he and entertained lavishly - the proceeds from the farm had to pay for his many debts incurred overseas.
They had ten children, six of whom lived to adulthood:
Elisha Warfield Clay (1835 - 1851)
Green Clay (1837 - 1883)
Mary Barr Clay (aka Mrs. J. Frank Herrick) (1839 - 1924)
Sarah "Sallie" Lewis Clay Bennett (1841 - 1935)
Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. (1843 - 1843)
Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. (1845 - 1857)
Brutus Junius Clay (1847 - 1932)
Laura Clay (1849 - 1941)
Flora Clay (1851 - 1851)
Anne Clay Crenshaw (1859 - 1945)
Mary Jane. Clay paid for the education of her six children with the funds she raised while managing her husband's farm and slaves. While he was in Russia, she enlarged his mansion Clermont. The home was originally built in the late 1700’s by General Green Clay, but with the Italianate addition with central heating and indoor plumbing, she renamed it White Hall. During the Civil War, one source of her income was raising and breeding jennies and selling mules to the Union Army.
When Cassius Clay returned from his post in 1869, he spent a year in New York before returning to Kentucky. They rarely were together after that - she lived most often in Lexington with her youngest daughter Anne and/or her sister-in-law Anne (wife of Robert Elisha Warfield). After Cassius sent to Russia for a boy, Leonide "Launey," to be brought to live with him in the States, the 45-year marriage ended in divorce. In 1878 Mary Jane's divorce meant that she was not legally entitled to any compensation for the profitability of the farm, nor did she have any legal right to the custody of her own children. She lived in Lexington for the rest of her life, encouraging her daughters' activism in women's rights including suffrage. She died in 1900 at the age of 85 and is buried in the Lexington Cemetery.