Virginia Clay-Clopton (1825–1915) was an American memoirist and political hostess. She was also known as Virginia Tunstall, Virginia Clay, and Mrs. Clement Claiborne Clay.
Born Virginia Tunstall in Nash County, North Carolina, she grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was schooled in Nashville, Tennessee. She married Clement Claiborne Clay in 1843 and moved with him to Huntsville, Alabama. When her husband was elected a U.S. Senator in 1853, Virginia Clay began a period living in the elite circles of Washington, D.C. socialites.
In 1861, Alabama seceded from the Union. Clement Claiborne Clay represented his state in the Confederate legislature and Virginia Clay continued to move in high society, but now in Varina Davis’ Richmond, Virginia.
In 1865, at the end of the war, Virginia Clay and her husband were suspected of partaking in a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. They were arrested and imprisoned at Fort Monroe, Virginia. President Andrew Johnson ordered their release in April, 1866. The Clays then returned to Huntsville. Clement Clay died there in 1882.
In 1887 Virginia Clay married Judge David Clopton, and became known as Mrs. Clay-Clopton. Judge Clopton died in 1892. Virginia Clay-Clopton became active in the women’s suffrage movement and the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
In 1904 she published a memoir entitled, A Belle in the Fifties covering her life from girlhood through her confinement at Fort Monroe.
She is interred in Maple Hill Cemetery (Huntsville, Alabama).
- A Belle of the Fifties: Memoirs of Mrs. Clay, of Alabama, Covering Social and Political Life in Washington and the South, 1853-66. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1905, c1904.