Oregon Woman Suffrage History Month to Month

February 1912: It Helps to Have Governor Oswald West on the Suffrage Side . . .

Progressive Democratic Oregon Governor Oswald West made headlines across the state when he announced his formal support for the woman suffrage ballot measure at a votes for women meeting in Salem on February 15, 1912 attended by 300 women and men at the State Capitol building. “Those whom he addressed,” the Oregon Journal reported, “did not stint in expressing their approval of the stand taken by the chief executive as champion of the rights of women.”

West acknowledged that he had been a supporter “for some time” but “this is first time I have been roped and brought out in the open to declare myself.” He believed, he said, that woman suffrage was right and just, he had faith in women, and “women stand for better things than do men.” He criticized the “old cry that the good women will not vote” and discussed women’s struggles in gaining rights. And he asserted that “the men too frequently did not give credit to the women for what they are now doing. ‘I want to say that many a man gets credit for what his stenographer knows’” while others “‘are traveling through life on what their wives or stenographers know.’”

Governor West Supports Suffrage OJ
“Governor West Announces Full Belief in Equal Suffrage; Has Faith in Womankind,” Oregon Journal, February 16, 1912, 1.

In “West Lauds Suffrage,” the Oregonian (February 17, 1912, 11) reported that West believed “women are interested in all things that go for the better; give a woman the same chance as a man and she will do bigger things.”

The Medford Mail Tribune (February 17, 1912, 2) reported West’s remarks with a particular flair:  ” . . . if women are given the same chance they will be as big and brainy as men . . . Many men are traveling through life on the brains of their wives or their office stenographers.”

Gov West Supports Suffrage Medford Tribune

“Governor West Firm Friend of Suffrage,” Medford Mail Tribune, February 17, 1912, 2.

Governor Oswald West’s support was vital; it also reflected the growing number of men—in public office and policy positions but also in various communities and occupations—who supported votes for women in Oregon in 1912. Suffrage supporters were thrilled with West’s remarks and formal support, and it seems more than likely that stenographers (who formed their own suffrage league in August 1912) would have been particularly delighted with his speech.

—Kimberly Jensen

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Posted by history class on 01/31 at 11:08 AM

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