Suffrage Achieved: A View from the Mid-Willamette Valley
Suffrage supporters and opponents were active in the mid-Willamette valley in the weeks leading to the November 5, 1912 election. Newspaper editors of the Salem Daily Capital Journal and the Monmouth Herald published various news accounts, letters, poems, and paid advertisements, demonstrating the active work for and against the ballot measure and a wide variety of opinions. Salem and Monmouth citizens organized events, made strong and even impassioned arguments, and mobilized male voters, as represented in the newspapers of these communities. It took several days for returns to be counted and victory to be announced. With suffrage achieved newspaper editors speculated about the meaning of votes for women, possible next steps for women in politics and community life, and many people in the Salem area appeared to believe that woman suffrage would be a powerful force for change. The complex relationship between woman suffrage and the prohibition of alcohol was a feature of the press coverage and figured prominently in the debates. Suffrage organizers worked to build coalitions, and local leader Abigail Scott Duniway and National American Woman Suffrage Association president Anna Howard Shaw figured in the aftermath of the press coverage of the achievement of the vote.
Adam J. Barrett, Travis J. Cook, Justin Devereux, Gregory J. K. Garcia, Kati Greer, Jennifer Ross, and Brittney Teal-Cribbs, students in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s History 698: Research Methods at Western Oregon University in Fall 2012, researched these topics week by week in the pages of the Salem Daily Capital Journal and the Monmouth Herald. They considered various ways to analyze newspapers as primary sources and placed the newspaper coverage in context by analyzing secondary sources. What follows is their week-by-week analysis, from October 7 to November 22, 1912.
Adam J. Barrett, Week of October 7, 1912:
In the months leading up the 1912 vote for woman suffrage in Oregon quite a bit of money was poured into arguing both for and against it. One of the more prominent women against women suffrage in Oregon was Eva (Mrs. Francis James) Bailey. She was the president of the Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of the Suffrage to Women. In my research looking at several different issues of the Salem Daily Capital Journal and the Monmouth Herald, it is clear that for several weeks leading up to the election of 1912 she placed many ads in newspapers across Oregon advocating against suffrage for women. In many instances of this article throughout the campaign, though not with this one, the article was clearly labeled a paid advertisement. In “Women’s Rights,” published in the Salem Daily Capital Journal on October 10, 1912 Bailey made several arguments against suffrage for women. First, she claimed that most women in Oregon did not want to bear the responsibility of voting, they did not want it thrust upon them. Second, she claimed that the most “serious problems” with elections was the indifferent male voter. She argued that the last thing Oregonians wanted to do was to add indifferent women to the electorate. Third, she explained that the political sphere was that of a “conflict of wills,” implying that women were not strong enough to stand up to men in the political sphere. She summed up her argument by simply claiming that it was not democratic to “draft this large body of women against their wills.” She then asked voters to make careful consideration in their voting in the coming election.
Suffragists also used the paper quite a bit to advocate for their cause. Kimberly Jensen notes that one group was releasing biweekly press releases to local newspapers detailing the activities of suffragists in the area, “As one of the PWCCC’s first activities, secretary Nan Strandborg established a ‘bi-weekly suffrage news service,’ sending press releases to ‘every newspaper in Oregon’” (Jensen, “Neither Head Nor Tail,” 372). Some other newspaper articles were less direct and much more witty in their argument for woman suffrage. “Her Voting,” By Lurana Sheldon, was published in the Monmouth Herald on October 11, 1912. It originally appeared in The New York Times, and explained how ridiculous it was for anti-suffragists to argue that women would be too busy voting to take care of their families. She said that it only took womens’ husbands, brothers, and fathers an hour to vote, and so why should voters think that women will be so busy voting seven days a week that they could not care for their families? The poem here instead of a simply laid out argument shows the kinds of passion people felt for woman suffrage.
Travis J. Cook, Week of October 14, 1912:
In November 1912 the Oregon woman suffrage campaign concluded with the expansion of the franchise to women. This hard fought victory for suffrage equality ran up against various arguments in opposition to woman suffrage in the weeks leading up to the November vote. The Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage cited a possible decrease in civic involvement among enfranchised women as a leading reason to oppose the measure in the 1912 Voters’ Pamphlet. The president of this organization Eva (Mrs. Francis James) Bailey sent this message to local newspapers in articles like one that appeared in the Salem Daily Capital Journal on October 16, 1912. This article also targeted temperance advocates in an attempt to detract from one of the largest supporting groups of woman suffrage. Bailey accomplished this by arguing that the only true way to defend against juvenile intemperance was for women to educate their children within the home. Bailey claimed that this important “women’s work” would be undermined in a political climate where enfranchised women ignored their home duties. These appeals also reflected larger fissures within the woman suffrage movement as equal suffrage advocates like Abigail Scott Duniway began to see the temperance movement as a liability for the equal suffrage campaign, (Peterson del Mar, 148-149).
Pro-suffrage campaigning took on many forms in the weeks leading up to the November 1912 vote. Much of the work of equal suffrage proponents involved forming various equal suffrage organizations. (Jensen, “‘Neither Head Nor Tail,’” 362). However, newspaper articles like one that appeared in the Salem Daily Capital Journal on October 14, 1912 discussed the prevalence of grassroots organizing throughout various regions of Oregon, in this case Medford, to promote the cause of woman suffrage. The efforts of these pro-suffrage campaigns bore fruit as Esther Pohl Lovejoy recalled in 1913, “Oregon women worked during this campaign as they never did before—and the returns showed clearly that where they worked they won.” (Jensen, “‘Neither Head Nor Tail,’” 350).
Justin Devereux, Week of October 21, 1912:
The fourth week in October, 1912, was an intense time in Oregon politics. Proponents and opponents of woman suffrage battled over newspaper advertisements in the final two weeks of the election in hopes of swaying undecided voters. A century later, one can still feel the heat generated from debates presented in the newspaper articles of the time. A newspaper in Oregon’s capital city, Salem Daily Capital Journal, was no exception. The following paragraphs examine a pro-suffrage and anti-suffrage article found in the Salem Daily Capital Journal from the fourth week in October.
On October 22, 1912, the Salem Daily Capital Journal reported the 78th birthday of Abigail Scott Duniway, Oregon’s “Mother of Equal Suffrage” in “Mrs. Duniway’s Birthday is Being Celebrated.” More than just a birthday message, the article offered insights into the pro-suffrage momentum in Salem, just weeks before the historic election. In the article, the editor’s wishes of a “long enjoyment of the fruits of victory, which seems imminent” illustrated the confident attitudes of pro-suffragist in the state’s capital. True, the Salem Daily Capital Journal may have been a partisan newspaper, sympathetic to the aims of suffragists. However, it is likely that the newspaper, not wanting to alienate its customers, echoed the feelings of its readers on the upcoming election. In the end, their predictions proved accurate and Duniway did enjoy the sweet fruits of victory; at the request of Governor Oswald West, Duniway wrote and signed Oregon’s Equal Suffrage Proclamation, finalizing her efforts in Oregon’s equal suffrage campaign.
Despite pro-suffrage optimism, Eva (Mrs. Francis James) Bailey, president of the Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women did not give up. Her paid advertisement, titled “Conditions in Colorado Today,” was anti-suffragist propaganda used to discourage the “Men of Oregon” from passing the Equal Suffrage Amendment in the general election of 1912. She argued that despite reports of “good government, brought about by the womans’ vote,” conditions in Colorado politics did not improve as a result of woman suffrage. The purpose of her argument was to illustrate to male voters that woman suffrage would not improve Oregon government (a pro-suffrage claim).
The evidence Bailey used to support her argument was a quote from a letter from Elizabeth Cass Goddard (a female politician from Colorado) to an associate from the anti-suffrage association of Portland. In the letter, Goddard described her failure in attempts to “make matters better” in Colorado. “We have no cleaner politics, no purer politicians, no less graft, no better laws for women and children than Massachusetts has,” she explained. Part of the problem, according to Goddard, was the indifference of women toward voting. She stated “it is hard for me to induce them to come to the polls, when any stirring question comes up, and on ordinary matters they neither feel nor even pretend…feel any interest.” This example by Goddard coincided with language found in the 1912 Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet, where Bailey and company protested equal suffrage “Because suffrage logically involves the holding of public office, including jury duty, and office-holding is inconsistent with the duties of most women.” For both Goddard and Bailey, political life conflicted with the domestic lives of women.
An interesting aspect of Bailey’s paid advertisement in the Salem Daily Capitol Journal is how it contradicted pro-suffrage sentiments voiced in the same paper just a day before. With such extensive pro-suffrage confidence present in the final weeks of campaigning, perhaps Bailey’s article was a last chance effort of anti-suffragist to avoid their approaching defeat. Whatever the case, Oregon voters did not let Goddard’s account of conditions in Colorado effect their decision to extend equal suffrage to women.
Gregory J.K. Garcia, Jr., Week of October 28, 1912:
On Monday, October 25, 1912, the Salem Daily Capital Journal published a letter to the editor written by Eva (Mrs. Francis J. Bailey), President of the Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women entitled “Deny Liquor Men Issued Pamphlets.” Bailey submitted this letter to the Journal in an attempt to discredit a statement made during a local Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) meeting. In this letter, Bailey stated, “It has become the fashion for suffragists to attribute all their defeats to the ‘liquor men.’” This statement implies that distillers would be opposed to woman suffrage due to the fact that once this suffrage was extended, prohibition would logically follow. Bailey attacks this assumption in her letter by pointing out that of the six states that had suffrage, prohibition was not in effect. Bailey then stated that Oregon is unique in that it “stands out conspicuously dry among the surrounding wet and suffrage states.”
Bailey’s assessment that suffrage and prohibition were inherently linked in Oregon was justified. This can be seen in the Prohibition Party’s declaration of principles, in which they stated that they stood “for suffrage to women upon the same terms and conditions as to men.” In point of fact, the issues of woman suffrage and prohibition were very much connected. In 1874, Oregon’s first temperance organization, the Woman’s Temperance Prayer League, was established in Portland and began singing church hymns and praying while visiting local saloons, according to Oregon historian David Peterson del Mar. This was relatively unprecedented, as reformer and historian Francis Fuller explains stating, “very few of these women had ever prayed aloud in their own churches” and “only one had ever spoken in public.” (Peterson del Mar, 137). While the Woman’s Temperance Prayer League was not able to prohibit the selling of alcohol in Portland saloons, they succeeded in dissuading saloon patrons from frequenting them. In 1881, the WCTU established its first chapter in Oregon. By 1891 Oregon would have seventy-one chapters of the WCTU. Thirty-five departments would form within the WCTU chapters in Oregon including labor and prison reforms, Sabbath observation and suffrage. Peterson del Mar indicates that “if some aspect of Oregon society needed reforming, chances were that the WCTU was doing something about it.
The relationship between temperance and suffrage did not come without its moments of conflict. During the 1884 campaign for suffrage, Abigail Scott Duniway complained that the WCTU was impeding the extension of suffrage to women in Oregon. Duniway’s rationale for this was that the temperance agenda of the WCTU was giving distillers and brewers the ability to link suffrage with prohibition. Once this link was established brewers, campaigned against both movements in an effort to prevent legislation that supported their causes. In taking a stance against the relation between suffrage and temperance, as one could imagine, Duniway ran the risk of alienating various proponents of suffrage who were members of the WCTU.
The link between suffrage and prohibition came full circle after the extension of suffrage to women in 1912. This is evidenced by the fact that in 1914 prohibition passed in the state of Oregon, (Peterson del Mar 138). It should be noted however that the prohibition movement, much like the suffrage movement, was not as monolithic among women voters. And some women supported the repeal of national prohibition in the 1930s including Nan Wood Honeyman, of the Women’s Organization for Prohibition Reform.
Kati Greer, Week of November 4, 1912:
By the week of November 4, 1912, preparations for the upcoming vote on woman suffrage had come to a head. Proponents organized what the Salem Daily Capital Journal described as “the biggest and most spirited meeting of the campaign season for the purpose of promoting the suffrage movement,” holding a large banquet at the Marion Hotel to celebrate the end of a long campaign. As David Peterson del Mar noted, by this point woman suffrage had gained a significant amount of popular support, concluding that “women had become such a fixture of Oregon’s public and political life that most men concluded that they might as well vote, too,” (Peterson del Mar, 149). Indeed, a number of men made appearances to show their support for the cause, and many of them even spoke. The event was judged to have been “a perfect program,” despite the fact that a number of high profile figures were unable to make appearances and instead sent their regrets. The event was by all accounts a splendid end to a “probably successful” suffrage campaign.
Such a successful event indicated the public’s support had grown for the cause of woman suffrage, and the front-page status of the report makes it clear that at least the editors of the Salem Daily Capital Journal believed that it was important enough news to warrant more than a full column of coverage. Clearly, the public was at least interested in how this issue was unfolding, regardless of whether or not they agreed with it. Although the editors hedged their bets with the “probably successful” qualifier on the subtitle, the article indicates their sincere belief that the efforts of those fighting for woman suffrage had finally paid off. Unfortunately, they would be forced to wait several days for the results of the vote to be known with any kind of certainty. Modern means of ballot counting were unavailable to election officials, and so what followed were a tense few days in which the results of even the Presidential election were unknown, with the Daily Capital Journal borrowing competing accounts of who was winning the race from various areas across the country. With such important results hanging in the balance, the results of the woman suffrage vote in Oregon were not chief in everyone’s mind, but the measure was finally reported to have passed mid-week. As stated by Kimberly Jensen, the results were somewhat worrisome as suffrage had passed by only 52 percent, however a win in this case was a win, (“‘Neither Head Nor Tail,’” 373).
A flurry of activity ensued in which the Salem Daily Capital Journal began to speculate that Salem might actually be the first to vote, a prospect editors seemed to greet with glee. The paper stated that “it will fall to the women of Salem to be the first women in the state to cast votes in any election.” However, a number of newspapers made similar claims across the state and it is difficult to verify where in fact the first ballots were cast. The City Recorder’s office expected between 2000 and 3000 women to turn out to register to vote, indicating their belief that support among Salem’s women for the movement had been strong. The editors tracked the issue over the course of several days, and it appears to have been an issue of some concern and eventual pride for the city. Strong expectations of turnout for voter registration, as well as continuing coverage of the process, also shows that the city’s residents were interested in the issue as well and may have been following it for their own purposes as each article was featured on the front page. Ultimately, each of the articles featured about woman suffrage in the week of November 4 indicate a interest in how the campaign was unfolding, as well as the results that came after suffrage was voted into action.
Jennifer Ross, Week of November 11, 1912:
The week after the momentous election of 1912 marked the appearance of two prominent suffragists, Dr. Anna Howard Shaw and Abigail Scott Duniway. As Trisha Franzen notes, Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw was born in 1847 in England. Her family immigrated to the United States in 1851. As her family was not one of means, Shaw put herself through both medical and seminary school. Thereafter, Shaw devoted herself to reform movements and her skill as an orator was well known. In 1904 she became the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA); a position she held until 1915. In the 1906 woman suffrage campaign in Oregon NAWSA, under Shaw’s leadership, donated $18,000 to the campaign and Shaw traveled to Oregon on a speaking tour to help support the cause. Six more years would pass before suffrage was granted to women in Oregon and Shaw again returned in August of 1912 to aid the cause. Her first speech was at the Pendleton Roundup. She then traveled to Portland, where she gave numerous speeches and impressed the crowd with her oratorical skills. She next cut a swath southward with stops in Corvallis, Eugene, Roseburg, Grants Pass, Ashland and Medford. Hugely popular, Shaw’s speeches were credited as a great boon to the woman suffrage campaign in Oregon (Jensen, “‘Neither Head Nor Tail,’” 369-371).
The newspaper article from the November 12, 1912 issue of the Salem Daily Capital Journal, written after the success of the woman suffrage movement in Oregon, recounts some of Shaw’s oratory. Although a staunch supporter of woman suffrage and clearly feeling triumphant about Oregon’s success, Shaw did not believe women were ready for all aspects of public office and stated that given a choice between a male and female candidate both equally equipped, she would vote for the man. This could have been a political strategy designed to abate fears present at the time that women would essentially take over politically if given the right to vote. Or it could be the way Shaw actually felt. In any event, it illustrates the complexities of the issue of woman suffrage. There were many strains of thought regarding women’s rights, particularly around the issues of civic duty and citizenship.
Abigail Scott Duniway was born in Illinois in 1834 and came to the Oregon Territory in 1852 with her family. Duniway devoted the majority of her life to the cause of woman suffrage, not only in Oregon but in Idaho and Washington as well. Forced by economic circumstances, Duniway and her family moved to Portland in 1870, where she became involved in a group which would later become the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association. In 1871 Duniway created her own newspaper titled the New Northwest. She used this as a platform to promote the cause of woman suffrage but also as a way to encourage other women authors, which she often published. While a die-hard woman suffragist, Duniway was considered difficult to interact with. This resulted in several factional disputes between herself and other suffrage groups, such as the NAWSA and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Duniway preferred the non-confrontational “still hunt” method for garnering support for woman suffrage, which was a behind-the-scenes strategy. In the election of 1912, Duniway was ill much of the time and unable to fully participate, but was still president of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association. In her absence, numerous coalitions were built and highly public mass media techniques were used to rouse the population of Oregon to vote in woman suffrage; and it was finally granted. Despite Duniway’s cantankerous nature and the fact that she had to take a backseat during the election of 1912, she was still honored by Governor Oswald West who asked her to sign the Equal Suffrage Proclamation. This article from the Salem Daily Capital Journal from November 11 1912 illustrates the honor that West gave Duniway, but politically speaking, his act also illustrated the new power that was being given to women; they were now considered constituents and thus voters whose will counted.
Brittney Teal-Cribbs, Week of November 18, 1912:
By the week of November 18, 1912, the Salem Daily Capital Journal began the process of myth-making about, and reaction to, the success of the vote for woman suffrage in Oregon. The Journal promoted the first of these myths by attaching both epic and historic significance to the role of Oregon in the ongoing battle for universal suffrage in federal elections. A November 22 article touted that “It has been demonstrated that ‘as goes Oregon, so goes the United States’ and Oregon has pronounced for equal suffrage.” For the newspaper editors, as long as equal suffrage in Oregon was no longer up for debate, there was no harm in turning that victory into a symbol of state pride. Mr. P. H. D’Arcy echoed this sentiment in an address to the Salem woman suffrage victory party, held at the Moose Lodge, when he proclaimed that “It has been said that the star of empire takes its course westward, but I say that the course of this star shall be eastward, as I believe that the intelligence and enlightenment of the western people will be a lesson to the conservative East.” Despite the months of debate, and the narrow margin by which equal suffrage was won in Oregon, to these visionaries and re-visionaries, Oregon’s achievements were not only singular, but proof that Oregon operated as beacon of modernity for the more industrially advanced, but culturally backward eastern seaboard. In that context, Peterson del Mar’s narrative of a Portland elite, desperate to “put Portland on the nation’s map” fits snugly alongside this larger attempt at bringing Oregon to the attention of the nation (Peterson del Mar, 135).
The second thread woven throughout the week of November 18 was the question of how equal suffrage changed and challenged the way politicians operated, and who their constituents were. Another speaker at the Moose Lodge celebration was the newly elected mayor of Salem, Dr. B. L. Steeves. The Salem Daily Capital Journal reported him as saying “that he had come to the meeting just to show the ladies that his heart was in the right place, stating that as far back as he could remember he had always favored equal suffrage.” In these articles, it becomes difficult to distinguish true supporters of enfranchisement (i.e. those who had supported it before it became law), from those who jumped on the bandwagon to avoid losing in the next election cycle. Similarly, a November 19 report on the woman suffrage banquet in Portland, “Banquet in Honor of Victory,” which was seen as the highlight of the season, showed journalists hailing the event as “the advent of Oregon women into practical politics.” Both politicians and reporters scrambled to discover what voting rights for women would mean in practice. A brief, humorous note in “Oregon City Will Vote” from the same day claimed that the “uplift women give to politics” would be enough to carry the vote for the installation of an elevator in Oregon City. From the humorous to the serious, an article on November 22 titled “One of the Effects of Equal Suffrage” found the sight of a woman helping a police officer carry a drunken man to the station eliciting questions of whether the city of Salem had begun staffing women on their police force.
Women may have won the right to vote and hold political office, but in the weeks that followed, the rush of myth-making and political uncertainty propelled the male editorial staff of the Salem Daily Capital Journal to bouts of wild speculation. Despite these fears, Peterson del Mar questions whether politics in Oregon really changed after 1912. For him, while suffrage was “pursued with high hopes of political and social transformation, it amended rather than overturned the status quo,” (Peterson del Mar, 149). Nevertheless, in the weeks following the election, this rather lackluster outcome had not yet been realized, and the deeper questions and fears about the consequences of woman suffrage in large part still remained unanswered.
“Banquet in Honor of Victory.” Salem Daily Capital Journal, November 19, 1912, 1.
“One of the Effects of Equal Suffrage.” Salem Daily Capital Journal, November 22, 1912, 8.
“Oregon City Will Vote.” Salem Daily Capital Journal, November 19, 1912, 5.
Oregon Secretary of State, Voters’ Pamphlet for the General Election, 1912. (Salem: Oregon State Printer, 1912)
Franzen, Trisha. “Singular Leadership: Anna Howard Shaw, Single Women and the US Woman Suffrage Movement.” Women’s History Review 17, no. 3 (March 2008): 419-434.
Jensen, Kimberly. “‘Neither Head Nor Tail to the Campaign’: Esther Pohl Lovejoy and the Oregon Woman Suffrage Victory of 1912.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 108, no. 3 (2007): 350-383.
Jensen, Kimberly. “Woman Suffrage in Oregon.” The Oregon Encyclopedia Project
Peterson del Mar, David. Oregon’s Promise: An Interpretive History. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2003.
Riddle, Margaret. “Duniway, Abigail Scott (1834-1915).” History Link: The Free Online
Encyclopedia of Washington State History.
Ward, Jean M. “Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915).” The Oregon Encyclopedia Project.
About The Author
The authors are students in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s History 698 Research Methods course in the History MA program at Western Oregon University in Fall 2012.
Adam J. Barrett is currently a graduate student at Western Oregon University. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon in 2012 where he earned a Bachelors of Arts in History. His primary field of research is Revolutionary Era America. He currently lives in Forest Grove, Oregon with his wife, dog, and cat. He hopes to one day teach American History at the college level.
Travis J. Cook is currently a graduate student at Western Oregon University whose specialties are European and American political history.
Justin Devereux graduated from Pacific High School in Pacific, Missouri in 2000. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served from 2000-2004. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in history. Currently, he is pursuing a Master of Arts in History degree at Western Oregon University. Justin lives in Springfield, Oregon, with his wife, Mandy, and daughter, Penelope.
Gregory J. K. Garcia, Jr. is a graduate of Western Oregon University’s undergraduate program in History. He is currently in his first year in Western Oregon University’s graduate program. Garcia works for Western Oregon University as a Spanish tutor. Garcia’s interests include Latin American History and Modern American History and hopes to be professor in Latin American History.
Kati Greer is a graduate student at Western Oregon University. Her interests include Twentieth-Century American history, as well as women’s history.
Jennifer Ross is a student in the M.A. of History program at Western Oregon University. Her areas of historical focus are gender and human rights.
Brittney Teal-Cribbs is currently a MA History candidate at Western Oregon University. She graduated with her BA in History with a minor in German from Oregon State University in 2011, and lives in Corvallis with her husband, 2LT Elijah Teal-Cribbs, and her two dogs, Columbo and Watson.