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.

Primary Sources:

Bailey, Mrs Francis James. “Civic Duties Versus the Political Game.” Salem Daily Capital Journal. October 16, 1912, 3.

Bailey, Mrs. Francis James. “Women’s Rights.” Salem Daily Capital Journal, October 10, 1912, 6.

“Banquet in Honor of Victory.” Salem Daily Capital Journal, November 19, 1912, 1.

“Conditions in Colorado Today After Nineteen Years of Women Voting.” Salem Daily Capitol Journal, October 23, 1912, 3.

“County Platform.” Salem Daily Capital Journal, November 1, 1912, 6.

“Deny Liquor Men Issue Pamphlets.” Salem Daily Capital Journal, October 25, 1912, 1.

“End of the Suffrage Campaign,” Salem Daily Capital Journal, November 4, 1912, 1.

“Equal Suffrage Assured.” Salem Daily Capital Journal, November 22, 1912, 2.

“Mrs. Duniway’s Birthday is Being Celebrated.” Salem Daily Capitol Journal, October 22, 1912, 3.

“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)

“Proclamation to be in Mrs. Duniway’s Own Hand Writing,” Salem Daily Capital Journal, November 11, 1912, 2.

Sheldon, Lurana. “Her Voting.” Monmouth Herald, October 11, 1912, 5.

“The Ladies of Salem Celebrate.” Salem Daily Capital Journal. November 22, 1912, 4.

“Twelve Medford Women.” Salem Daily Capital Journal. October 14, 1912, 1.

“Will Have Universal Suffrage,” Salem Daily Capital Journal, November 12, 1912, 1.

“Women of Salem to Vote First,” Salem Daily Capital Journal, November 9, 1912, 1.

Secondary Sources

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.

The 1912 Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet “For” and “Against” Arguments for the Woman Suffrage Ballot Measure

The Oregon Voter Pamphlet for the November 5, 1912 election is an informative primary source document. It presents the specific arguments supporters and opponents gave to male voters to try to persuade them to vote either for or against the ballot measure.

To analyze these “for” and “against” sections in the Voters’ Pamphlet it is important to consider who wrote each section, what their purpose was in writing it and their intended audience, the evidence they provided, and their language, style, and conclusions. It is also important to consider what each side left out in their arguments.

Members of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association submitted the argument supporting the woman suffrage ballot measure. Their main themes included the idea that Oregon was surrounded by states where women could vote and needed to catch up to be part of the progress of the region. They also emphasized that voting was a duty in a democracy and women must be included as voters to have a true democracy. They argued that all liberty-loving men would extend the privilege of voting to women. Supporters also affirmed that to deny women the vote was to use the same arguments as those who supported slavery and serfdom in the past, “to clog the progress of human liberty throughout the ages.” OSESA members asserted that women would improve their communities by using the vote wisely for good government. 

Members of the Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women submitted the argument against the woman suffrage ballot measure. They argued the measure had been defeated many times in the past and that most Oregon men and women did not want it to pass. They emphasized that women and men had different roles, or “circles” of labor and influence: men acted in the world of work and politics and women acted in the home and with children. They insisted that it was not proper for women to leave their circle to participate in politics; they should influence their families for good by working within the home. A woman’s vote, they wrote, would just double the vote of her husband. It was a “burdensome” duty that would “deprive woman of special privileges hitherto accorded to her by the law.”

The members of the Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women included quotes from two prominent women. Ida Tarbell was an investigative journalist best known for her reporting on the corruption of the Standard Oil Company. Marie Corelli was a British novelist.

What follows are page by page images of the “for” and “against” arguments for the woman suffrage ballot measure in the Oregon 1912 Voters’ Pamphlet and then a complete transcript of that section of the Voters’ Pamphlet. As you analyze this primary source document, consider the following:

Each group chose a different tone and style for their argument. How might this have affected the way male voters read and understood their major points?

Given that only men could vote, why do you think the members of the Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women argued that defeats in previous elections proved that “woman suffrage is not wanted in Oregon, either by the women or by the men”? What do you think they meant when referring to “the women who are doing women’s work in the world” on page 6?

What do you think the members of the Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women meant by their assertion that “the vast majority of women are represented by household suffrage” in their point number 5? Do you agree with their next point that “the women not so represented suffer no practical injustice which giving the suffrage will remedy”?

How did both sides define women’s roles within a democracy?

Why do you think the members of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association concluded by writing, “In the hope that we shall not be compelled again to make this expensive and laborious struggle for equality of rights as voters, we respectfully request you to vote “YES” for the EQUAL SUFFRAGE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT”?

Members of Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Gender Issues in History course in Winter 2012 at Western Oregon University participated in discussions and wrote about the 1912 Voters’ Pamphlet. Their work led to this introduction and they also transcribed the document. The students who participated are Stephen Baker, Allison Barker, Meagan Beisley, Gabriela Cervantes-Penunuri, Josephine Colburn, Will Crook, Amanda Cross, Nancy Doll, Chris Freeman, Zach Jones, Jaden Kaufman, Josiah Leidke, Susan Mancke, Colin McHill, Chandler Miranda, Alyssa Penn, Sean Wasson, Alexandria Westlund.

Primary Sources:

Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 1
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 2
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 3
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 4
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 5
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 6
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 7
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 8
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 9

Using Newspapers as Primary Sources

When historians study the past they utilize primary sources, materials written during the time period or by participants, to reconstruct the events that took place. However, in studying history, they are also limited by the sources available. This is why historians often engage in what Sherry Katz calls “researching around their topics” by exploring other materials. In addition to a variety of primary sources historians also use secondary sources, materials written by scholars about the period, to increase their knowledge of the greater context.

In the case of Oregon woman suffrage, newspapers are one of the few surviving kinds of records documenting the 1912 campaign in Oregon. Archives possess very few journals, meeting minutes, or other primary source records of the campaign. This means that newspaper articles are the key to understanding what took place in Oregon’s final campaign for votes for women.  However, as with all texts documenting the historical record, newspapers must be analyzed critically to create the clearest picture of the time period. Several key considerations, or tests, exist for using newspapers as primary sources.

The first thing to consider when using a newspaper as a primary source is the broader context for the selected articles. One must first look at the newspaper itself. For example, during the woman suffrage campaign in 1912, articles appeared in a variety of news sources including the Oregonian, the Oregon Journal, the Portland Evening Telegram, and the Pacific Grange Bulletin. While the intent of most newspapers at the time was to inform, these sources differed in their political and social agendas. For example, the Oregonian and the Portland Evening Telegram supported the Republican Party while the Oregon Journal supported the Democratic Party.

In addition to the overall agenda of the newspapers, historians need to consider the intended audience. They must also consider the authors’ and editors’ purpose and the choices they made about how to write and what to include in each newspaper article. The articles did more than inform the reader about current events. Articles were also propaganda. They could be event summaries, editorials, and even advertisements. Author bias, when the author is known, must also be considered. For example, an author could have been a political figure writing about a topic with which she or he disagreed. 

When analyzing newspaper articles it is also important to understand the importance of where the article itself appeared in the newspaper. For example, the article could be considered front page news or perhaps considered less important—being listed on a social events page. This could also suggest a gendered view of “news.”

While the historical analysis of newspaper articles presents many challenges, it is important to note that newspapers serve a valuable purpose in building our understanding of a particular time period in history. Newspapers preserve time in a unique way as they include information about key people, places, and events. They can assist historians in documenting what was going on and they often served as the primary way to spread information to the general public.

Across different Oregon newspapers in 1912 readers could find articles and editorials presenting many perspectives on woman suffrage. Because newspapers were a main source of information about current events and political topics, people would rely on this information, in part, to make decisions about key issues. Newspapers are also the only way that researchers and archivists know about the existence of certain groups involved. For example, without newspapers we would not know about the Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage League because no other primary sources about the group appear to be available. Many of the newspaper articles about the 1912 woman suffrage campaign also include the names of participants, events, leaders, organizations involved, and how they worked together to achieve their goal of gaining woman suffrage in Oregon. In many cases this information is not contained in any other source.

While newspapers are valuable as sources, issues arise when people rely on them alone to reconstruct history. History is generally written based on new perspectives and interpretations of sources already in existence. Using newspapers alone can lead one to be misinformed about the time period being researched. Newspaper articles may include errors and discrepancies due to misreported events, unreliable sources, or political slants and biases. For example, during the 1912 Oregon woman suffrage campaign, articles about Abigail Scott Duniway’s birthday party have conflicting dates and times.

Surviving copies of newspapers can have legibility problems due to poor preservation and maintenance. Some newspapers, including the Oregonian, the Oregon Journal, and the Portland Evening Telegram were microfilmed for preservation. In this process legibility can be compromised. For example, the article “State Suffragists Prepare for Fight” has large sections blacked out. This leaves one with an incomplete story. Transcription and digitization can help with this problem, but it is a continuing challenge.

Even with these challenges newspapers are a valuable resource for understanding the time period in which they were written. In the case of Oregon woman suffrage, they provide us with nearly all the information about the 1912 campaign. Regardless of the issues that come with analyzing newspaper articles, their information regarding key people, places, and events is invaluable to gaining a new perspective on an often overlooked and relatively unknown time period in Oregon’s history. These documents serve as the foundation for understanding the history of woman suffrage in Oregon and the 1912 campaign that achieved it.

Primary Sources:

“Colored Suffragists Meet Tonight,” Oregonian, September 16, 1912, 9.

“State Suffragists Prepare For Fight,” Oregonian, November 1, 1912, 4.

Secondary Sources

Katz, Sherry J. “Excavating Radical Women in Progressive-Era California” in Contesting Archives: Finding Women in the Archives eds. Nupur Chardhuri, Sherry J. Katz, and Mary Elizabeth Perry. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010.

Rampolla, Mary Lynn. A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 6th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009.

About The Author

Jennifer M. Newby and Sarah B. Hardy are senior history students at Western Oregon University who will be graduating in June 2011. They participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Oregon Woman Suffrage course in Winter 2011 at WOU. In that class they facilitated a discussion about using newspapers as primary sources with class members that formed the basis for this essay. Both Jennifer and Sarah are pursuing future careers in the museum and archival fields.

Suffrage and Temperance: Differing Perspectives

The fight for woman suffrage began in Oregon just following the Civil War and reached its height in the early 1900s during the Progressive Era. The movement for women’s equality through voting rights was achieved with a victorious campaign in 1912. During the Progressive Era in American history, from about 1890 to 1920, many other groups rose up to fight against perceived social injustices and for protection of the people. These groups sought to effect change in their communities locally and then in the nation and world. Those who supported both suffrage and temperance in Oregon included many members of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) and the Anti-saloon League.

The temperance movement was a move to apply the moral principle of living with moderation and self-control to the issue of alcohol consumption. Many temperance organizations led the campaign for prohibition of alcohol during this period. Like the woman suffrage movement, it was organized on local, state, regional, national, and international levels. Many of the woman suffrage campaign leaders supported temperance and vice versa. The fifth Oregon W.C.T.U. president Mrs. Lucia H. Faxon Additon believed that the arrogance of man had denied woman freedom and equality before the law. However, temperance as both a moral and political issue caused some problems in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere for supporters of suffrage. Many conflicting ideas about temperance and its role in the fight for woman suffrage existed. This can be seen in the variety of reports circulating in the newspapers at the time of the 1912 campaign.

Not everyone who supported votes for women also supported temperance. Abigail Scott Duniway, a leader of the first wave of the Oregon woman suffrage campaigns, viewed the temperance movement as a hindrance to passing woman suffrage. Using harsh language against suffrage workers who sought to cooperate with the W.C.T.U. in the 1906 campaign, she advocated separation of the two movements saying that men would not vote for suffrage if the workers were promoting them together. She blamed the failures of the 1908 and 1910 ballot measures for votes for women on interference from W.C.T.U. leaders who had encouraged their membership to actively campaign for suffrage. Many thought that women would use their voting privileges to bring prohibition to the state so they voted against woman suffrage to keep prohibition from having a chance in Oregon.

Naturally, the “liquor interests,” a general term for the combined liquor industries, also opposed the temperance movement because making alcohol consumption illegal would kill their businesses. If opposing woman suffrage meant keeping the temperance movement at bay, then they would do it. An article from the Oregonian in November 1912 discusses some suspicious anti-suffrage circulars that were being published. According to the article, no one was claiming responsibility, but Eugene women were blaming the Oregon Brewers’ Association. The association’s president, Paul Wessinger, noted “We are busy in the management of our business and will not take a hand in politics unless compelled to do so by a prohibition campaign or other similar attack which we must meet in self-defense.” Though not admitting to any part in the distribution of anti-suffrage literature, he did say they would do what it took to defeat temperance.

A major force for temperance in Oregon was, of course, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.). Beginning with its first club in Portland in 1881, the W.C.T.U. staunchly advocated for prohibition of alcohol. Some supported prohibition for moral reasons, others because they believed it would protect women and children from alcohol-related abuses. Leaders of the W.C.T.U. encouraged members to get involved in the suffrage fight as they were confident in its success and viewed it as a tool for achieving prohibition. In fact, the Multnomah County unions each had a suffrage committee that was delegated the task of working on the campaign. According to an Oregonian article in February 1912, members of the Oregon W.C.T.U. held debates and presented papers on the topic at their institutes. Those members who were opposed to woman suffrage were, according to one January 1912 Oregonian article, quickly persuaded to see the issue differently following debates. Some of the members who supported suffrage included Lucia H. Faxon Additon, Ada W. Unruh, Georgia Trimble, Mary Mallet, Mrs. E. R. Martin, Frances E. Gotshall, Mrs. Markham, and others.

The temperance movement in Oregon also had the backing of the National W.C.T.U. in its fight for woman suffrage. According to a March 1912 article in the Portland Evening Telegram, the campaign included the spread of literature and a lecture series. In addition, the national convention of the W.C.T.U. was held in Portland in September of 1912 in hopes of gaining another woman suffrage state. Oregon W.C.T.U. leaders brought in national speakers to boost their efforts as well. According to a September 1912 Oregonian article, some noteworthy individuals brought on board for the Oregon woman suffrage campaign included Mrs. L. M. N. Stevens, president of the National W.C.T.U., Anna Gordon, vice-president, and national lecturers Helen Harford and Florence Ewell Atkins.

As can be seen from the variety of articles from the time and secondary interpretations, it is clear that some suffrage supporters were hesitant to link suffrage and temperance, and some, like Abigail Scott Duniway, blamed the repeated failure of the suffrage measure on the temperance movement. Duniway feared that any connection to the temperance movement interfered with campaign efforts and scared potential voters away. Though her view was extreme, she may have been justified in some of that fear as the liquor interests would not have anything to do with woman suffrage if it was linked to prohibition. Other activists readily sought to establish alliances between suffrage and temperance organizations and work. W.C.T.U. members and others regarded woman suffrage as a means to an end. Women voting would mean a larger body of likely temperance supporters in the next election. Thus, they organized during the 1912 election year and actively campaigned for woman suffrage. They were largely successful in rallying support for the suffrage cause and getting commitments from citizens to vote for the suffrage measure. Though many differing opinions on temperance existed, it is interesting to note that in the 1914 election, the first in which women could vote, Oregon voters passed statewide prohibition.

Members of the temperance movement played a key role in the 1912 campaign for woman suffrage in Oregon. Temperance workers campaigned for woman suffrage by distributing literature, holding lectures and debates, launching advertising campaigns, and even going door-to-door to get pledges of support. The activism of these temperance workers mobilized temperance-supporting male constituents to vote for woman suffrage. This work undertaken by those supporting both suffrage and temperance contributed to the final and ultimately successful campaign to achieve woman suffrage in Oregon.

Primary Sources:

“Equal Rights Indorsed: W.C.T.U. Behind Movement to Give Women the Ballot,” Oregonian, January 6, 1912, 16.

“State Suffragists Prepare For Fight,” Oregonian, November 1, 1912, 4.

“Suffrage Tour Pleases,” Oregonian, September 1, 1912, 2:5.

“Woman Suffrage Gets Aid From the W.C.T.U.,” Portland Evening Telegram, March 1, 1912, 14.

“Women Discuss Ballot,” Oregonian, February 7, 1912, 13.

Secondary Sources

Additon, Lucia H. Faxon. Twenty Eventful Years of Oregon Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1880-1900. Statistical, Historical and Biographical. Portraits of Prominent Pioneer Workers. Portland, OR: Gotshall Printing Company, 1904.

Bordin, Ruth. Woman and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873-1900. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990.

Duniway, Abigail Scott. Path Breaking: An Autobiographical History of the Equal Suffrage Movement in Pacific Coast States, reprint ed. New York: Schocken Books, 1971.

Edwards, G. Thomas. Sowing Good Seeds: The Northwest Suffrage Campaigns of Susan B. Anthony. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990.

Hardy, Sarah B. “Temperance and Beyond: The Oregon Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and Progressive Reform during the First World War.” Undergraduate thesis, Western Oregon University, 2010.

Schiffner, Carli Crozier. “Continuing to “Do Everything” in Oregon: the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1900-1945 and Beyond.” Ph.D. diss., Washington State University, 2004.

Soden, Dale E. “The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in the Pacific Northwest: The Battle for Cultural Control.” Pacific Northwest Quarterly Vol. 94 No. 4 (Fall 2003): 197-207.

About The Author

Sarah B. Hardy is a senior and soon-to-be graduate of Western Oregon University’s history program and a participant in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course at WOU. She has done a variety of work on Pacific Northwest history including researching the Oregon W.C.T.U. for her senior thesis, “Temperance and Beyond: The Oregon Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and Progressive Reform during the First World War” in 2010 as well as writing a brief history of Salem, Oregon during an internship at the Willamette Heritage Center. Though not a native Oregonian, Sarah has a passion for Oregon’s history which began during childhood on her family’s many road trips to visit Oregon’s numerous cultural heritage sites.

Working for Suffrage: The Oregon Labor Community and the Achievement of Woman Suffrage in 1912

State by state, woman suffrage began to blanket the Western United States at the turn of the twentieth century. From 1890 when Wyoming achieved statehood as an already enfranchised territory to 1912 when Oregon became the last victory in an enfranchised Pacific Coast, the incremental steps towards woman suffrage included many unique political battles involving collaboration between many organizations and political groups. The diverse ways in which the campaigning suffragists interacted with these organizations demonstrates the specificity and detail of each ballot or amendment passed in each state. The organized labor movement was a notable ally with the suffragist cause, particularly in Western states. The relationships between labor and suffrage were complex, as they varied from personal to fairly distant, but the labor movement rarely budged from its endorsement of votes for women. This relationship had a lasting effect on the enfranchisement of women in states across the American West.

Members of organized labor interacted with woman suffragists in varying ways in the Western states. The first successful, public campaign for suffrage took place in 1893 in Colorado as the suffragists rode the momentum for change caused by discerning economic and political conditions. As woman suffrage scholar Rebecca Mead explains, these conditions were characterized by a rapidly increasing population that “led to social stratification, growing poverty, and labor tension, especially during the hard decade of the 1890s.” On Labor Day in1893, Carrie Chapman Catt of the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) reached Denver to help organize a campaign that strategically tied struggling economic conditions (a third of working-age Denver males were unemployed) to woman enfranchisement. This public campaign drew from the rich political reform of the Populist movement in Colorado, following the Populist ideology of representing the common person in government. Mead notes that in 1892 the state elected Populists to “twenty-seven of sixty five seats in the legislature” alongside “a labor newspaper editor, Davis Waite, as governor.” Colorado successfully adopted a constitutional amendment for woman suffrage in the 1893, with suffragists endorsing the cause of ailing laborers to make Colorado the second state to enfranchise its women.

The achievement of woman suffrage in Colorado stands as a distinctive effort driven by labor tensions, political reforms and strategic campaigning. Oregon women also found themselves in a unique political battle for the vote. Oregon activists placed a measure for woman suffrage on the ballot during more elections than any other state, totaling six separate times. The Beaver State took until 1912 to enfranchise its women and according to suffragist Sarah Evans, “during 1910 and 1911 Washington and California had enfranchised their women and Oregon remained the only ‘black’ State on the Pacific Coast. This was a matter of great humiliation to the women who had worked for suffrage at least a score of years.” Achieving votes for women involved an uphill battle, but unlike in Colorado, the suffragists would not only rally the laborers, but the laborers of Oregon would also rally behind a suffrage cause that aligned with their interests.

The movement toward woman suffrage had its momentum, but needed the right support in order to secure passage; unfortunately, suffrage leaders in Oregon made a critical error in their 1910 campaign. The same year that the men of neighboring Washington voted for woman suffrage, Abigail Scott Duniway, “the mother of suffrage in Oregon,” championed a campaign for restricted suffrage for taxpaying women, an initiative vehemently opposed by labor organizations that otherwise endorsed suffrage. The opposition labeled the legislation class-based, as it privileged property-holding women. This conflict between the suffrage movement, the labor movement, and the interests of the working class placed the campaign for Oregon women in shambles. For a new and innovative campaign, the interests of affluent groups, labor factions, and even student organizations needed to align in 1912 in order to turn the electoral tide back to their favor.

Colorado’s successful campaign for votes for women was linked with Populism; by the early twentieth century state campaigns like the one in Oregon were associated with the rise of progressive reform. By 1912 many of the women leaders in NAWSA identified with progressive labor policies. In Gladstone Park in Portland on July 20, 1912, thirty-five hundred individuals witnessed out-of-state labor chief John Mitchell speak on the endorsement of woman suffrage and the political goals of the labor movement. These included actions “to secure the eight-hour day; to legislate against child labor; to provide for workmen’s compensation acts, and to secure sanitary housing of our families.” Despite their efforts to remain nonpartisan, many suffragists regularly aligned with progressive policies such as government laws and regulations on child labor and industry. This alignment in political interest led many labor organizations, such as the National Association of Letter Carriers and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, to support votes for women without overtly campaigning or funding the cause. Nationally the American Federation of Labor openly endorsed woman suffrage and in Oregon statewide support arrived as well from A.W. Lawrence and Alfred Cridge of the Oregon Labor Press along with the State Federation of Labor.

Compared to the 1910 measure, the 1912 petition for suffrage contained no taxpayer provisions and maintained its popularity among labor groups. Workers campaigned across the state and an article in the Oregonian suggested that it was “among the ranks of laborers and of the farmers that the suffragists expect to obtain their most telling support.” On January 15, 1912, the State Federation of Labor in Oregon endorsed “the initiative petition which has been heretofore filed with the secretary of state, giving women the right of suffrage in the state of Oregon.”

Suffragists believed that they had to do more than simply convince labor leaders; they also focused campaign efforts to persuade laborers themselves to support votes for women. The College Equal Suffrage League sought to reach every Oregon county with their message. Some campaigning occurred in unconventional ways, as Sara Bard Field Ehrgott of the Oregon Equal Suffrage League “stood in an automobile while addressing an open air meeting” in Pendleton, which was “the first auto campaigning” in the state of Oregon. Another suffragist, Helen La Reine Baker, planned a campaign stop with men at the Portland Lumber Mill. Depending on weather conditions, she planned to speak atop a pile of lumber, noting jokingly that “men don’t want to listen to a speech in the rain even if it is on such an entrancing subject as suffrage.” These examples of creative and interactive campaigning in 1912 symbolically placed these women on the same plane as the working man, shifting from the class-based effort in 1910.

The labor movement did not consist of just men supporting suffrage in Oregon, but also included working women who desired both the vote and better treatment in the workplace. Labor interests coincided with the interests of many leading woman suffragists, alongside the efforts of organized female laborers. At his July 1912 speech in Gladstone, John Mitchell emphasized the necessity of woman suffrage as a mutual benefit for women and unions alike, “primarily for its benefit to the 5,000,000 women who are at work in our American factories and are subject to the same factory regulations as the men.” The College Equal Suffrage League set up a luncheon where speakers gathered to discuss suffrage and Alfred Cridge of the Oregon Labor Press emphasized the necessity of laboring women obtaining the vote to work politically alongside workingmen to improve the home and workplace. Suffrage and labor activists Millie Trumbull believed that working women needed the vote. She described how “girls and women were compelled to perform work under the same conditions as men, and yet were paid one-half or less than the wages received by men.” This sentiment resonated clearly with at least one female labor leader of the time: Elizabeth (Lizzie) Gee, the 1912 president of United Garment Workers’ Local No. 228.

The voices of men in the Oregon labor movement were recorded more frequently than the voices of women. Lizzie Gee stands out as a leader within the movement during times without fair wages or votes for women. Her organization made great strides for better working conditions for garment workers. Local 228 achieved an eight-hour day (without a law requiring it), an average weekly wage higher than the minimum wage, and steady employment for twelve years as of 1916. Few primary documents have records of the influences of working women during the campaign for suffrage in Oregon. These unheard voices could present a firsthand account of how the interests of organized labor and the working woman overlapped during the suffrage campaign in a more personal way.

Across the state of Oregon, labor had a unique relationship with woman suffrage in 1912. The labor movement, as noted by John Mitchell, sought to provide the vote to women based on political interest and fairness. Laborers joined leaders and endorsed woman suffrage by voting to pass the measure that November. Mead explains that in the 1906 election suffrage worker Clara Colby found that “votes from the top of the box were nearly two to one in favor of woman suffrage, showing that the workmen of the longer hours who had come home latest” largely supported the suffragists. In 1912 organized work among laborers enhanced this support, identifying votes for women with the community’s political interests and ideals. City by city and year by year, campaigning women battled for the vote, and in 1912 the laboring men of Oregon consolidated the efforts of these women by bringing victory with votes of their own.

Primary Sources:

“3500 Thrilled by Labor Chief’s Plea,” Oregonian, July 21, 1912, 6.

“Equal Suffrage Leaders Speak,” Oregon Journal, July 29, 1912, 8.

“Garment Workers’ Officers,” Portland Labor Press, January 11, 1912, 8.

“Labor Indorses Woman Suffrage,” Oregon Journal, January 17, 1912, 3.

“Laborers Harken to Suffrage Plea,” Oregonian, August, 16, 1912, 10.

“Shore Talks Is Plan,” Oregonian, July 20, 1912, 16.

“Suffragists Seek Vote of Workers,” Oregonian, April 8, 1912, 3.

“Testimony of Mrs. Lizzie Gee.” General Industrial Conditions and Relations in Portland, Oreg. U.S. Congress, Senate. Committee on Industrial Relations. Industrial Relations: Final Report and Testimony Submitted to Congress by the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations, 64th Cong. 1st sess., 1916.

Secondary Sources

Banaszak, Lee A. Why Movements Succeed or Fail: Opportunity, Culture, and the Struggle for Woman Suffrage. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Evans, Sarah. “Oregon.” In History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. 6. Edited by Ida Husted Harper. New York: Arno Press Reprint, 1969.

Jensen, Kimberly. “Woman Suffrage in Oregon.” Oregon Encyclopedia.

Mead, Rebecca J. How the Vote Was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States, 1868-1914. New York:  NYU Press, 2004.

Myers, Sandra. Westering Women and the Frontier Experience 1800-1915. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.

National American Woman Suffrage Association. Victory: How Women Won It. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1940.

About The Author

Justin Karr participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program at Western Oregon University (WOU). Justin is a Psychology and Social Science Major with interests in Clinical Neuropsychology. His research as an undergraduate focused primarily on the cognitive benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and the electrophysiology of meta-cognition. Justin was also a student-athlete on the cross country and track teams at WOU.

Abigail Scott Duniway’s Birthday Party, October 1912

On October 22, 1912, the alternately famous and infamous Abigail Scott Duniway had her 78th birthday. Suffrage supporters organized a large party to celebrate, with many important people in attendance, speeches and decoration. But this was not simply an elaborate birthday party for a well-known Oregon woman. It was suffrage rally and a key event in the fight for the emancipation of Oregon women. Duniway was not just any person, but many considered her to be the “mother” of Oregon woman suffrage, the plucky woman who started it all. Less than one month before the successful election of 1912 when Oregon women finally won their right to vote, Duniway’s birthday party, with the many famous and influential people in attendance, served as a major stepping stone toward victory.

Duniway’s life story is integral to understanding her birthday party and its significance—why she was so largely celebrated. Her methods for gaining woman suffrage were controversial among other suffragists, and because of this she was constantly up against not only anti-suffragists who vehemently criticized her, but some of her peers, as well. Despite this controversy and the challenges from anti-suffragists, Duniway held strong to her convictions throughout her life. In fact, she was known to thrive, as E. Kimbark MacColl has noted, on “personal attacks… when provoked.” Her strength and pride can be seen throughout her life.

At the time of her birthday party, Duniway had been working for the woman suffrage cause for almost half a century. Her time and dedication rendered the large suffrage rally in her name appropriate. It was a fine closing to her long career; this party was not only a celebration of suffrage and her birthday, but also the mark of her retirement.

Duniway’s birthday party was a grand affair in Portland’s Gipsy Smith Auditorium, with over 1,500 people in attendance and many prominent speakers. Recently recovered from a battle with a long illness, Duniway cheerfully participated as the star of this suffrage rally. She had always preferred the “still hunt” method of working quietly behind the scenes to mass public action and rallies for promoting woman suffrage, making her presence and acceptance of the party more significant. Duniway told a reporter for the Oregon Journal how happy she was that “now in the sunset of [her] life [her] fondest dream [was] beginning to be realized.” Throughout the event, Duniway was the picture of grace and strength, playing her part as a prominent suffragist very well.

The event was indeed a shining tribute to Duniway and a great spectacle for advertising Oregon woman suffrage. Duniway was seated upon a stage with her family and many important people in the suffrage cause surrounding her, including Viola Coe, acting president of the Oregon Equal Suffrage Association, Governor Oswald West, Senator C. W. Fulton, and suffragist May Arkwright Hutton of Spokane, Washington. The stage itself, the Oregon Journal reported, “was hung with red, white, and blue tartan and effectively decorated in spruce, fir, Oregon grape, autumn leaves and English ivy, and directly over Mrs. Duniway’s chair were the significant figures, ‘78’, wrought in evergreen.”. The auditorium was decorated with flowers and banners on the inside, with “a typical Oregon [rain] shower without.” The ushers were a score of young women suffragists dressed brightly in white with yellow scarves, the official suffrage colors. All around it was a happy and lively affair.

The event started with a musical performance of a “suffrage hymn.” Duniway herself had written the lyrics and Mrs. A. E. Clark had composed the music; Clark played the piano accompaniment as June Irene Burns Albert sang. The lyrics set the tone for the party, one of strength and perseverance for the cause of woman suffrage:

“God of our fathers, by whose guiding hand,
We all were led to this Pacific land,
To raise on high the standard of the free,
We women bow with reverence unto Thee.
Good men and women came together here,
With strenuous effort and courageous cheer,
They toiled and builded on the Western shore
An empire that shall last forevermore.
God of our fathers, we are half the race,
By men forgotten till this year of grace,
When they in majesty arise and say,
‘All shall be free in an approaching day’”6

The evening’s festivities also included speeches by dignitaries present. Other messages were read from people who could not be in attendance. People who spoke included Viola Coe, Frederick V. Holman, May Arkwright Hutton, Mary Cartwright, B. Lee Paget, A. E. Clark, Mayor George F. Cotterill of Seattle, Governor West of Oregon, and Senator C. W. Fulton. The closing statement was given by Colonel Robert A. Miller. Those whose telegrams or letters were read included Judge Stephen A. Lowell, Senator Jonathan Bourne, Governor Hawley of Idaho, and Governor Carey of Wyoming.

As Oregon’s governor, Oswald West was one of the most distinguished speakers at Duniway’s birthday party. West stated that women would help clean up politics due to their capabilities and superior sense of honor. Most notably, he promised Duniway that she would have the honor of writing the Governor’s Proclamation of equal suffrage herself if woman suffrage carried that November. And he held to his promise after the election.

Rather than outlining the great things women would accomplish with the vote, former senator C.W. Fulton declared that regardless of what women might do with the vote, they deserved to have the right to the ballot. He praised the pioneer women of Oregon, Duniway among them, for their heroism, proving their worthiness of the vote. He then recalled his pride in having been inspired and prodded by Duniway to present the first woman suffrage bill to the Oregon legislature in 1880.

Speakers came from beyond Oregon, too. May Arkwright Hutton, a prominent suffrage leader from the recently enfranchised state of Washington, was another among many to pay tribute to Duniway and Oregon suffrage. Hutton praised the suffrage victory in Washington State in 1910 and proclaimed that Oregon was sure to be next. With warm congratulations for her birthday and best wishes for Oregon’s November vote, she presented Duniway with a bouquet of yellow chrysanthemums. These flowers, she said, like woman suffrage, had grown “from a ragged wayside weed” into a modern triumph.

The woman suffrage movement in Oregon had a challenging start in the 1870s, a time when women had few legal rights. Abigail Scott Duniway was among the first to petition for a change in this unfair legal system in Oregon, and as such her name was known almost synonymously with “woman suffrage.” Perhaps famous, perhaps infamous, she was nevertheless a very important figure for woman suffrage in her own time.

For suffrage activists to combine a suffrage rally with the seventy-eighth birthday of such a well-known woman was ingenious. Duniway’s reputation and the respect, if not admiration, of the general public drew a massive crowd to the event, a significant audience with which to share the woman suffrage sentiment. The well-known and well-respected speakers from all over the nation made convincing and passionate arguments for women’s right to vote; these arguments had the opportunity to be widely heard because of this momentous suffrage rally. Timed so close to the November 1912 election, Abigail Scott Duniway’s birthday party was an amazing publicity event, making headlines and front page news. The attention her birthday party gartered for her cause is one of the prominent reasons Duniway was finally able to move on from being among the first Oregon equal suffragists to being the first female Oregonian to cast her ballot.

Primary Sources:

“Duniway Rally Is Aim,” Oregonian, October 4, 1912, 16.

“Noted is Tribute to Mrs. Duniway,” Oregonian, October 23, 1912, 1 & 14.

“Oregon’s Pioneer Woman Suffrage Advocate is Honored,” Oregon Journal, October 23, 1912, 13.

“Pioneer Oregon Suffragist is Happy,” Oregon Journal, October 11, 1912, 14.

“Suffragists are Active,” Oregonian, October 17, 1912, 16.

“Victory in Sight, Mrs. Duniway is Glad; Quits at 78,” Oregon Journal, October 22, 1912, 16.


Secondary Sources

Edwards, G. Thomas. Sowing Good Seeds: The Northwest Suffrage Campaigns of Susan B. Anthony. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990.

Evans, Sarah. “Oregon,” History of Woman Suffrage Vol. 6 ed. Ida Husted Harper. New York: Arno Press Reprint, 1969.

Finnegan, Margaret. Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture & Votes for Women. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

MacColl, E. Kimbark. Merchants, Money and Power: The Portland Establishment. The Georgian Press, 1988.

Myers, Sandra.“Suffering for Suffrage,” in Westering Women and the Frontier Experience 1800-1915. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.

Ward, Jean M. “Abigail Scott Duniway,1834-1915,” Oregon Encyclopedia,

About The Author

Carolee Buck participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Spring 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program at Western Oregon University. Carolee is a Pre-Medicine Biology major with interests in German language and culture, history, sculpture and design, and the sciences.

Chinese American Woman Suffrage in 1912 Portland

In 1870 Oregon suffragists began the arduous fight for the vote; in 1912 Oregon woman achieved suffrage, and in 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment was passed, which allowed most U.S. women to vote and hold office. There were similar woman suffrage movements occurring all over the world in places such as New Zealand, England, and China. While all were equally important, the movement in China was of specific interest for Chinese American and American woman suffrage groups in Portland, Oregon. For example, on April 12, 1912 the Oregon Journal reported that “side by side with their Caucasian sisters, seven Portland Chinese women sat at a banquet… the feast was attended by 150 equal suffrage workers,” which was unheard of at the time. Therefore, suffrage became a goal that was shared by women across racial and national boundaries. 

In Portland, transnational groups were established by members of the community such as Mrs. S. K. Chan, who was not only a physician, but also the president of a local equal suffrage society for Chinese women in Oregon. While much of their work is currently unknown, it is clear that Oregon suffragists were affiliated with Chinese American women’s groups located in the Portland area. Therefore by affiliation, Oregon suffragists also pledged their support for the woman suffrage movement simultaneously occurring in China.

Today, both groups are considered marginalized populations, therefore their stories have either not been acknowledged, or have been misinterpreted. While the Oregon woman suffrage story fits within the politically democratic landscape in the United States and is honored on occasion, the Chinese woman suffrage story is not given the full appreciation or even the correct interpretation.

Newspaper accounts suggest that, for a time during the 1912 campaign, white Oregon suffragists saw Chinese women as sisters in the battle for equal suffrage and gave them their complete support. However, despite this camaraderie, the actual Chinese woman suffrage story has been altered within the Chinese historical record and also in Oregon history. It is important to consider the history of woman suffrage in China and how it relates to the suffrage story in Oregon.

In China in 1911, when the Qing monarchy was dissolved and the Republic of China was established, many Chinese women assumed that the new democracy meant the empowerment of all citizens. But to their surprise, the Constitution of 1912 excluded women from political participation. Thus, as Louise Edwards demonstrates, Chinese suffragists began campaigning for the “reassert [ion] [of] their ‘natural rights’ to equality and liberty as human beings.”

During the 1912 votes for women campaign in Oregon, many activists believed that Chinese women would soon achieve the vote. Oregon woman suffragists were optimistic about the Chinese woman suffrage movement, but that did not mean that they received or reported an accurate representation of the Chinese suffrage story. In Oregon, supporters of woman suffrage approached the Chinese movement two ways; one was characterized by racism, and the other by a vision of equality.

On September 27, 1912 the Oregon Journal had published an article documenting a speech given by Dr. C. F. Aked titled, “Scores Men for Denying Women Right of Ballot.” The Reverend Aked, visiting from Great Britain, used this opportunity to express his discontent with the United States’ current treatment of women. He began his speech with an abrasive tone stating that, “The stupidity of the circumstance which gives votes to men of whatever class, and denies the right of franchise to women, has grown so intolerable.” Aked then stated, “You Americans, except in six states of the union… place her [woman] below the Chinamen, Greeks, and negroes in the matter of political suffrage… because the American is apparently content to sit idly by in this matter.” While he supported woman suffrage, Aked clearly believed that only white women of the United States should be granted the right to vote before the women of “other countries less favored.” Aked utilized the suffrage movement as a way to show Americans how inconceivable it was to not give white women the vote, and he also attempted to place guilt upon the educated American man for enfranchising men of other races, while not granting the vote to women of their own race.

From the other perspective, woman suffrage groups in Oregon perceived the Chinese suffrage movement as a step towards complete equality for all women, not just Americans or Caucasians. Oregon suffragists had high hopes for China and saw that nation as an inspiration. Mrs. S. K. Chan stated at a suffrage banquet “We Chinese women have much to be thankful for towards our American neighbors… But we have taken one step ahead of you… while you are yet trying to convince your men of this right… the Chinese have shown themselves more progressive.” Through this lens, the Chinese movement was presented in a positive light, something that fit the Oregon women’s grand narrative of democratic values and progressive ideas regarding women’s rights. 

For women in Oregon in 1912 the Chinese movement proved that it was possible to achieve suffrage, and Oregon was behind China in this regard.  At the same banquet, Mrs. S. K. Chan also stated, “Oregon is now bounded on four sides by states that have recognized the rights of women. On the north there is Washington, on the east there is Idaho, on the south there is California, and far away, across the waters on the west, there is China. I hope the time is not far off when Oregon herself will take her place among them.” By using China as the prime example, Chinese American women along side their American sisters formed a bond with their international counterparts, and mutually expressed high hopes for the future. For example, Mrs. Chan stated regarding the American and Chinese relationship, “You [America] sent your missionaries to our country [China] and they told us about the destiny and the equality of men and held up before us the highest of ideals.” Thus, not only did she maintain a strong tie with her home country, but she also felt a strong connection with America by supporting her other sisters, the white Oregon suffragists. Mrs. Chan was empowered by her dual identity and embraced it for the betterment of the Chinese and Oregon movements.

On March 22, 1912, the Oregonian printed an article stating that “Suffrage Has Won,” in the new Republic of China. However, national suffrage was not officially won in China until 1947. It is possible that supporters of Chinese suffrage saw the abdication of the last Qing ruler, Hsuan Tung, on February 12, 1912, as a precursor for national suffrage. The campaign committee of the Portland Woman’s Club also sent a message after hearing the news to Moy Back Hin, the Chinese consul in Oregon, which stated, “Through you we send greetings and congratulations to the great republic of China, that, in establishing the most modern form of government, it has made the republic a government of all the people, and not a government of half the people, as we have on Oregon.” Therefore, by comparing Oregon’s democracy, with China’s newfound democracy, they perceived China’s struggles and gains as their very own.

Anti-suffragists printed a rebuttal addressed to the editor of the Oregonian titled, “Chinese Women are not Voters,” on July 4, 1912. The premise of the article was to point out the inaccuracy of certain statements used by the Equal Suffrage Association. They argued that suffragists were misusing the slogan, “Women, Keep Up With China,” because in reality, China had not yet achieved woman suffrage. By July 1912, China had no intention of granting equal rights to women and the Chinese Assembly postponed the vote until a “future date.” While the anti-suffragist point of view was clearly biased, it was a valid point to question the motives of Oregon suffragists and their support for Chinese women. “[Are] the women of this association [Equal Suffrage Association of Portland] really justified in using this erroneous statement as a means toward their end?” they asked. Whether or not Oregon suffragists, including Chinese American groups, knew this fact, they consciously decided to utilize the Chinese movement for their own gain.

The Oregon suffragists who were working on the 1912 campaign saw the democratic movement as progressive and inspiring. Not only did it physically bring white Americans and the Chinese American women suffragists together, but it also created an ideological bond across racial and international lines. No longer was the movement about achieving the vote for only white women, it had transformed into a movement for all women. Without the diversity and cooperation among suffrage groups, the 1912 campaign would not have been as successful. 

Primary Sources:

“Chinese Dine with White,” Oregonian, April 12, 1912, 16.

“Chinese Women Are Not Voters,” Oregonian, July 4, 1912, 6.

“College Equal Suffragists, Chinese Women Dine Together Celestial Speaker Thanks Her American Sisters Heartily,” Oregon Journal, April 12, 1912, 6.

“Scores Men For Denying Women Right of Ballot,” Oregon Journal, September 27, 1912, 3.

“Suffrage Has Won,” Oregonian, March 22, 1912, 5.

Secondary Sources

Edwards, Louise. “Women’s Suffrage in China: Challenging Scholarly Conventions.” Pacific Historical Review, 69 no. 4 (2000): 617-738.

Edwards, Louise. “Coopting The Chinese Women’s Suffrage Movement for the Fifth Modernisation-Democracy.” Asian Studies Review, 26 no. 3 (2002): 285-307.

About The Author

As a student in the Honors Program at Western Oregon University, Diedra Cates participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course. Diedra is also an Anthropology major with interests in gender and cultural studies, transnational adoption, and self-identity formation. She plans on completing her bachelor degree and then applying to graduate school and/or the Peace Corps.

The Impact of the College Equal Suffrage League on the Oregon Votes for Women Victory in 1912

The College Equal Suffrage League (CESL) was a groundbreaking organization that allowed college students and graduates the opportunity to join in the public and current debate concerning woman suffrage. The CESL of Oregon played a large role in promoting woman suffrage during the time leading up to the election of 1912. However, Oregon’s league was one of many all over the country, and it was certainly not the first.

According to Sicherman and Green the first College Equal Suffrage League was formed in 1900 by Inez Haynes Gilmore and Maud Wood Park at Radcliffe College in Boston, Massachusetts.  Park had always thought about woman suffrage while attending college, but never thought that she could do something about it. In 1898, Gilmore and Park invited well-known suffragist Alice Stone Blackwell to speak at their campus. After a successful lecture from Blackwell, Gilmore and Park were convinced that they needed to begin educating college students about the important fight for woman suffrage.

Park remained the name behind the national CESL as it grew and expanded across the country. According to Sara Hunter Graham, Park stated that the purpose of the CESL was: “To help college women realize their debt to the women who worked so hard for them, and to make them understand that one way to pay that debt is to fight the battle in the quarter of the field in which it is still to be won, to make them realize the obligation of opportunity.”

Park’s influence reached from her hometown of Boston, to New York, Washington D.C., and across the country as far as San Francisco. Her initiative in college propelled her to become one of the key women in the fight for woman suffrage. Thanks to Park’s foundational work, the CESL became recognized as a reputable and important organization in the fight for woman suffrage. After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 Park helped to transform the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) into the League of Women Voters and served as the league’s first president.

Through Park’s inspiration at the annual conference of NAWSA in 1906 delegates voted to form a national CESL. Beginning that same year the NAWSA sponsored “College Evenings” at their events. As Graham notes, these College Evenings were intended to “appeal to the young, well-educated recruits who increasingly flocked to suffrage functions.” Three key suffragists, Susan B. Anthony, M. Carey Thomas, and Mary E. Garrett were strong supporters of the NAWSA College Evenings. They put together a February 8th, 1906 College Evening at the NAWSA yearly conference in Baltimore Maryland, stating that the night would both “involve new workers in the convention program” and “illustrate distinctly the new type of womanhood-the College Woman.” For the first time college students were explicitly being recruited by an adult political organization. This began a form of student activism that had not been utilized before. The CESL not only allowed students to become involved in political activism, it also helped alumnae to connect with students and faculty from their respective alma maters in a combined effort to work for woman suffrage.

As a national as well as an Oregon campaign organization the CESL was, according to Graham, a sort of “kindergarten for training workers for the regular association.” While still in college, students were becoming activists, and after graduation, many CESL members took positions as professional activists, or as part-time supporters. Through its short lifespan of 17 years, the CESL empowered many educated women to enter the activism field. Not only was the CESL important to the fight for woman suffrage, it also encouraged the higher education of women. When the CESL was first formed in 1900, women represented only 2.8% of college students. When the nineteenth amendment was passed in 1920 that percentage had increased to nearly 7.8%. It is obvious that the CESL was not only trendsetting in its formation as a college age political organization, it also represented a critical group of educated women who would fight not just for the right to vote, but for other aspects of women’s full citizenship and equality.

Oregon did not form a CESL branch until 1912. On February 20 the new organization had its first official meeting at the Multnomah Hotel in Portland to adopt a constitution and elect officers. Abigail Scott Duniway was first elected honorary president, before Viola (Mrs. Henry Waldo) Coe took over as active president. Members held twice monthly meetings in various locations in and around Portland. One of the most noteworthy get-togethers was an April luncheon with members of Oregon’s CESL and Chinese women, Mrs. S.K. Chan and her daughter, Miss Bertie Chan, among others. The visiting women wanted to thank the CESL for fighting for equal liberties between men and women. They also made the point that “On all sides Oregon is bounded by states in which women are on equal terms with the men. China completing the square.” It is clear that Oregon had a lot of pressure on its shoulders heading into the 1912 election. This pressure was what Esther Pohl Lovejoy referred to as a “local grievance” for the women on Oregon because Idaho, Washington State and California surrounded it as equal suffrage states. A successful election would complete the Northwest as a region unified in support of woman suffrage.

On May 8, 1912, Oregon’s branch of the CESL re-elected permanent officers to replace the temporary ones who were elected in February. Among these new officers were Emma Wold as president, Mrs. E.T. Taggert, Mrs. L.W. Therkelsen, Mrs. J. Andre Fouilhoux and Mrs. R.L. Donald as vice-presidents, Louise Bryant Trullinger as recording secretary, Dr. Florence Manion as corresponding secretary and Lida M. O’Bryon as treasurer. As the campaign progressed this new committee continued to spread the word about their organization and their fight. In June they created a float for the popular annual Portland Rose Festival, and in August some 300 members of the league participated in what was said to have been “the greatest gathering ever held in Portland of men and women in favor of equal suffrage.” This meeting was groundbreaking in that it was a chance for members of various organizations from around the state to come together and raise awareness for a common cause. As Margaret Finnegan discussed in her book Selling Suffrage, suffragists were perfecting their campaign strategy through use of mass publishing, advertising techniques and commercial entertainment. The Oregon CESL was certainly utilizing the most current techniques of the time to reach the largest crowd possible.

By the time the November election was approaching Clackamas, Yamhill and Washington counties were directly involved in the league’s campaign. In addition, members participated in county fairs in Salem, Eugene, Gresham, La Grande, Clatskanie, Albany, Corvallis, Nehalem, Baker county, Pendleton, Round-up, Canby, Ashland, Medford, The Dalles, Condon, Prineville, McMinnville, Hillsboro, Dallas and Harrisburg. In each location members established headquarters and distributed literature.

The purpose of Oregon’s CESL was to equip college students to enter the campaign and to help them practice both oral and written arguments. The league in Oregon, as well as in the rest of the country, played an important role in targeting a new generation, specifically women who were in college and who were already blazing a new trail for equality in their schooling. The CESL not only helped ensure a successful 1912 election for woman suffragists, it allowed students who were interested in the cause to begin their career as activists. College students and graduates alike were able to unite this combined cause to spread the word to their peers and the community that they were in that their cause was something worth fighting for.


Primary Sources:

“College Equal Suffragists, Chinese Women Dine Together,” Oregon Journal, April 12, 1912, 6.

“College League Forms,” Oregonian, February 21, 1912, 6.

“College Suffragists Elect,” Oregonian, May 8, 1912, 11.

“College Suffragists Working Fervently,” Oregon Journal, October 16, 1912, 11.

“Last Lap Outlined,” Oregonian, October 9, 1912, 13.

“Mrs. Coe President of Suffrage League,” Portland Evening Telegram, February 21, 1912, 2.

“Suffragists Outline Campaign Plan,” Oregon Journal, March 6, 1912, 7.

“Suffragists Will Be Represented,” Oregonian, June 1, 1912, 9.

“Suffragists to Unite,” Oregonian, August 9, 1912, 12.

Secondary Sources

Allan, Elizabeth J., Susan Van Deventer Iverson and Rebecca Ropers-Huilman. Reconstructing Policy in Higher Education: Feminist Postcultural Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Finnegan, Margaret Mary. Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture and Votes for Women. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Graham, Sara Hunter. Woman Suffrage and the New Democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

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.

Mead, Rebecca J. How the Vote was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States, 1868-1914. New York: New York University Press, 2004.

Sicherman, Barbara and Carol Hurd Green. Notable American Women: The Modern Period: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 4. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1980.

About The Author

Tabitha McAfee participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program at Western Oregon University. Tabitha is a Mathematics Major, with a focus in Education.

The Portland Woman’s Club and the 1912 Campaign

The year 1912 was important in Oregon. After decades of tireless work and endless campaigns, activists achieved equal suffrage (the right to vote). Hundreds of Oregonians were involved in this task over the years, but in the final year of the battle there were certain individuals and clubs that were instrumental in the victory. The Portland Women’s Club was one such group. The women of the club worked on many aspects of the campaign, raising money, holding various events, and rallying support for the cause.

Since its founding in 1895 the Portland Woman’s Club has grown exponentially, and members have been involved in numerous events and civic actions statewide. The club was founded and held its very first meeting in the home of one of the members, Mrs. W. W. Spalding. The first set of officers for the club included Mrs. J. C. Card, Caroline Dunlap, Julia Comstock, Frances Harvey and Mrs. N. B. Cox. Card served as President of the club, and became a leader of numerous other clubs. At the time of the foundation of the club there were 78 members. Two years later, in 1897, the club had grown to include 116 members, and had an average attendance of 70 at each meeting.

Club meetings consisted of numerous activities, such as recitations of poems and stories, musical performances, and many addresses. During the early years many members suggested forming a philanthropic committee, which was something that President Card did not agree with. In a speech given by Card she said “Far be it from me to repress any noble enthusiasm for doing good; I only wish to point out that nothing so makes the judicious grieve, and the wicked rejoice, as hasty and ill-considered attempts to right some wrongs or suppress some evil, ending, as hasty attempts of the kind are pretty sure to do, in the confusion of the assail and the escape of the assailed, for us, unarmed and unprepared, to attack the mighty host of evil, may be heroic, but it is futile.” Despite an unsupportive president, the club went forward with its plans and formed a philanthropic division. Over the years the Portland Woman’s Club was involved in many social welfare issues. The club mainly focused on issues faced by women of children such as labor laws, child welfare, and various public health concerns. As detailed in Sandra Haarsager’s book Organized Womanhood the club helped pass laws on child labor, and worked to improve conditions for women in jail. In 1904 the club rallied support to increase the salaries of school teachers. The club also worked to get women placed in positions usually held by men, like market inspector. Among other notable feats accomplished by the club was the organization of the first city-wide trash collecting service.

Clubwomen worked to improve conditions for others at a time when women were not allowed to vote in elections except for school boards or hold most elected political office. Before 1912 the Portland Woman’s Club had not been involved as an organization in the fight for woman suffrage. But a letter from Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), written in 1911 spurred the club women in to action. In the letter Dr. Shaw asked the president Mrs. A. King Wilson to create a committee for the purpose of working on the campaign. King appointed Elizabeth (Mrs. Frederick) Eggert, Mrs. William Fear, Mrs. George McMillan, Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, Grace Watt Ross, Sarah A. Evans, and Nan (Mrs. William) Strandborg. The Portland Woman’s Club Campaign Committee opened its headquarters in January of 1912. Dr. Shaw contributed $200 a month for the upkeep of the headquarters and other expenses of the campaign. The Portland chapter of the club worked closely with NAWSA in coordinating various events and visits from nationally known suffrage leaders, such as Anna Howard Shaw.

Some members were concerned about participating in the suffrage campaign in 1912. They worried that the club would become strictly a suffrage organization, and because of this fear leaders placed restrictions on the new committee. The committee would only be in place until November 5, 1912, and funding of the committee would only continue until that day. If the suffrage bill passed then the committee would be dissolved forever, and if it failed the committee would be set aside to resume again during the next election.

The Portland Woman’s Club Campaign Committee joined an umbrella advisory committee for the equal suffrage campaign in early 1912. However, in March of the same year the Club decided to remove its delegation from that committee due to misunderstandings and disagreements. In a letter to the advisory committee the campaign committee of the woman’s club reminded the advisory committee that “The Woman’s club is not a suffrage organization, therefore cannot be an auxiliary of any suffrage organization, either state or national, but must do its suffrage work through its own regularly appointed committee”. The Woman’s Club felt that its motives for joining the committee has been “greatly misunderstood, misconstrued and misrepresented” and they felt that they should no longer work together. The Woman’s Club was still involved in the suffrage campaign, but they worked on their own through their own committee rather than with any others.

On November 5, 1912 years of hard work finally paid off. The men of Oregon voted in favor of the suffrage amendment, granting women the right to vote. Many attribute this win in 1912 to the various clubs that worked together to gather support for the cause, and through coalition building they held enough power to influence many a voter.

The Woman’s Club was a very influential group, and had many prominent and well known members. Some of the better known members were Abigail Scott Duniway and Esther Pohl Lovejoy. Two other members of the Portland Woman’s Club, Dr. Mary Anna Thompson and Sarah A. Evans were influential in the suffrage movement in Oregon.

Mary Anna Thompson was born in New York in 1825. Although Dr. Thompson never actually obtained a medical degree, she was known as “Portland’s first woman physician.” For most of her young life Dr. Thompson worked to improve conditions during childbirth for both the women and the babies born. Dr. Thompson and her family moved to Oregon in 1866, where she became more involved in political and economic issues while still maintaining her medical practice. Dr. Thompson soon became involved in the suffrage movement. Along with her friends Bethenia Owens-Adair and Frances Fuller Victor, Dr. Thompson strongly supported temperance and prohibition. This caused disagreements between Abigail Scott Duniway and Dr. Thompson, and though they did not agree with one another they respected each other for their respective strengths and character.

In 1877 Dr. Thompson began a yearlong speaking tour in which she addressed various groups throughout the country, as well as speaking at the NWSA convention in Washington, D.C.  While at the capitol she also visited with President Rutherford P. Hayes, spoke before the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, and met with other influential suffrage workers such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone.

Sarah Ann Evans
was born in Bradford, Pennsylvania around 1855. Between the years of 1893 and 1894 Evans and her family moved to Oregon and settled in Oswego (now known as Lake Oswego). Shortly after the move Evans noticed a need for a public library, and joined forces with other local women to form the Portland Woman’s Club. In 1905 Evans became the president of the club. While president she was appointed Market Inspector in Portland, and also worked on the suffrage campaign both locally and nationally.

In addition to being club president and Market Inspector Evans was a well known journalist working for the Oregon Journal. She wrote a weekly column detailing the activities and importance of women’s clubs.

Although the Portland Woman’s Club was only involved in the suffrage movement in the final year of the campaign they contributed substantially to the victory. Because of close ties with NAWSA, strong and influential leaders, and great organization, the Portland Woman’s Club was able to accomplish quite a bit in a years’ time. Many historians have said that one of the reasons for the victory in 1912 was strong coalition building, and the Portland Woman’s Club was a huge player in the building of coalitions.

Primary Sources:

“Laws Held Unfair,” Oregonian, April 12, 1912, 15.

“Suffrage Forces Divide,” Portland Evening Telegram, March 16, 1912, 3.

“Woman’s Club to Travel Own Road,” Oregon Journal, March 16, 1912, 11.

“Women’s Clubs,” Oregon Journal, April 28, 1912, Sec. 5 4.

“Women Urge Suffrage,” Oregonian, February 24, 1912, 4.

Secondary Sources

Del Mar, David Peterson. Oregon’s Promise: an Interpretive History. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2003.

Haarsager, Sandra. 1997. Organized Womanhood: Cultural Politics in the Pacific Northwest, 1840-1920. Norman: University Of Oklahoma Press.

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 (Fall 2007): 350-383.

Jensen, Kimberly, ”Sarah Ann Shannon Evans (1854-1940),” Oregon Encyclopedia,

Ward, Jean M. “Mary Anna Thompson (1825-1919),” Oregon Encyclopedia,

About The Author

Tayleranne Gillespie participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program at Western Oregon University. Tayleranne is a Political Science major. She works with the Associated Students of Western Oregon University as Director of Public Relations, and plans on attending law school after graduating from WOU.

Stenographers Equal Suffrage League of Oregon in 1912

A profession not often discussed in the context of history, stenography is an important part of the Oregon woman suffrage story. Portland stenographers formed their own equal suffrage league during the 1912 campaign. Stenography itself is defined today as “a person skilled in the use of shorthand and in typing… whose job it is to record verbatim everything that is said in during a court case.” In 1900, there were 134 stenographers in Oregon and by 1910 the profession had more than doubled to 387 documented stenographers. At the time of the 1912 suffrage movement, stenographers were employed for the transcription of public and civic events including speeches and presentations, in addition to court cases.

In the early 1900s stenographers worked for businesses as court reporters, law reporting assistants, and typists. They typed both public and private conventions, depositions, sermons, lectures and more. Stenographers advertised their services through local advertisements in the papers, including what is now the Oregonian. Advertisements had clever slogans like, “If you want that work, the way you want it, and WHEN you want it, call Marshall 3818,” as means for attracting customers. From these advertisements, we can gather that stenographers were capable of “notary public typewriting [and] depositions,” prepared to make “statistical tables and intricate forms [of] typewriters.”

Individual stenographers were often featured in these advertisements. Mrs. Julia Kirker Sayre worked for Brush Public Stenographers in Portland, well known for notary public typewriting and depositions. Douglas S. Dufur worked in the Abington Building as a court reporter, law-reporting assistant, court reference and public stenographer. He provided both public and private services including telephone, telegraph, phonograph dictation and typewriting.

The Portland City Directory for 1912 lists the following stenographers: Elizabth Allen, Maud R. Bartlett, Douglas S. Dufur, Nettie E. Dunlap, Ivy Gay, Gertrude Getty, Ana D. Green, Elizabeth Hendry, Ada M. Henley, Helen C Jeselson, Winnifred G. King, Mary L. Knapp, Neli Kruesel, Rose McAvoy, Anna L. Moore, Minnie E Nelson, Emily F Otis, Julia A Parmele, Mary Payne, Mrs. M. H. Potter, Ida D. Ramsay, Missie Rebe, Edith B. Roberts, Catherine Roe, Anna V. Rogers, Eugenia A. Ross, Julia Sayr-Kirke, Meter E. Van, Ida M. Wandry, and Margaret White.

The majority of stenographers conducted their business in the Portland metropolitan area in the Chamber of Commerce, Oregonian, Spalding and Yeon buildings. Stenographers also conducted business in McKay, Henry, Mohawk, Lafayette, Sherlock, Wilcox Worcester Buildings, Portland Hotel, Hotel Oregon, and the Board of Trade.

As stenography grew more popular, prior to the November 5, 1912 election, members of the profession formed the Stenographers Equal Suffrage League. The stenographers’ intent with the formation of this group was to study “all maters of a civic and municipal character, as well as suffrage. In addition it will help members to procure acceptable situations.” Although the group formed during the suffrage movement, their intent was to establish a permanent organization for both men and women stenographers. Membership included, what appears to be lifetime membership, with no dues and a minimal one-time fee of “10 cents for registration.”

The league held multiple meetings prior the November 5 election in support of the woman suffrage movement. Meetings were frequently held in the Selling Building in Portland, Oregon. The Selling building was also headquarters of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association.

In 1912, the Stenographers Equal Suffrage League devoted “itself to the suffrage movement in connection with the coming election, but after Nov. 5, when the members believe there will be no further use for an organization to promote women suffrage.” Stenographers spent a great amount of time and effort in support of woman suffrage because they knew a lot of information. As described by Attorney R. K. Walton, “stenographers are peculiarly fitted for the ballot, because of the generally wide business knowledge most of them possess, and the necessity for them to be well versed in general topics.” Walton spoke at the fourth Stenographer Equal Suffrage League meeting, affirming the importance of their organization in the votes for women movement.

Other speakers in attendance at their meetings included Mrs. A. C. Newell and Mrs. Weathered. These women spoke at a social session held at the home of president Mrs. E. O. Gardner at 370 Vista Street in Portland, Oregon. Newell was president of the Civic Progress circles and spoke of “the advantages to be derived from forming circles for the study of civics and citizenship.” Weathered spoke of some of the accomplishments made by “the Women of Washington since they have had suffrage.”

Additionally, nationally renowned suffragist and attorney Olive Stott Gabriel attended one of the league’s meetings to show support for their organization. Gabriel was involved in the New York City Federation of Women’s Clubs and served as three-term president for the National Association of Women Lawyers. Gabriel traveled throughout the United States, advocating for Woman Suffrage and equal rights, frequently visiting Oregon. 

Olive Stott Gabriel attended one of the Stenographers Equal Suffrage League meetings, held in the Selling Building. Gabriel hoped to inspire further stenographer support for the woman suffrage movement, and commend them for their involvement in the movement. Gabriel was appreciative of the “cooperation among women as well as among men.” She further emphasized problems women faced to rally other stenographers. Gabriel emphasized that without the ballot, women had to “petition to remedy conditions under which they labor. The status of woman is due to the prejudice that has grown out of her position under the common law, which prevails with but slight changes in all the states.” She continued by emphasizing that, “In only 14 states in the Union do women hold join guardianship in the persons of their children.  This does not give them a voice in the management of their property.” Gabriel finalized her speech by emphasizing the benefits brought about by suffrage and despite the “responsibility … it is also a privilege and one which I feel sure the women of Oregon are anxious to accept.”

As a national leader, Gabriel’s support further validated the hard work of the Stenographers Equal Suffrage League, in addition to local support from leaders like Walton, Newell and Weathered. Many individuals spoke at the Stenographers Equal Suffrage League meetings in recognition of the organization and support for their dedication to the equal suffrage movement. Stenographers dedicated a great deal of their efforts to the campaign after the initiation of their organization. 

Although their primary intention was to form an organization in support of their profession, their support for the suffrage movement was essential. Their broad knowledge of general topics allowed them to provide insights on the suffrage movement. Stenographers likely also played a large role in documenting portions of the movement by being involved in the transcription of meetings and events. With the formation of the Stenographers Equal Suffrage League, stenographers established themselves as a valuable profession to society while benefiting the votes for women movement. 

Primary Sources:

“Olive S. Gabriel, Suffrage Leader: Three-Time Head of National Women Lawyers Dies – Long Active in New York.” New York Times, May 10, 1944, 19.

“Mrs. Olive Gabriel Talks: Oregon Native Daughter Speaks on Equal Suffrage,” Oregonian, October 16, 1912, 7.

“Services Set for Lawyer, Head of National Group,” Oregonian, May 9, 1944, 9.

“Suffrage League Formed: Stenographers Will Have Permanent Club for Both Sexes,” Oregonian, August 11, 1912, 7.

“Says Stenographers are Fitted for Ballot,” Oregon Journal, September 11, 1912, 3.

“Suffrage Worker Appeals for Ballot,” Oregon Journal, October 15, 1912, 2.

“What Suffragists are Doing,” Oregon Journal, October 22, 1912, 12.

Secondary Sources

Jensen, Kimberly. Women Suffrage in Oregon. Oregon Encyclopedia.

Jensen, Kimberly. “Neither Head nor Tail to the Campaign: Esther Pohl Lovejoy and the Oregon Women Suffrage Victory 1912.” Oregon Historical Society 108 no. 3 (2007): 350-383.

Polk, R. L. Portland City Directory 1912. Portland: R.L. Polk Publishers, 1912.

United States Bureau of the Census. Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census, 1975. Section D: 297-357. 480.

About The Author

Karin Traweek participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program at Western Oregon University. Karin is a Biology major, emphasis in Zoology, with interests in becoming a wildlife biologist.

Uniquely Oregonian: Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League in 1912

The successful campaign for woman suffrage in 1912 made Oregon the seventh state to establish the enfranchisement of women. This significant milestone in the woman suffrage movement in Oregon did not come easily for the suffragists who had fought valiantly for many years in order to secure voting rights for women. The suffrage amendment was on the ballot six times in Oregon (1884, 1900, 1906, 1908, 1910 and 1912), which was more than any other state. In many instances, the campaigns in Oregon were met with stiff opposition from the liquor and business interests, as well as anti-suffragists. 

However, despite the opposition, much of the success from the 1912 campaign came from the hard work and dedication of the numerous suffrage organizations that contributed to the cause. From the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) on the national level, to the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association (OSESA) on the state level, these suffrage organizations played a significant and intricate role in organizing and mobilizing the voters of Oregon to go out and vote “yes” on the suffrage ballot. Without the hard work and dedication put forth by the OSESA and the NAWSA, it is almost certain that the suffrage amendment would not have passed in Oregon. Besides the OSESA and the NAWSA, the Oregon woman suffrage campaign in 1912 was also aided by a different organization, Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League, whose members used its unique beginnings and progressive ideology in order to reach all Oregonians, including the working class women of Oregon. Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League was founded in September of 1912, only two months before the election on November 5.

The idea for the organization was conceived and expanded upon by Esther Pohl Lovejoy in the summer preceding the election of 1912. Pohl Lovejoy believed that working class women in Oregon should have the opportunity to join a suffrage organization if it was made available to them. Many suffrage organizations required members to pay a few dollars per month for membership. For working class women in Oregon, this was simply not an option as many were making very little money and could barely sustain the cost of living. Pohl Lovejoy desired to create a suffrage organization that valued the collective community and that would be, according to the Oregonian, “free from all cliques and class distinctions and open to all.” This sort of community organization Pohl Lovejoy desired to create was new. In fact, an article on the Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League in the Oregonian, dated October 23rd, 1912 stated, “There is no precedent to follow as this league is the first of its kind in the United States, they aver, and no one has been found to contradict this statement.” With all of this in mind, it is without a doubt that the Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League was a uniquely Oregonian organization that expressed within its program and membership the progressive reform that was sweeping the United States on the state and national level during the early twentieth century. 

Before Esther Pohl Lovejoy created the Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League, much of her time had been devoted to the practice of medicine and her involvement in the woman suffrage movement. During her university years, Pohl Lovejoy studied and graduated from the University of Oregon Medical Department (UOMD) in 1894. As Kimberly Jensen notes, it was during this time that Pohl Lovejoy experienced the injustice that came as a result of the inequality between the sexes. Unable to finance her tuition after her first term of college Pohl Lovejoy worked at a department store. “There were no scholarships to be won, and 18 months behind hosiery and underwear counters was the price of my last two terms.” This crucial event in Pohl Lovejoy’s life mirrored that of thousands of other women in the United States and allowed her to become conscious and concerned for the plight of working class women within Oregon and beyond. After graduation, Pohl Lovejoy began practicing medicine in the Portland area. In 1905, Portland mayor Harry Lane appointed Pohl Lovejoy to the Portland Board of Health as one of the three physicians on the board. Two years later, she was elected unanimously by her colleagues on the board and mayor Harry Lane as the Portland City Health Officer. The position was a policy making position that made Pohl Lovejoy the first woman to head a health bureau in a major U.S. city. Jensen found that Pohl Lovejoy used her experience in public policy and public health in the woman suffrage campaigns of 1906 and 1912 to advocate and argue for the idea that the vote was essential for women in order to enact laws that would create safer and healthier communities. Thus, because of Lovejoy’s experience in the medical field and her years spent laboring in working class employment in order to finance her education, Pohl Lovejoy understood the plight of thousands of working class women. She created Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League to represent and voice the opinions of working class women all over Oregon.

Esther Pohl Lovejoy’s vision in creating the Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League provided a way for working class women to become involved in the suffrage campaign. Therefore, Pohl Lovejoy made membership into the organization easily attainable for all who desired to join. Membership into the league cost a mere twenty-five cents for a lifetime membership, and all members were given instant vice president status within the group. Pohl Lovejoy was the only president of the organization; however, the Everybody’s organization was by no means controlled solely by Pohl Lovejoy. According to the Oregonian, “Wherever any vice- presidents meet, they hold a meeting. They even met the other day in a wine shop. No one takes the chair, no one stops anyone else from speaking and no one is anxious to have all the say in the matter. Their one aim is to work to obtain the passage of the suffrage amendment.” Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League was truly an organization of the people, by the people and for the people. It did not adhere to the hierarchies that were long established in other suffrage organizations such as the OSESA and the NAWSA; there were no conflicts amongst group members such as in the famous feud between Abigail Scott Duniway of the OSESA and Dr. Anna Shaw of the NAWSA.

The popularity of Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League grew so much during its brief two month existence, that by the time the November election came, Everybody’s organization was perhaps the largest votes for women organization in Oregon with over six hundred members. According to the Oregon Journal dated October 24, 1912, Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League enjoyed the distinction “of being the youngest and at the same time the largest numerically of any of the many organizations.” And the popularity did not simply cease with the inclusion of working class women; membership included “both men and women, young and old, and from the humblest walks of life up to and including United States senators and supreme court judges.” Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League even received a twenty-five cent piece from the famed suffragist Ava Belmont from New York along with her letter wishing success in the 1912 election. With such support, Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League was not simply a fad; it truly played an important role in not only unifying Oregon suffragists, but in bringing the cause to the people.

To better understand the context and motives for the creation of Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League, one must understand the conditions of working class women in Oregon during the early twentieth century. According to Janice Dilg, in her article titled For Working Women in Oregon, in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, many Oregon women worked in the agricultural, domestic or industrial fields. Within these occupations, women worked long hours for meager wages that could not sustain the cost of living.

An example of the adverse working conditions imposed upon Oregonian women during the early twentieth century can best be described by the experiences of the activist Caroline Gleason, who in the fall of 1912 (during the prime of the 1912 woman suffrage campaign) went undercover in order to work in the Stettler Box Factory on Portland’s Glisan and Tenth streets. As factory workers at Stettler, workers glued labels on to shoeboxes; however, after completing two or three labels, their hands needed to be washed. Hot water was the only method of cleansing that could adequately remove the glue from one’s hand and the water could only be obtained by hauling five gallon pails through the factory to an open steam pipe where the water could be heated and the glue could be removed. Gluing the labels on to the shoeboxes was simple; however, the constant repetition of washing one’s hands meant less time gluing labels on to shoe boxes, which ultimately meant fewer wages for the factory workers. During her stint as a factory worker, Gleason worked three ten-hour days only to make a meager $1.52. This minimal amount of compensation for a painstaking amount of labor was obviously an unfair circumstance for the factory workers at the Stettler Box Factory and the thousands of other working class women who faced the same circumstances on a daily basis during the early twentieth century. Pohl Lovejoy and other activists believed that empowering women through the vote would enable them to reform such working conditions.

Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League embodied the essential characteristics that the suffrage campaign of 1912 in Oregon needed in order to succeed. Esther Pohl Lovejoy created an atmosphere that was inclusive and allowed anyone’s voice to be heard. There were no class distinctions or bitter rivalries. Pohl Lovejoy worked within the group to make woman suffrage a tool that could be used for the common good and targeted working class women in order to allow their opinions to be heard. Pohl Lovejoy’s vision in creating an organization “free from all cliques and class distinctions” was to create a sense of community that many other suffrage organizations were not embodying. Suffrage meetings could be held at any time and parliamentary procedure was thrown out the window. Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League stands as a testament to the progressive idealism of enacting change within a community; moreover, it stands as a symbol to the progressive era, and is distinct as something uniquely Oregonian.

Primary Sources:

“Mrs. Belmont Sends Coin,” Oregonian, October 28, 1912, 1.

“Novel League Forms,” Oregonian, October 23, 1912, 20.

“Suffrage League Gaining Rapidly,” Oregon Journal, October 24, 1912, 13.

“Suffrage Rally Dates are Fixed,” Oregonian, October 11, 1912, 3.


Secondary Sources

Dilg, Janice. “For Working Women in Oregon”: Caroline Gleason/Sister Miriam Theresa and
Oregon’s Minimum Wage Law,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 110 no. 1 (Spring 2009), 96-129.

Hall, Greg. “The Fruits of Her Labor: Women, Children, and Progressive Era Reformers in the Pacific Northwest Canning Industry,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 109 no. 2 (Summer 2008), 226- 251.

Jensen, Kimberly. “‘Neither Head nor Tail to the Campaign’: Esther Pohl Lovejoy and the Oregon Woman Suffrage Victory of 1912.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 108:3 (Fall 2007), 350-383.

Jensen, Kimberly. “Woman Suffrage in Oregon,” Oregon Encyclopedia

About The Author

Zachary Jones is a first year student at Western Oregon University and participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program. Zachary is currently undecided on what his major or minor will be; however, he has interests in History, Psychology and English. An avid vocalist, Zachary is a member of Western’s premier male a capella group, 15 Miles West. Additionally, Zachary is a Ford Scholar, a recipient of the Ford Family Foundation Scholarship award.

Oregon’s Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage League and the 1912 Campaign

African American women and men have a special story when it comes to the fight for woman suffrage. From the abolition of slavery to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, African American women had an upward battle in the fight for equal opportunities for their race as well as for their sex. Stemming from the abolitionist movement of the earlier part of the nineteenth century, suffrage and race were tied together from the start. Many of the early and founding members of the votes for women movement were politically involved in the abolitionist movement. Early on African American women and some white women worked together to gain the right to vote. Later however as the Progressive Era approached, white women and their organizations often excluded African American women from their efforts. During the Progressive Era and leading up to the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment, African American women started to form local and later national organizations of their own, to advocate not only for universal suffrage but for solutions to other problems associated with the tense race relations of the time. The Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage Association of Portland, Oregon was one of these important local organizations that helped pave the way for African American women to achieve the right to vote.

In the early formative years of the woman suffrage movement, African Americans played just as much of a part in the campaigning as the white women. African American women had the most to gain from receiving the vote. They also had the hardest fight to acquire this right. For years they had faced opposition. First, according to Elizabeth McLagan in A Peculiar Paradise, it was “slavery and later poverty that restricted many Black women’s efforts to gain women’s right to vote.” Class was an issue for many suffragists of any race. Women who had received an education and held prominent positions in the campaign for votes were more likely to belong to a wealthier class. This was true for African American leaders as well. Because many African Americans belonged to the working class, early on they were often underrepresented. Former slave Sojourner Truth, one of the prominent founding African American woman suffrage leaders, was an exception and actively campaigned for woman suffrage. Although illiterate, Truth was a great orator and spoke with such conviction that many times an ambivalent crowd became proponents of women suffrage.

Oregon’s involvement in woman suffrage dates back to the 1870s. In 1872 women across the nation attempted to vote in the presidential election. Mary Beatty, a woman identified in the newspapers as “colored,” along with Abigail Scott Duniway, a prominent suffrage leader in Oregon, attempted to vote. Beatty seemed to be a much respected member of Oregon’s votes for women movement. In 1873 she attended the first annual convention of the Oregon State Woman Suffrage Association and was, according to Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, “among the platform guests who addressed the body as women suffrage advocates.” Mary Beatty, an African American woman, took an important stand in gaining equal rights for her race and her sex in Oregon.

Unfortunately, racism still continued to run rampant throughout the country and Oregon was no exception. Although Oregon never endorsed slavery that did not mean it actively welcomed those of other races and as McLagan notes “anti-black sentiment in Oregon was apparent from the beginning.” Many of the deeds to houses in Oregon specifically denied African Americans the right to live there. In 1844 Oregon “declared its prejudice against black people by passing the first of the exclusion laws.” Essentially these laws forbade African Americans from legally coming to or residing in Oregon. Racism in Oregon was still a huge issue when African American women were trying to achieve the vote. For awhile in the early years of the suffrage movement, white men and women worked towards this goal accepted and invited African Americans to work with them. However, as the twentieth century approached, the woman suffrage movement had grown and racist sentiments, both personal and political, had also developed.

As the Progressive Era approached, African American women and men branched off from the national woman suffrage organizations to work separately for the right to vote. As Marjorie Spruill Wheeler notes in One Woman, One Vote, even the white-run organizations that had previously accepted African American members began to drift “away from insistence upon universal suffrage.” Because the founding woman suffrage organizations pursued their own political agendas, leaving African American women out, African American women formed their own organizations. As Rosalyn Terberg-Penn states, these organizations pushed “for the enfranchisement of all Black women as a means to protect Black communities.” While these clubs very actively supported universal woman suffrage, they also took on issues such as unfair race relations, violence against African Americans, and lynching. Spruill Wheeler emphasizes that “petitioning…along with sending letters and telegrams to specific congressional leaders” continued to be major and effective strategies used by these clubs. For those states that had already passed a measure allowing women to vote, the clubs advocated for politicians who supported African Americans.

In Oregon, African Americans formed a group called the Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage League in 1912 among members of the five African American churches in the Portland area.  The league’s main focus was to spread “equal suffrage ideas among the race.” Like many of the African American clubs around the nation, the Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage League held meetings and tried to raise awareness of suffrage in their communities. Oregon African American women, like those around the nation, had a difficult time recruiting members in the early stage of the club’s existence. According to the Oregonian after two months the organization had only “14 members out of the 2500 colored women of voting age in the city.” While leaders blamed poor publicity for the low attendance they also cited some African American men’s opposition. But after recognizing that African American women could help enfranchise African American men, many gave their support.

By organizing in their own local associations, African American women campaigned for suffrage for all. They made sure that they were not left out in the measure to allow women to vote and advocated for equality for their race. Major Portland newspapers reported on the league’s activities as the 1912 campaign continued. Membership in the league doubled throughout the 1912 campaign and the Oregonian and Oregon Journal reported this. As reported in the Oregonian, Portland’s African American newspaper, the Advocate, also endorsed the movement.

The importance of the work was also reflected in the recorded collaboration between Oregon’s white and African American suffragist leaders. Leaders of the Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage League included Katherine Gray as president, Mrs. Lancaster, vice president, Edith Gray treasurer and first secretary and later president, Hattie Redmond. They invited many other well-known leaders of white organizations to speak such as Esther Pohl Lovejoy, who created Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League, Sara Bard Ehrgott and Viola Coe.The Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage League also became a part of the State Central Campaign Committee.

This cooperation between white suffragist leaders and African American suffragists was vital to the success of the 1912 campaign. As Kimberly Jensen notes, “when leaders worked to include constituents across lines of race and ethnicity, they garnered particular success.” In the case of Oregon’s 1912 victory in achieving votes for women, this is particularly true.

As one of the pioneering Western states to adopt woman suffrage before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Oregon’s contribution is undisputed. While African Americans across the nation fought to be included in the local measures for woman suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment, Oregon’s African American women had fought and won the same voting privileges won by white women suffragists. From the beginning of the suffrage movement in Oregon, Oregon’s African American women campaigned for universal suffrage. Without their community’s help and collaboration, Oregon’s success in achieving equal suffrage in 1912 might not have happened. Oregon African American women truly impacted the woman suffrage movement on a national level with their dedication, strategy and success. They fought long held prejudices in their state, won the right to vote and assisted with the national campaign for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. While true equality would still be decades in the future, the success in winning the right to vote was a huge step on the way to progress in overall equality.

Primary Sources:

“Colored Suffragists Act,” Oregonian, September 17, 1912, 12.

“Colored Suffragists Meet Tonight,” Oregonian, September 16, 1912, 19.

“Mrs. Coe Temporary Head,” Oregonian, May 15, 1912, 11.

“Negro Women Suffrage Association,” Oregon Journal, September 12, 1912, 9.

“Suffrage Leaders Grateful,” Oregon Journal, November 9, 1912, 4.

“Suffrage Rally Dates are Fixed,” Oregonian, October 11, 1912, 3.

“Suffrage Work is Active,” Oregonian, August 2, 1912, 12.

Secondary Sources

Jensen, Kimberly. “Neither Head nor Tail to the Campaign.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 108, no. 3 (2007): 350-382.

Jensen, Kimberly. “Woman Suffrage in Oregon; Oregon Encyclopedia.” 2009.

McLagan, Elizabeth. A Peculiar Paradise: a History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940.
Portland: Georgian Press , 1980.

Spruill Wheeler, Marjorie. “Introduction.” In One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement. Edited by Marjorie Spruill Wheeler, 9-19. Troutdale, OR: NewSage Press, 1995.

Terborg-Penn, Rosalyn. African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Terborg-Penn, Rosalyn. “African American Women and the Woman Suffrage Movement.” In One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement. Edited by Marjorie Spruill Wheeler, 135-156. Troutdale, OR: NewSage Press, 1995.

About The Author

Sophia Wellons participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program at Western Oregon University. Sophia is a Psychology major and Business minor with interests in the helping professions, other languages and cultures, and travel.

Viola (Mrs. Waldo) Coe and Abigail Scott Duniway in the 1912 Oregon Woman Suffrage Campaign

Viola Coe, M.D., was a woman of many talents. She was a medical doctor, feminist, suffragist, wife, divorcee, friend, woman of faith, and leader. She was acting chair of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association (OSESA) in 1912. According to first generation suffrage leader Abigail Scott Duniway, she was a woman who was “able and tactful.” Coe was also Duniway’s close associate for the Oregon woman suffrage campaign, and would carry out Duniway’s work until the suffrage ballot was finally passed in 1912.

Viola Coe was born in Indiana in 1862. When she was a child, she moved to North Dakota with her parents. While in North Dakota, she attended medical school at Northwestern University. Before graduating, she married Dr. Henry Waldo Coe, and in her early years of marriage graduated with a medical degree. In 1891 the couple moved to Portland, Oregon

Working for the Vote

According to her 1943 obituary in the Oregon Journal, Viola Coe “was an ardent worker for woman suffrage.” Because of Abigail Scott Duniway’s illness during the 1912 campaign Coe was acting president of the Equal Suffrage Association when Oregon women achieved the right to vote that year.  Duniway depended greatly on Coe, especially during her time of illness. According to Duniway, Viola Coe was an “an able and tactful woman, to whose management, and that of our reorganized State Executive Committee, the women of Oregon are indebted for leading us to victory through the votes of men at the State Election of 1912.” Through the OSESA, Coe was able to organize many speaking engagements concerning woman suffrage. One was “Suffrage Day” on July 16, 1912 where she brought Charles W. Fulton, ex-United States Senator and Reverend Luther Dyott to speak on behalf of suffrage to the people of Gladstone, Oregon.

Working to achieve the vote in 1912, the State Equal Suffrage Association readied everything for what Coe called a “New Deal.”  Every equal suffrage association “awoke at once” according to Abigail Scott Duniway in her autobiography Path Breaking. By this time almost every county had suffrage associations. In October, Viola Coe organized a “unique” party for Duniway’s 78th birthday. Many politicians of importance gave speeches and a “suffrage hymn” that had been written by Duniway was sung to honor her dedication to the suffrage movement. Governor Oswald West also asked the “venerable beneficiary to write the forth coming Women’s Emancipation Proclamation.” To have the governor at a celebration such as this was of the utmost importance. His presence showed that he approved of the Oregon suffrage campaign as well as the important figures behind it such as Abigail Scott Duniway and Viola Coe.

Coe was also very involved with the Portland chapter of the National College Equal Suffrage Association. She became president of this chapter in February 1912 and Abigail Scott Duniway was nominated “Honorary Head.” While being “active president,” Coe worked closely with Duniway and created many committees to help with the fight to pass the ballot measure in 1912. The publicity committee was particularly effective. Committee members used tactics such as mass advertising to canvass every area of Oregon handing out information to “reach every section of the state with fresh, live news—not any of the canned variety.” With the help of other suffrage groups such as the Multnomah County branch of the OSESA, and the Portland Equal Suffrage Association, Coe and the college association used trains to bring speakers on suffrage to “all parts of Oregon,” and organized special rallies and galas to promote suffrage cities and towns around the state. They would also send out suffrage information to every county in Oregon to help spread the word.

It is important to note that when Viola Coe replaced Abigail Scott Duniway, she did so with grace. While Duniway was the foundation of this campaign, she was often known as someone who was very stubborn and did not always carry out her plans in the most sufficient manner.  When Duniway gave the position to Viola Coe, Coe knew how to lead a successful campaign through the idea of mass advertising and organizing special events to promote Oregon woman suffrage. She also made sure that she also conferred with Duniway throughout the whole process to make sure that Duniway would feel that she was still contributing to the cause. She was able to perform her duties in a way that everyone involved was content. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and how to get it in a manner that was successful.

Other Contributions

In addition to her suffrage work Coe founded several hospitals that were dedicated to the care of women and girls. She hoped to help many women and “working girls” that were recuperating from ill-health but could not afford the stay in a hospital or receive proper care at home.  According to her 1943 obituary in the Oregon Journal, she also devoted her time to the “church, club and philanthropic work.” She also spent her retirement caring for wildlife and directed her energy to conservation and the safety of birds. According to an article in the Oregonian on July 18, 1937, she founded a garden sanctuary for birds in Portland Heights. This sanctuary included birdhouses, birdbaths, and feeding stations. When she was not retreating at her bird sanctuary outside of town, she maintained her dedication to social work.

Henry and Viola Coe had three sons: George, Wayne and Earl. Prior to Henry’s death in 1927 he and Viola went through a very public divorce. Viola Coe “instituted suit for the dissolution of their marriage contract and for the custody of [two of their sons], aged 18 and 20 years.” At the same time she also brought suit against the Sanitarium Company. Henry Waldo Coe was a leading stockholder in this company, which held a “contract with the government for the care of the Alaska insane and the sanitariums that were built and operated so those contracts might be carried out.” In this suit Viola Coe was claiming her portion of this contract. The courts consolidated both of these suits because they were related. The lower court granted Viola Coe the custody of her sons, but the court would not give her the property “held by her trust.” She appealed this decision to the Oregon Supreme Court and she received one-third of the property involved. It is important to note this information because it shows that Viola Coe was a strong woman. In a time where divorce and law suits were not very common, she chose her own life happiness over pleasing society norms. This contributes to one’s understanding of why she fought so hard to achieve woman suffrage in Oregon. She was someone who fought for what she knew was right, not what society wanted to be right.

After a meaningful and philanthropic life, Viola M. Coe, who was a physician for “a half century” passed away at the age of eighty. A funeral service was held at the Holman & Lutz chapel. Here long time pastor, Dr. Raymond B. Walker presided over the service. She would be remembered for her dedication to women and the general welfare of the public.

Viola Coe contributed a great deal to the Oregon woman suffrage campaign of 1912. She was one who could lead in the time of need. While leading Oregon women to success, she knew it was important to keep Abigail Scott Duniway involved for she was the foundation of the Oregon cause, and Coe made sure she conferred with her often. She also lived in an era that thrived on mass media and knew it was important to reach Oregonians through advertising leaflets, speeches and galas that promoted this cause. Her personal life showed that she was a strong woman that would not let societal norms stop her from fighting for what was right.  This showed in her persistence of organizing events for the cause and seeing this campaign through until woman suffrage was achieved in 1912.

Primary Sources:

“‘Bird House’ Retreat Charms; Rustic Spot in, Outside of City,” Oregonian, July 18, 1937, FHG: 4.

“Dr. Viola M. Coe” Oregonian, May 28, 1943, 11.

“Hospital Lease Taken: Convalescent Home Project Moves Forward.” Oregonian, December 3, 1924, 6.

“League Plans Contest,” Oregonian, March 20, 1912, 2.

“Mrs. Coe President of Suffrage League,” Pacific Evening Telegram, February 21, 1912, 2.

“Mrs. Coe Temporary Head,” Oregonian, May 15, 1912, 11.

“Mrs. Coe Will Appeal,” Oregonian, February 21, 1914, 3

“Mrs. Now Wins: Supreme Court Modifies Decree of Divorce—Property Goes to Wife,” Oregonian, January 27, 1915, 15.

“Suffragists Busy: Campaign Plans,” Oregon Journal, July 7, 1912, 7.

“Suffragists Meet in Open,” Oregonian, June 24, 1912, 16.

“Suffrage Offices Moved,” Oregonian, June 30, 1912, 12.

“Suffragists Join to Canvass State,”  Oregonian, March 03, 1912, 2:7.

“Widely-Known Medical Woman Aged 80, Dies,” Oregon Journal, May 28, 1943, 4.

Secondary Sources

Duniway, Abigail Scott. Path Breaking: An Autobiographical History of the Equal Suffrage Movement in Pacific Coast States (reprint ed.). New York: Schocken Books, 1971.

Edwards, Thomas G. Sowing Good Seeds: The Northwest Suffrage Campaigns of Susan B. Anthony. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990.

Jensen, Kimberly, “‘Neither Head nor Tail to the Campaign’: Esther Pohl Lovejoy and the Oregon Woman Suffrage Victory of 1912,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 108:3 (2007): 350-383.

About The Author

Jennifer Newby participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the History Department at Western Oregon University. Jennifer is a senior History Major with an interest in the Woman Suffrage Movement. She will graduate in spring 2011 and plans to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in Public History or Archival Science.

The Grange and Woman Suffrage in Oregon

The Order of Patrons of Husbandry, also known as the Grange, was a predominant force in the battle for woman suffrage. The Grange was always a family organization and never segregated men and women like other societies. The group was originally organized in 1867 to allow farming men and women to share thoughts and tips about agriculture. By 1873, Grange membership was extended to anyone who simply had an interest in agriculture, but the membership rules tightened in 1875 to only those who were “engaged in agricultural pursuits.” The organization later became a force in political reform.

As Donald Marti notes, the battle for suffrage was brought to the Grange at an early stage of its development, when Grange members were debating whether or not to support national woman suffrage. An official statement issued in 1874 claimed that the Granges allowed “a proper appreciation of the abilities and sphere of woman, as is indicated by admitting her to membership in our order.” It is important to notice that this is carefully worded to avoid the phrase “woman’s rights.” As Marti notes, in 1878, the California State Grange broke the national Grange silence on the issue and declared for woman suffrage, sending representatives to the state constitutional convention to lobby for the cause. Three years later, New York and Indiana State Granges followed suit, declaring for suffrage as well.

On May 17, 1912, the Oregon State Grange endorsed equal suffrage wholeheartedly, passing a resolution declaring: “Therefore, Be it Resolved, that the Oregon State Grange Association goes on record as favoring the granting of suffrage to the women of the state of Oregon and commend the same consideration of all those persons who now exercise the rights of citizenship.”

In 1915, the national Grange declared for votes for women but leaders noted that only a national suffrage movement would be successful, not state-by-state action. The action was still controversial: thirty voted for a national movement and twenty-five believed that state-by-state work was the way to go.

As an organization the Grange was not campaigning for suffrage – they left the campaigning up to individuals. However, the Grange did allow the use of the Grange Halls and time during Grange meetings for suffrage rallies or presentations by suffragists. The Milwaukie, Oregon Grange, for example, held a rally on August 17, 1912, where the members allowed Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy and Dr. Samuel Johnson to present their cases for suffrage. Because the Grange recognized women’s participation from the beginning of its organization the organization was an excellent platform for suffragists to base their arguments for state-recognized women’s rights. Many leaders of various suffrage organizations realized this, including those in Oregon.

As the 1912 election came closer, suffragists used mass media to spread awareness and ask for help for the campaign for suffrage. They circulated newspapers, pamphlets, and letters throughout the state. Newspapers such as the Oregonian began publishing more articles on the suffrage movement. The Pacific Grange Bulletin began publishing more articles as well, and leaders of various suffrage clubs and leagues, including the College Equal Suffrage League and the Men’s Equal Suffrage Club wrote letters directed to Grange members in the Pacific Grange Bulletin.

Leaders wrote these letters to garner the support of Grange members, appealing to their sense of justice. Emma Wold, president of the College Equal Suffrage League appealed to the women of the Grange in a letter to Hattie L. Vail, the editor of the “Woman’s Work” section of the Pacific Grange Bulletin. Printed in the Pacific Grange Bulletin in September of 1912, Emma Wold declared that “that is what every woman who has at heart the cause of women and children asks of every other woman – “Just get into the game.”” Wold asked that every woman not only sympathize, but also get active and start campaigning among her neighbors.

Printed next to Emma Wold’s letter was “A Letter to the Grange Sisters” from Hattie Vail. Vail emphasized that the Grange was considered “to be a potent factor in shaping the political destinies of our state, and workers for any movement that looks to the bettering of conditions have learned that the Grange and its women are not a negligeble [sic] quantity.” In other words, the people of the state had noticed that the Grange was a powerful force, and that the Grange and all its members could be a great influence. Vail asked the women of the Grange to start spreading their influence to fight the “destroying octopus” of the current government. She appealed to the women’s sense of motherly protectiveness when she said that the “Social Evil” of Portland “will reach out into every surrounding community with an ever widening circle; none of our children are safe from its degrading and damning power.” The Grange has always been a family organization, so the letters written in the Pacific Grange Bulletin were written specifically to appeal to the sense of protecting the family by allowing women to vote.

Another letter appeared in the same edition of the Pacific Grange Bulletin from a well-known activist of the time – Mr. W.M. (Pike) Davis, president of the Men’s Equal Suffrage Club. While Davis’s letter seemed to be a direct appeal to Hattie Vail to use her paper for campaigning, he also appealed to every Grange member’s sense of justice. He expressed his gratitude for the state Grange’s decision to support the suffrage movement, and flattered the Grange members with his declaration that “the Grange can always be depended upon to deal out justice,” then reminded the members that “it certainly is unjust to keep women from the right of voting.”

Other newspapers also reported the Grange’s involvement in the suffrage campaign. The Portland Evening Telegram ran a notice on August 13, 1912 promoting a suffrage meeting that was being held the following Saturday at the Milwaukie Grange. It included details on how Portland suffragists were to find the meeting hall, and gave a short description of the program for the afternoon noting that “a committee of young girl suffragists will be waiting to welcome all comers and conduct them to the Grange Hall.”

On August 18, 1912, the Oregonian ran a short article about the suffrage meeting held at the Milwaukee Grange. The meeting halls were often used for suffrage rallies, much like this meeting. Here just a few short months before the suffrage cause would be put on the Oregon ballot, Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, Dr. Samuel M. Johnson, and George C. Brownell all spoke, while the Grange lecturer, Captain J.P. Shaw, presided. Pohl Lovejoy reminded the audience that Oregon was the only state along the Pacific Coast that had not been granted suffrage, but warned the audience that using militant methods like throwing a brick would not be tolerated. British suffragists were using more militant methods to claim voting rights, and Pohl Lovejoy distanced the Oregon movement from these controversial tactics. Pohl Lovejoy also reminded the audience that it was “time for this state to take a stand with Washington and California, and even with China. She pointed out wherein women are interested in civic affairs in that they pay taxes, street improvements, and own homes.”

At the meeting Dr. Samuel M. Johnson and George C. Brownell both offered their support for equal suffrage, declaring that they had always supported giving women the ballot. George C. Brownell appealed to the female attendees’ motherly instincts, discussing the children working in factories, and the “immorality in New York and other states, which, he declared need the vote of the mothers of the land of change.”

The many suffrage meetings held at Grange Halls throughout the state, as well as the letters, pamphlets, and newspaper articles that circulated through every county led to the achievement of equal suffrage in Oregon on November 5, 1912. The Order of Patrons of Husbandry was a driving force once they declared for suffrage, and helped lead Oregon into a new chapter of its history.

Primary Sources:

“A Letter to the Grange Sisters from Hattie L. Vail,” Pacific Grange Bulletin, September 15, 1912, 204.
“Emma Wold to Mrs. Hattie Vail,” Pacific Grange Bulletin, September 15, 1912, 204.

“Equal Suffrage Fully Indorsed by State Grange,” Oregon Journal, May 18, 1912, 6.

“Oregon Urged to Act,” Oregonian, August 18, 1912, 7.

“Suffragists Meet at Milwaukie Saturday,” Portland Evening Telegram, August 13, 1912, 10.

“Viola Coe to the Members of the Oregon Grange,” Pacific Grange Bulletin, September 15, 1912, 204.

“W.M. Davis to Mrs. Hattie Vail,” Pacific Grange Bulletin, September 15, 1912, 204.

Secondary Sources

Finnegan, Margaret Mary. Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture and Votes for Women. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Jensen, Kimberly. “‘Neither Head nor Tail to the Campaign’: Esther Pohl Lovejoy and the Oregon Woman Suffrage Victory of 1912.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 108:3 (Fall 2007): 350-383.

Jensen, Kimberly. “Woman Suffrage in Oregon.” Oregon Encyclopedia

Marti, Donald B. Women of the Grange: Mutuality and Sisterhood in Rural America, 1866-1920. New York: Greenwood, 1991.

Mead, Rebecca J. How the Vote Was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States, 1868-1914. New York: New York University Press, 2004.

About The Author

Heidi Ramp participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Spring 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program at Western Oregon University. Heidi is working on a double degree with majors in Spanish and Linguistics and a minor in Literature. Her interests are reading as many books as possible, working with the National Society of Leadership and Success, and volunteering around the community while working part-time at The Corvallis Clinic.

Mass Advertising and Popular Culture: Laying the Foundation for the Win of 1912

Oregon suffragists had high hopes as they began preparation for the 1912 election. After many defeats and with the issue of “local grievance” – the fact that Oregon was now surrounded by equal suffrage states – the suffragists of Oregon knew it was most important to get the bill passed once and for all in 1912. Oregon activists helped to pioneer new campaign strategies using popular culture and mass advertising in this successful campaign, strategies that other suffragists would adopt in the final push for voting rights in the twentieth century.

In the past, quietly moving behind the scenes to sway prominent citizens in favor of woman suffrage had proved swift and feasible, such as in the state of Utah in 1896. This in-the-background work was meant to keep the bill from being noticed by the public and particularly by opponents so that it would be easier to pass. Many of the initial Oregon leaders, most especially Abigail Scott Duniway, believed that this “still hunt” method would prove just as viable in their own state, but after the first few tries it was evident a new tactic was needed. With the turn of the century and rise of a new generation came the advent of modern mass advertising. Advertisements were seen in newspapers and in movie and opera houses. Activists began “selling suffrage,” as Margaret Finnegan terms it, to reach every citizen with suffrage literature and ideas.

Duniway’s ‘still hunt’ method was a strategy of the past. The successful Washington and California campaigns in 1910 and 1911 respectively showed how effective mass campaigning through popular culture could be. Duniway was ill for most of the campaign, making it easier for other leaders to use new methods. And as dozens of new suffrage leagues organized they did not leave any appealing method of “selling suffrage” behind – be it buttons, flyers, literature, signs, speakers, parades, plays, or luncheons.

Workers from the many suffrage organizations in 1912 made use of advertisements and culture in a vast assortment of ways. Suffragists dropped flyers from tops of Portland buildings like confetti, such as the festive green flyers for St. Patrick’s Day of 1912, bearing Irish quotes and holiday symbols. Workers distributed buttons and pennants to schools and throughout the countryside. A reporter commented that “the demand for equal suffrage literature, buttons, and pennants is particularly great among the schools about Portland and the state.” With the new technique of mass advertising, all ages were getting interested and involved. All over Oregon suffrage workers were getting the word out with advertisements under the precise organization of the central committee, and the tactic was working – so well, in fact, that requests for speakers began to become difficult to fill as the summer of 1912 approached. Not only were speaking events desired across the state, but anywhere a suffrage speaker popped up, a parade tended to follow, planned or not.

To meet a suddenly immense demand, the campaign committee of the Portland Woman’s Club ordered yellow and black “votes for women” buttons by the thousands. Workers plastered literature, posters, and placards across the cities and countryside. One Oregonian article proclaimed “Literature Sent Out During Campaign to Every County, Town, and Hamlet” in a subheading. Reaching every part of the state was important in the new technique of mass advertising – activists were aiming to inform all citizens.

Earlier in the year of 1912, these advertisements were to herald the coming of “Suffrage Day” to many country towns of Oregon. At the first meeting of the central campaign committee, it was recorded that “another plan outlined yesterday was for carrying the fight into the country towns of the state in an aggressive and impressive manner.” Special trains were chartered for the events, carrying prominent speakers from all over the nation and a band with singers. These momentous occasions would be topped off with a grand parade with suffrage memorabilia everywhere to be seen. The suffrage trains did not exclude smaller towns, either. In those places Suffrage Day was designed to be a large community picnic for the countrymen. Dainty snacks were to be provided to the country travelers at all of these events. After all, as one Oregonian reporter pointed out, suffragists were following the idea that “the way to reach a man is through his stomach.” This attention to the countrymen was a big change from the still hunt method of past generations. In 1912, much like the very right activists were fighting for, all people were important, not just the prominent.

Suffrage activists also used the new technology of the automobile, not a common sight in 1912, as a means of transporting literature. This new technique was known as the “flying squadron.” As Margaret Finnegan explains, in many areas, cars of suffrage activists were a form of mass public entertainment, attracting the attention of the whole town or village, and perhaps turning into a parade. Suffragists in cars did more than distribute literature through a designated region. The riders would also form new organizations and rejuvenate inactive ones in the area. Sarah Graham notes that sometimes, like in the case of the trains, word would be sent ahead, rallying groups together in the region to get the communities fired up over the vote before activists arrived.

In October of 1912, seven Oregon suffrage activists formed a “flying squadron.” Esther Pohl Lovejoy, George A. Lovejoy, Florence and Frances Dayton, Mrs. Amanda Oatfield and Miss Oatfield and Helen Gillespie made a seventy mile circle outside of Portland for the cause. They went through Milwaukie and Estacada, where it was noted that “signboards, crossroads stores and private mail boxes along the rural routes blossom with a burden of suffrage literature.” The tour group planned to make another trip through Oregon City and continue until all territory directly bordering Portland had been enclosed.

As Portland was the main headquarters of suffrage organization in Oregon, it is no surprise that activists used the Portland Rose Festival to further the fight. The Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association entered a float in the grand parade, while the suffrage campaign committee of the Portland Woman’s Club developed another way to attract attention during the festival week. They used a truck to dispense lunch and snacks as a fundraiser for the expenses of the campaign. After much preparation work in the mornings at the Women of Woodcraft kitchen, workers stationed the feed truck in downtown Portland in the business district each day of the Rose Festival.

Mass advertising played a major part in the final achievement of Oregon woman suffrage in 1912. New popular culture such as automobiles, movies and plays made spreading the word to all Oregonians feasible and enjoyable at the same time. Workers sent suffrage literature and advertisements across the state, and parades or picnics followed, making it virtually impossible for an individual not to hear of the movement. It is due to this out-in-the-open, obvious method that women can now call Oregon a state of their own.


Primary Sources:

“Green Paper Storm Work of Suffragists: Passersby, Deluged, Look Aloft and See Big ‘Votes for Women’ Sign,” Portland Evening Telegram, March 16, 1912, 11.

“State Placarded by Suffragists: Literature Sent Out During Campaign to Every County, Town and Hamlet,” Oregonian, April 3, 1912, 9.

“Suffragists Join to Canvass State: Five Portland Organizations Form Central Committee to Manage Campaign,” Oregonian, March 3, 1912, 2:7.

“Suffragists to Send Out ‘Lunch Truck,’” Oregon Journal, June 10, 1912, 9.

“Women Workers on Tour: ‘Flying Squadron’ of Suffragists Cover Country With Literature,” Oregonian, October 20, 1912, 13.

Secondary Sources

Finnegan, Margaret. Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture & Votes for Women. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Graham, Sarah Hunter. Woman Suffrage and the New Democracy. New York: Yale University Press, 1996.

Mead, Rebecca J. How the Vote was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States, 1868-1914. New York: New York University Press, 2004.

About The Author

Ariel Setniker participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program at Western Oregon University. Ariel is a Mathematics major with interests in volunteer work in her spare time and coaching high school cheerleading.

Together We Stand, Divided We Fall: Committee Disagreement in the Oregon 1912 Campaign

American history has many examples of associations attempting to work together towards a common goal. Associations are what holds the United States together because although the United States is a nation of free men and women it takes unity to accomplish great deeds. Alexis de Tocqueville, upon visiting America in 1831, stated in Democracy in America that unless the United States citizens learned to help one another through the formation of associations then those citizens would become powerless. The men and women fighting for woman suffrage in Oregon knew this fact all too well by the end of the numerous campaigns. They created many associations, committees, and organizations designed for the sole purpose of increasing their chances of success. However, when many passionate individuals join together for a common purpose there will be disagreements and power struggles and, woman suffrage organizations were no exception.

The 1912 woman suffrage campaign was not the first attempt at passing a bill to allow women the right to vote in Oregon. Abigail Scott Duniway, along with her supporters, had championed the cause of woman suffrage in the Northwest for many years before the 1912 campaign gathered the attention of other organizations. Duniway’s leadership was based around the idea of a campaign based outside of the public’s attention, what she called the “still hunt”. Duniway believed a slow and steady campaign would undoubtedly have more success than a campaign designed around mass advertising and coalition building. Duniway’s tactics were based on past success in other campaigns; however, there was growing resentment for her leadership style among other organization leaders in the woman suffrage campaign. Duniway was ill during the 1912 campaign and this created a power vacuum in the suffrage community.

Duniway’s illness allowed other organizations to take on a larger role when it came to the suffrage campaign in 1912. In “Neither Head nor Tail to the Campaign” Kimberly Jensen described the idea suffrage supporters created coalitions and associations between organizations were created and used mass advertising to ensure suffrage would have a vibrant voice. Rebecca Mead, in her work How the Vote Was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United State 1868 – 1914 states that in the failed campaigns before 1912 “Duniway and her allies dominated the state association, no conventions were held, and frustrations mounted.” Duniway resisted change and believed that her campaign techniques and experience provided a better weapon in the fight for suffrage than the new ideas of next-generation suffrage leaders. After the close loss in 1906 Duniway tightened her grip on her organization and refused aid from outside sources. All of this resistance stymied the suffrage effort until she became ill and new techniques were allowed to come to the forefront of the battle. These power struggles led to some heated disagreements between suffrage organizations. 

The start of one particular disagreement came when many different Portland-based suffrage groups came together to form the Equal Suffrage Advisory Committee that March. The Oregon Journal article titled “Suffragists Will Work in Harmony” reported on March 3, 1912 that the committee was to be chaired by W. M. Davis and three members from each organization would sit on the committee as representatives. Jensen notes that W. M. “Pike” Davis was president of the Men’s Equal Suffrage Club and he advised many of the various suffrage organizations on legal matters. The groups that made up the Equal Suffrage Advisory Committee continued on with their normal, and separate, activities but also began to work together for the common goal of suffrage through the committee itself. An Oregonian article, “Suffrage Women Clash” reported that the disagreement about the committee formation began when Dr. Marie D. Equi objected because she believed that the call to form the committee should have come from Abigail Scott Duniway, the leader of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association.
This was the beginning of the disagreements that stemmed from the formation of the Equal Suffrage Advisory Committee. An article entitled “Suffrage Leaders’ Session Stormy” in the Oregonian alluded to the fact that there were those among the committees that believed this was an attempt to remove Duniway from the decision process, Dr. Marie D. Equi and Viola Coe chief amongst them. This idea was strengthened by the fact that Duniway was ill and absent during the decisions that led to the committees formation. Duniway stated from her home on multiple occasions that she was actively directing the campaign and the state central committee. Duniway formed a “central committee” following the formation of the advisory committee. As described in an Oregonian article, “Suffrage Leaders’ Session Stormy,” Duniway selected members for positions on the central committee. Many believed that this central committee was illegal as its appointment was after the main session of the meeting had been adjourned. The creation of two separate committees around the same time with basically the same goal resulted in a great deal of tension between suffrage leaders and organizations.

One of the major problems associated with disagreements among group members is that it spawns more and more dissension. Conflicts also draw attention to the animosity within the organizations and the goals of the organizations can slip by unnoticed. This type of attention is exactly the type that the woman’s suffrage organizations wished to avoid. They could not appear weak or fractured because the media would take that story and run with it. Also, the voting citizens were unlikely to support or vote for a cause that could not even find agreement within itself.

Duniway believed that only she could guide the woman suffrage cause to success. G. Thomas Edwards, in Sowing Good Seeds states that “she predicted to an old suffrage ally that [in the 1906 campaign] there was little chance for victory because the campaign’s leadership…”  However, in 1912 a collaboration of woman’s suffrage organizations held the possibility of finally achieving the vote for women in Oregon, but the infighting of the organizations threatened to smother their cause.

The media became a major concern for the suffrage organizations because they wished to hide any conflict from outside audiences. This concern shows up in a newspaper article titled “Suffrage Row is Denied” that appeared March 10, 1912 in the Oregonian: “Equal suffrage leaders hastened to explain that there was no dissension within the suffrage ranks.” Leaders of suffrage organizations banded together to create the Suffrage Advisory Committee, which included these five groups as the core: the Portland Woman’s Club Campaign Committee (PWCCC), Portland Equal Suffrage League (PESL), College Equal Suffrage League Portland Branch (CESL), Men’s Equal Suffrage Club, and the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association (OSESA). These leaders, and others, realized that if the infighting leaked to the press then they would have a more difficult time rallying supporters to their cause. Some of the meetings were even held behind closed doors for fear the news and media would spin a tale of conflict between the organizations.

All the closed-door meetings and testimonials stating that everything was jovial between the suffrage organizations conflicted heavily with the story the newspapers of the period were telling. In truth it seems that two separate committees were created in opposition to one another. The first committee, the Advisory Committee, was created by the organization’s collaborative planning, while the second committee, the Central Committee, was created by Duniway and her supporters who hoped to control the suffrage campaign. Workers told newspaper reporters that they were not wanted at the meeting where the different committees and organizations were being discussed. Therefore the papers were forced to rely on rumor and hearsay in order to complete an unfinished puzzle of what went on behind closed doors.

Even though the organizations that created the Advisory Committee claimed that no animosity existed between the five principle groups involved, newspaper accounts weave a different tapestry. After two weeks of existence the Advisory Committee was all but dissolved after the withdrawal of the Portland Woman’s Club from the committee; since Duniway’s Equal Suffrage Association and the College Equal Suffrage Association refused to actively participate and advance the newly formed Advisory Committee that left the committee members representing only two of the many prominent suffrage organizations. There was a power struggle between Duniway and the new-generation suffragists that hoped to direct suffrage activism. In the end the Central Committee became the voice for state suffrage and the Advisory Committee seemed nothing but a short lived idea.

The Advisory Committee and the Central Committee seemed to come into existence as a means to control the suffrage campaign in Oregon. These committees, basically serving the same purpose, caused animosity and distrust between suffrage leaders and groups that could have lead the suffrage cause down the road of failure yet again. However, as the newspapers point out, the Advisory Committee was disbanded and Duniway’s Central Committee retained its position. Other groups eventually joined the Central Committee, directed by Viola Coe during Duniway’s illness.

Suffrage organizations had their disagreements and, at times, the disagreements proved embarrassing for the cause. But coalitions and new ideas proved the tipping point for the campaign in 1912. Although many of the suffrage organizations had tension and sometimes even heated rivalries they were all still fighting for the same basic right for women to be empowered by the vote.


Primary Sources:

“Early Death Fate of Suffrage Body,” Oregonian, March 17, 1912, 12.

“Mrs. Duniway is Ill,” Oregonian, March 10, 1912, 4.

“Suffrage Leaders’ Session Stormy,” Oregonian, March 9, 1912, 4.

“Suffrage League Grows,” Oregonian, May 30, 1912, 9.

“Suffragists Name Central Committees,” Oregon Journal, March 9, 1912, 2.

“Suffrage Row is Denied,” Oregonian, March 10, 1912, 4.
“Suffragists Will Work in Harmony,” Oregon Journal, March 3, 1912, 5.

“Suffrage Women Clash,” Oregonian, March 6, 1912, 4.

Secondary Sources

Edwards, G. Thomas. Sowing Good Seeds: The Northwest Suffrage Campaigns of Susan B. Anthony. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990.

Jensen, Kimberly. “Neither Head no Tail to the Campaign.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 108 no. 3, (2007): 350-383.

Mead, Rebecca J. How the Vote Was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States 1868-1914. New York and London: New York University Press, 2004. 

Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. 2nd ed. New York: Signet Classic New American Library, 2001.

About The Author

Brandon Gould participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program at Western Oregon University. Brandon is a major in Criminal Justice with a minor in Psychology. Brandon is interested in scuba diving, mountain biking, and hiking along with many outdoor activities. Brandon will graduate from Western Oregon University in March 2011 and he will be pursuing a career in law enforcement.

The Anti-Suffrage Movement in Oregon in 1912

With the muted sounds of spring outside the window of the Multnomah Hotel, 40 women led by Mrs. Francis J. Bailey set out to plan their campaign, March 16, 1912. The Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of the Suffrage analyzed their expenses, allowances, and stratagem while relishing their continued trend of success. The question of suffrage, alive in Oregon for over thirty years, was met with constant opposition—voting trends had clearly been moving away from equal suffrage. After tea service and prior to an adjournment of the meeting, members were called to arms. Leaders asked association members to pursue enrollment among friends and family. The campaign against suffrage seemed hardly reactionary in these terms, presenting itself in its fullest composure.

In less than one year these 40 women, and many more, would be dissatisfied with the final tally of the vote on Oregon’s equal suffrage amendment. With a margin of only 4,161 votes Oregon became the final state on the West coast to extend the vote to its female citizens. Suffragists in the state had finally succeeded in persuading the male voting population that women, too, ought to be represented by the government.

Too frequently the struggle, the protest and the politics of woman suffrage appears as two sides of a coin. Suffragists are remembered nobly for their struggle toward civil rights, opposed by the “antis.” Reactionary, stubborn and stuffy, the anti-suffrage movement has fallen into ill repute. Within this structure it is all too easy to ignore the individual men and women who protested the extension of the ballot. Without proper understanding of the ideals of these individuals, their argumentative techniques and the campaign strategies they employed in their resistance to equal suffrage, a portrait of the suffrage movement remains one-dimensional.

Among the tea services, pamphleteering, and open debates, the character of the anti-suffragist can seem foreign. The refusal to grant a political voice to half of the population of the state appears unwarranted on any grounds. The “anti” position seems a contradiction. Manuela Thurner outlines common stereotypes attributed to “anti” women, including “‘A little band of rich, ultra society women,’ ‘the candied fruit of a generation characterized by “frenzied finance,”’ ‘butterflies of fashion [who] move in a limited though unimpeachable circle.’”

Behind these generalizations, however, one discovers some strategic concerns. Many opponents perceived the vote as part of the dishonest world of political lobbying, pork barrel legislation, and back room dealings. This seemed contrary to what some considered the spiritual nature of woman, her pure and genuine nature.

Anti-suffragists adopted several argumentative tactics throughout their long battle against the equal suffrage movement. They used religious arguments as one strategy. Writing in 1894, from the political contest held in New York State, members of the anti-suffrage movement appealed to divine law, stating, “The Creator made man and women to govern, but in totally different spheres…woman has her equally important…empire in which she is to rule—by persuasion, by captivities [sic] of love, by force of character…” This appeal reinforced the traditional roles of femininity. The argumentative technique captured key religious voters for the anti-suffrage cause and proposed equality under the eyes of God as a substitute for political equality.

The anti-suffrage movement, and the arguments of that movement, are too often viewed as the products of masculinity. As Susan Marshall notes in her work, Splintered Sisterhood, this is in fact quite ironic. “The stereotype of antisuffragists as a group of sheltered women bound to antiquated gender norms has deflected attention away from women’s activism in favor of the male opposition, paradoxically denying agency to female remonstrants.” That the anti-suffragist woman would be denied ‘agency’ in the historic account of her own opposition to enfranchisement is painfully incongruent.

Nationally, the trend in the anti-suffrage camp was to engage in “quiet protest.” This tactic aligned well with the opinion of politics voiced by ”antis.” To engage in an all-out campaign would be to equally submerge their protest in the “filthy realm” of politics. The progressive approach of the suffragists, including victories in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho necessitated an “anti” response. 
Writing after the outcome of the Oregon election, Mary Ella Swift summarized a common position held by antis in other states, “For me, the vital argument against suffrage for women is that it would hamper them in their more effective work in social and political lines.” Resisting the urge to draw large scale publicity to their cause, and operating under the assumption that “the people who do not want women to vote are not the kind who got out and [shouted] and [that] they will take care of us in the next election as they have in the past,” the Oregon anti-suffrage movement clearly embodied the claim made by Swift. They distributed pamphlets, and organized lecture tours but restricted their campaign. Though suffragists called for debates , the “antis” did not agree to hold them. One such call for debate was brought forth by W.M. Davis, president of the Men’s Equal Suffrage Club. Wallace McCamant rejected the request with simplicity, “I will pay no attention to the challenge of Mr. Davis.” The anti-suffragists entered the campaign having successfully defeated the extension of the ballot for the past 30 years. No extravaganzas seemed necessary: those who had voted against suffrage would do the same yet again. It seems probable, however that the “antis” had begun to realize the instability of their position when brought to open debate.

The failure of the anti-suffrage campaign seems inevitable in retrospect. While having publicly endorsed the methods of a quiet and patient resistance, “antis” did take action. By doing this the anti-suffragists entered the “filthy” domain of politics against their own arguments. Often, their opponents used this against them. Colonel Robert A. Miller, a suffrage supporter, noted that “women [can] not be soiled by plunging into the pool of politics…” and that in fact, “…the feminine opponents of equal suffrage, by their activity in the…campaign, had either refuted their own logic or else had already suffered the taint that they asserted would ensue in case the amendment carried.”

By the fall of 1912, the anti-suffragist camp felt certain of their forthcoming victory. Speaking of their previous margin of success, Mrs. Francis J. Bailey commented “I still feel that 23,000 men are not going to desert us in two years…I feel very confident that the ballot is not going to be thrust upon us at this time.” When the polls closed, however, enough men had been convinced for the measure to pass.

The individuals who had met earlier that year in the rooms of the Multnomah Hotel had lost the long running battle against suffrage. Though each member must have had their own reason to take up the opposition, the collective efforts of the anti-suffrage movement contained too many contrary techniques. But without understanding these individuals and their arguments, our analysis of suffrage history is single-sided.

Primary Sources:

“Anti-Suffragists Meet.” Oregonian, March 16, 1912, 11.

“Anti-Suffragists Meet.” Oregonian, April 13, 1912, 11.

“Anti-Suffragists Not to Accept Challenge.” Portland Evening Telegram, April 13, 1912, 16.

“Boys Like ‘Suffrage.’” Oregonian, April 24, 1912, 15.

“McCamant Stirs Suffragists’ Ire.” Oregonian, March 18, 1912, 18.

Oregon Secretary of State. Voter’s Pamphlet, General Election, November 1912. Salem, Oregon State Printer 1912 .

“Society Folk Hear Anti Vote Speech.” Oregonian, May 4, 1912, 12.

“Suffrage is Debated.” Oregonian, October 26, 1912, 4.

“Will the 23000 Majority.” Oregon Journal, November 5, 1912, 12.

Secondary Sources

Harper, Ida Husted. History of Woman Suffrage. New York, NY: Arno & The New York Times, 1969

Thurner, Manuela. “Better Citizens Without the Ballot.” One Woman One Vote. 203 - 221 Edited by Marjorie Spruill Wheeler. Troutdale, OR: NewSage Press, 1995.

Women’s Anti-Suffrage Association Pamphlets of the Third Judicial District of the State of New York. Littleton, CO: Fred B. Rothman & Co, 1990.

About The Author

Christopher McFetridge is an undergraduate at Western Oregon University majoring in Philosophy. He enjoys listening to, recording, and performing music and owns a small Salem based record label.

The Men’s Equal Suffrage Club of Multnomah County in 1912

The Men’s Equal Suffrage Club of Multnomah County was one of the many coalitions formed in favor of woman suffrage in Oregon that helped lead the campaign to victory in 1912. It was founded on January 3, 1912 by club president and former deputy city attorney William “Pike” Davis. Most of the members of the Men’s Equal Suffrage Club were influential men, with approximately 59 percent of the identified members as lawyers, many of whom were politically active.

There were some few other Men’s Equal Suffrage clubs in other states and nationally. According to History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920, among the states with men’s clubs were: New York, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Nevada. The clubs in Nevada and Nebraska were in part organized in an effort to retaliate against anti-suffrage groups. Overall, most information to be gleaned on Men’s Equal Suffrage clubs is mere mentions of their existence.

According to Sarah Hunter Graham, author of Woman Suffrage and the New Democracy, “more often than not, the male clubs seemed to exist solely for the purpose of prosuffrage publicity and occasional financial support rather than to actively engage in the battle for the ballot. Most men’s groups did not hold formal meetings beyond the initial organizational rally, and although their members were often listed as active supporters in suffrage propaganda, they took little part in the day-to-day campaign for the vote.” While this may be true of men’s clubs in other states, Oregon’s men’s club was active in campaigning and aided the 1912 campaign in its success.

W.M. “Pike” Davis was the originator of the movement for foundation of a men’s equal suffrage club. According to a January 4, 1912 Oregonian article, in organizing the club, he wanted to found “what might become the nucleus for clubs of men throughout the state to work actively for the passage of the woman suffrage amendment at the next election.” He was elected president of the club at a meeting on January 12, 1912. Davis also served as legal adviser for other suffrage organizations throughout Oregon. According to Kimberly Jensen’s article, “Neither Head nor Tail to the Campaign,” in June 1912, in the middle of the campaign, Davis married Etta M. Blatchley and admitted “that he probably would never have gotten married if he hadn’t become a convert to women’s suffrage.”

Though the first meeting of the Men’s Equal Suffrage Club was held on January 3, the club was not permanently organized with a full set of officers and a constitution and by-laws until a later meeting on January 12. According to a January 4 Oregonian article, both men and women attended this. Abigail Scott Duniway was there and claimed, “this is the first meeting of its kind that has ever been held in this country. We are inaugurating a movement that I hope will spread throughout the United States—the organization of men, who have a vote, for the systematic work to secure a vote for women, who do not have it.” There were so many speakers at the meeting that Davis announced that the organization of the club would wait until a meeting the following week so that the rest of the evening could be devoted to discussion.

The details of the January 12 meeting were outlined in an Oregonian article the next day: Davis was elected president of the club. The other elected officers were: vice president, Judge John P. Kavanaugh; secretary, Attorney Arthur Langguth; treasurer, W.D. Cridge; and directors, Robert A. Miller, W.H. Fear and Richard Deich. The club adopted its constitution and by-laws. It was decided that meetings would be held monthly, and membership was open to voters at the next election. Women were not allowed to join, since there were other organizations open for them. At the meeting, club vice president Judge Kavanaugh spoke about his recent travels through Washington and California, both of which had already adopted woman suffrage. “Our state should have been the first to adopt it,” he said. “Woman suffrage is one of the most advanced steps in true democracy…It has been said that politics would draw the woman down. This is an unfair statement. The result will be that woman will elevate politics. Woman will force better men and better issues.”

W.M. Davis did not dally after the club was organized – he went straight to work. According to a January 17 Oregonian article, he was invited to speak at a convention of the State Federation of Labor at The Dalles on January 15, 1912. There, he presented resolutions favoring woman suffrage. The resolutions were unanimously passed, meaning that the State Federation of Labor in Oregon would recommend and endorse the campaign, and that every member would “use their utmost efforts and vote for said initiative ballot at the next election to be held in November.”

It was no secret that much of the membership in the Men’s Equal Suffrage Club could be attributed to political interests. After all, once women could vote, they would be more likely to vote for the men who supported their suffrage cause. According to a March 18 Oregon Journal article, W.M. Davis stated in a speech at a club meeting on March 16, “This coming election I have no doubt that the suffrage amendment will carry, as you can always trust to the politicians who have their ear to the ground ready to seize on any popular movement to further their causes, and you will notice that they are as hearty in the support of this measure as they were in the support of the initiative and referendum in 1902.”

However, club members were careful to show that supporting woman suffrage was the right thing to do. The Oregonian reported that at the January 12 meeting, “C.M. Mullen cautioned the club against nominating men who would be candidates for office, saying that the voters at large would say the move was one to advance the candidate’s election.” The Oregon Journal reported on a street meeting on October 7, where John Stevenson spoke, but first called to attention that he was not running for any office, “and that he advocates equal suffrage on the strength of his convictions that it is right. There is no good reason, Mr. Stevenson said, ‘why women should not vote.’”

The Men’s Equal Suffrage Club of Multnomah County was not merely a publicity stunt as Sarah Hunter Graham suggests. Since the inception of the club until the success of the campaign, W.M. Davis and the other members held monthly meetings. We know from news articles that W.M. Davis gained support from the State Federation of Labor, and later in the campaign the club held additional public meetings in parks and in the streets in August and October. While it is impossible to say just how much of an impact the Men’s Equal Suffrage Club had on the campaign, it is fair to assume that the club was an active and effective element of the overall campaign and its participation helped lead to the ultimate victory of woman suffrage in Oregon. It also seems that the Men’s Equal Suffrage Club was more actively involved in the campaign for woman suffrage than most men’s clubs across the country. This could be in part due to W.M. Davis’s strong leadership and dedication to the cause.

Primary Sources:

“Equal Suffrage Club Organized; Davis President,” Oregonian, January 13, 1912, 16.

“Equal Suffrage Workers Speak,” Oregon Journal, October 7, 1912, 11.

“Men Align for Women,” Oregonian, January 9, 1912, 12.

“Men Meet to Urge Woman Suffrage,” Oregonian, January 4, 1912, 14.

“Men to Aid Suffrage,” Oregonian, August 29, 1912, 18.

“Suffrage Cause is Espoused by Men,” Oregon Journal, March 18, 1912, 18.

“Woman’s Suffrage Approved,” Oregonian, January 17, 1912, 7.

Secondary Sources

Graham, Sarah Hunter. Woman Suffrage and the New Democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922.

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 (Fall 2007): 350-383.

About The Author

Melissa Wiener is a junior at Western Oregon University.

Portland Equal Suffrage League and the Council of Jewish Women in the 1912 Woman Suffrage Campaign

The woman suffrage movement in Oregon owes much of its success to the numerous organizations dedicated to supporting votes for women in Portland. Organizations such as the Portland Equal Suffrage League, headed by Josephine Hirsch, were involved in fighting for women’s rights. These organizations were headed by strong women who were committed to fighting for rights that they wanted for themselves and for all women. Ida Loewenberg, another woman leader, was involved in the Portland Chapter of the Council of Jewish Women, another organization that contributed greatly to winning more rights for women.

In “Neither Head Nor Tail to the Campaign,” Kimberly Jensen summarizes some of the accomplishments of Josephine Hirsch, who was the president of the Portland Equal Suffrage League (PESL) and also chaired the Portland Chapter of the Council of Jewish Women. Her husband Solomon Hirsch was a founder of Fleishner, Mayer and Co, the largest wholesale dry goods store on the Pacific Coast. Along with Josephine’s father, Jacob Mayer, Solomon was one of the leaders of Portland’s early Jewish community. As Steven Lowenstein notes, by marrying Solomon, Josephine was attaching herself to the family business, a common practice in the Portland Jewish community. Josephine’s suffrage efforts were so extensive that she even targeted many anti-suffrage women and was able to effectively sway them from their former beliefs and onto her side. In Sarah Evans’s chapter in The History of Woman Suffrage, she wrote that Josephine was “one of the most liberal financial supporters of the campaign, went directly into the camp of the enemy and organized a group of society women in the Portland Equal Suffrage League. She also made large donations to Neighborhood House, an organization formed by the Council of Jewish Women, that aimed to educate the community, in part allowing it do accomplish as much as it did.

The Portland Equal Suffrage League worked with many other suffrage organizations in Portland to promote votes for women. Women in the PESL organized many meetings and speeches designed to attract more people to the cause. They had prominent speakers at their meetings to help to attract more attention to the organization, to make them seem more important, and to help attract and motivate members. Large numbers of society women attended the PESL meetings regularly and helped to gain more power for the cause.

One such meeting was featured in the Oregon Journal on January 12, 1912. This meeting, which took place at Josephine Hirsch’s home, was remarkable because it featured the presence of J. Forbes-Robertson, an English actor of the time. The article in the Journal focused on his opinion that votes for women would soon be a reality in Oregon. The article also reported that this meeting attracted many new members. The presence of a notable actor may have attracted more members, and by this time suffrage had probably become a more acceptable cause to support, meaning that more people would be willing to join. Forbes-Robertson spoke on the cruel treatment of women who stood up for suffrage, and explained that some men are against suffrage because “they are frightened at their wives. They are afraid to give their wives equal privileges with themselves.”

An article in the Portland Evening Telegram on February 7, 1912 discussed another meeting of the PESL. At this meeting, Mrs. Helen H. Greeley spoke to the league and asserted that Theodore Roosevelt’s statements had made it seem as if the women leaders of the movement were not serious about suffrage. She also spoke about how essential it is that women realize what rights they should be allowed in politics. The article explained that “although it is one of the youngest leagues to be formed, the Portland Woman’s Suffrage League is destined to be one of the large leagues in the state and doubtless will wield an important influence…” There was another article on the same topic in the Oregonian on the same date. (OR February 7, 1912) It reported that over 200 people attended the meeting at the home of Mrs. J. G. Gauld in order to hear Mrs. Helen Hoy Greeley talk about how Roosevelt’s writing was “sloppy.” Another speaker, Miss Whitney, spoke about how woman suffrage was something that was happening all over the world and that women everywhere should have the right. “The ballot,” she said, “is a silent expression of opinion on a stated question on a certain day. Who will tell me that a silent expression of opinion is unwomanly?” Anita Whitney of San Francisco and Reed College president William Foster were other speakers at the meeting.

Another organization that aimed to educate people about their rights in the world was the Neighborhood House. As Lowenstein notes, Neighborhood House, founded by the Portland Chapter of the Council of Jewish Women, was the most important social institution to Jewish Portlanders. It was the origin of so many community activities such as clubs, health services, bible classes and schools, including the Hebrew School and the Sewing School. There was also a cooking class, the Well Baby Clinic, Citizenship Class, and kindergarten classes, among others. Most of the classes were run by volunteers and were attended by many Jewish people, though anyone was welcome to attend. Funds were always difficult to come by, and so many fundraisers were held to benefit the Neighborhood House. Not only was this a place to make Jewish people feel welcome; the goal was to discriminate against no one. Racism against the Jewish people was not uncommon in Portland and the House worked towards ending all discrimination. Though the House was not one of the places where the fight for woman suffrage begun, it was a place where people tried to make everyone have an equal chance in life, through many varieties of education.

Ida Loewenberg was a driving force in the Portland Jewish community. She was one of the founders of the Portland Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women and also helped to found Neighborhood House, where she was the executive director for 33 years. She helped to expand the efforts of the House to include many different programs. Within Neighborhood House she helped work on many projects, including Neighborhood House’s newspaper, the Neighborhood, where she was editor-in chief.

Steven Lowenstein provides much information on the Portland Chapter of the Council of Jewish Women. The council was founded in order to obtain more power for the Jewish women. In the beginning, the council aimed to educate people about Jewish history and culture. With the rising number of immigrants coming to Portland, members increased their efforts to provide welcome and education. The council founded the Neighborhood House, a more official and organized way to dispense free education. The council started up many schools, the first major one being the Sewing School, in 1897. Neighborhood House formed an official board of directors in 1902 and the first actual Neighborhood House was built in 1905.

As for suffrage, the council was not particularly helpful at first, declining to become involved during the state election of 1912. The council decided it wasn’t a good idea to endorse the cause because they didn’t want to seem too political, for fear of straying from their original, philanthropic goals. However, after suffrage was accepted in Oregon, the council did what it could to help further progress in that direction. The council also fought for many other women’s rights such as raising the salaries and improving working conditions for women.

One of the meetings of the council was featured in the Oregonian on October 3, 1912. Held in the Selling-Hirsch building, this meeting was focused on a fundraising event in the form of an art exhibit which was being held in order to benefit Neighborhood House. Dr. Jonah B. Wise, a rabbi who was an influential member of the Jewish society in Portland, was also there to speak to the women. He was involved in various efforts to help Neighborhood House along with his friends and family. Mrs. Isaac Swett summed up the accomplishments of the past year and Miss Wold also spoke about suffrage.

The strength and cohesion of the Jewish community helped a lot to make progress towards the acceptance of woman suffrage. Josephine Hirsch contributed much to the campaign through her hard work and the way that she was an inspiration to other women. The organizations working towards suffrage and other equal rights causes were so effective because of the tight-knit community and the women who were so dedicated to seeing the cause through. The exceptional motivation of a few women attracted so many more women and helped to hold everyone together. As the different organizations worked together, they made the campaign even stronger by trying to draw together as many people as possible.


Primary Sources:

“Jewish Council Meets,” Oregonian, October 3, 1912, 14.

“Roosevelt Made Fun of by Women,” Oregonian, February 7, 1912, 4.

“Suffrage Certain to Come Verdict of English Actor,” Oregon Journal, January 12, 1912. 10.

“Suffragist Declares T.R. is Halfhearted,” Portland Evening Telegram, February 7, 1912, 2.

Secondary Sources

Harper, Ida Husted, History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6 1900-1920. New York: Arno and The New York Times, 1969.

Jensen, Kimberly, “Neither Head Nor Tail to the Campaign” Oregon Historical Quarterly 108 no. 3 (Fall 2007): 350-383.

Lowenstein, Steven. The Jews of Oregon. Portland: Jewish Historical Society of Oregon, 1987.

About The Author

Marina Jaschek participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Spring 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program [History Department] at Western Oregon University. Marina is a Sociology Major.

Actors and Theater: Bringing Performance to the Political Scene in Portland in 1912

Workers for woman suffrage in Oregon fought from 1870 to 1912 to achieve the vote and used many different tactics to do so. One of these tactics was, as Margaret Finnegan suggests, the use of consumer culture. The second generation of suffragists used mass culture in 1900-1912 and this helped in the final push for woman suffrage in Oregon as noted by Kimberly Jensen. Theatrical productions, among other approaches, helped appeal to a new audience of consumers, both men and women. These women also agreed that consumer culture helped women work toward their ultimate goal of influencing public opinion on woman suffrage. While methods used by earlier suffragists were meant to attain the same goal, the new methods of consumer culture gave another dimension to the political sphere and ideology. Mass media was used as an instrument in distinguishing themselves in the world and what their needs were.

Glenna Smith Tinnin was a drama instructor, interpreter of dramatic and lyric poetry, and playwright among other things. She believed that theater was the best way to promote woman suffrage due to their visual and emotional nature. With this nature came the great ability of “stirring sentiments” and “making appeals”. The audience would be able to place themselves into the idea of woman suffrage or the story of the play. With the ability to get the viewer involved in the subject, it appealed to the need for interesting, deep characters. This “culture of personality” appeared in other places as well as theater. Woman suffrage was found in movies, public speaking, and many others as homage to the fact that personal identity and political participation was an inseparable line.

With political activism becoming a part of the self, many actresses used their talents in the movement, bringing with them a new sense of culture. The long-fought cause was rejuvenated with their presence implying that woman suffrage was new and enticing because those were the very traits that they embodied. With famous names attached to a cause, almost by default came the fans of said star, just like today. While many women could not attain a level of stardom, they could stand in solidarity with a beloved actress by supporting woman suffrage.

Suffragists used the support of prominent actors as a useful tool to gain public support for the cause. One of the first suffrage gatherings in Portland was at the home of Mrs. Solomon Hirsch on January 11th, 1912 as noted in the article “Actor Urges Suffrage.” As described by Sarah Evans, this “tea” was held for two-hundred people, most being anti-suffragists. The article states that this English actor, J. Forbes-Robertson, “gave an address at the home of Mrs. Solomon Hirsch.” At this particular address “an audience of representative men and women of Portland listened to Mr. Robertson’s eloquent appeal” and through his efforts was able to gain the support of 42 people. It is important to note that he held a few ideas that many suffragists used to reason their way into equal rights. He was brought up in feminist household by a suffragist mother, which aided to the development of these beliefs. Those beliefs being that the world was no longer based on physical strength, but mental fortitude and since women were at least as smart as men and since women had many good mental qualities to contribute to the world, there was no reason to deny them the right to vote. However, even with his active advocate position, he felt that women should keep control of their cause. “You cannot trust even the best of men to guide your movement” is what he told the Irish Woman’s Franchise League. Forbes-Robertson must have used appeals like these when confronting the social elite that attended this meeting. “He ended his talk by saying that if by his efforts he had succeeded in converting one man or woman to the cause, he would be satisfied.” His riveting speech was effective to even the large group of anti-suffragists that sat before him for as the article “Actor Urges Suffrage” states, “Following his address 42 persons pledged their personal support.” The importance of Forbes-Robertson’s fame is evident here. The importance of stardom was paramount as introduced by Finnegan. Individuals with any amount of fame could attach their name to a cause and thus were likely to attract their fans as stated above. One may not be able to be famous, but one would be associated with a star.

As Maroula Joannou and June Purvis state, this may be part of the reason that Robertson never actually took a role in the suffrage plays that he seemed to support. His autobiography gives no hint of a reason to why he never used his talents for a cause for which he had done readings and had given speeches. Even without the use of his acting ability, he did spread word and support for the cause. This eventually came to America, where he was truly the most convincing.

The use of actresses appeared again in the article “Suffrage Sandwiches Go Like Hotcakes” when Miss Keenan, a local actress, rode in a lunch wagon with the Portland Woman’s Club, “selling sandwiches, doughnuts, ice cream cones and other quick lunch edibles.” The article assured that this method was effective for making money. Selling cheese and ham sandwiches “to the hungry street crowds at a cost that would make even a department store ashamed of itself” was part of the effectiveness of “the scheme” as well as Pike Davis’s “spiel” from the Men’s Equal Suffrage League that “attracted crowds and made them buy whether they were hungry or not.”

Suffragists in Oregon and elsewhere performed the play How the Vote Was Won by British authors Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John. According to Dale Spender and Carole Hayman this play began as a pamphlet written only by Cicely Hamilton, illustrated by C. Hedley-Charlton, and published by the Women Writers’ Suffrage League in England in 1908. Hamilton was a member of the League and her colleagues believed that the pamphlet had great potential in the venue of a theater. Hamilton worked with another playwright, Christabel Marshall, who used the pen name Christopher St John, to produce a full-length stage version of the story.

How the Vote Was Won is a one-act play centering on a few key characters. The action is quick yet effective. The play is set in England and starts in the home of Horace Cole, a clerk who survives on £3.10 per week (about $119 today). He is an avid anti-suffragist and his wife, Ethel, has no interest in the suffrage movement. The opening dialogue between Ethel and her suffragist sister Winifred introduces the main theme. Anti-suffragists contended that women did not need the vote because they were all supported by men. So Winifred and other activists decided to leave their jobs and their single residences to go live with their closest male relative. The play continues with Winifred leaving along with the hired help of the Cole household. Even the working class women who had no families left go to work houses. The rest of the play is filled with the arrival of many of Horace’s female relatives. Participants include Horace’s sister Agatha, a self-supporting governess; Madame Christine who owns a dress shop; Maudie, a first cousin who is an actress; and other equally interesting women. These colorful characters fill his home and demand a place to stay even though they are fully able to live alone. Horace’s Aunt Lizzie is the one to finally change his mind. The idea that such an elegant woman as his aunt would leave her life for the cause of suffrage leads Horace to a new realization. Independent women, such as the ones invading his home, are citizens and should be treated as such. He soon marches off proudly with another male neighbor to demand the vote for women. The ending is then accented with a small nod to the need for men’s participation by Ethel throwing her arms around her husband and announcing “My hero!”
In Portland the College Equal Suffrage League put on the play How the Vote was Won. It opened in Portland on October 25, 1912 but was staged in Oregon City and other locations beforehand as mentioned in “Suffrage Play Ready; ‘How the Vote was Won’ Will Be Staged Friday.” There were to be ten performers for the roles mentioned above and the article indicates that the play “had been presented in Ohio and other states”. The article mentioned that there was a woman, Mrs. Emma Watson Gillespie, in charge of the dramatic side of the League. The existence of that position shows how important all means of communication was to the new side of the fight. This article also mentions an anonymous donation from “A Suffragist” that helped them cover advertising to outlying counties “by means of notices in the papers”.

Over a week later, the article “Free Play is Announced” was released on October 25, 1912 to announce the Portland opening of How the Vote was Won, its 8 o’clock starting time, its cast, and the other parts of the program. There was to be a musical act as well as a few readings that supposedly were “all of a humorous nature, with the exception of an address by Mrs. Sara Bard Field Ehrgott, will be given in addition.”

Two days later, October 27, 1912, the Oregonian published “Suffrage Play Pleases.” The article emphasized the positive reaction of the public to the performance of How the Vote Was Won. Suffragists held the event at the Bungalow Theater. Helen Miller Senn read a comedic piece called “Anti-Suffrage Woman” as well as some of her own work. The article summarized the play and explained that the women were told they “were unsexing themselves when they wanted to earn their own living rather than be dependent upon their nearest male relation, who, by law, was bound to support them if possible.” The play helped relate the idea that when women refused to work “mere man was the first to see the justice of the demand to have a say in the business to which they belonged.”

Consumer culture and mass media aided in the creation of a second generation of suffragists. It sustained the creation of suffrage identities and needs as well as sent a message in an effective manner. Theater and actors were used as a cultural key, as actors provided a name with which to identify. Throughout 1900-1912, these methods were an essential part of gaining woman suffrage. Younger suffragists of the College Equal Suffrage League used plays produced across the nation as a way to attract attention to their cause and they were successful in this as history notes in 1912 when sex was finally removed as a prerequisite to vote.

Primary Sources:

“Actor Urges Suffrage,” Oregonian, January 12, 1912, 11.

“Free Play is Announced,” Oregonian, October 25, 1912, Section 3, 12.

“Miss Crosman to Speak,” Oregonian, June 19, 1912, 14.

“Suffrage Play Ready,” Oregonian, October 5, 1912, 14.

“Suffrage Play Pleases,” Oregonian, October 27, 1912, 22.

“Suffrage Sandwiches Go Like Hotcakes,” Portland Evening Telegram, June 12, 1912, 10.

Secondary Sources

Evans, Sarah. “Oregon.” History of Woman Suffrage Vol. 6 ed. Ida Husted Harper. (New York: Arno Press Reprint, 1969): 538-549.

Finnegan, Margaret. Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture & Votes for Women. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Jensen, Kimberly, “Woman Suffrage in Oregon,” Oregon Encyclopedia,

Joannou, Maroula, and June Purvis, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: New Feminist Perspectives. New York: Manchester University Press, 1998.

Spender, Dale, and Carole Hayman, How the Vote Was Won and Other Suffrage Plays. London: Methuen, 1985.

About The Author

Kayla Cheri Ward participated in Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Winter 2011 Oregon Woman Suffrage course as a student in the Honors Program at Western Oregon University. Kayla is a Psychology major with interests in photography and activism work in the LGBTQ community.

Equal Suffrage in Eugene, Oregon in 1912

Suffragists in Eugene, Oregon were active in the 1912 campaign in the state and helped to secure victory. They organized a suffrage league early in the year and both city residents and University of Oregon students and staff were active. Eugene workers also used popular culture to raise awareness of the vote, as other suffragists were doing, and kept the issue before city residents with speakers, events, and information.

About 200 women met to organize the Eugene Equal Suffrage League on March 28, 1912 at the Commercial Club of the city. As the Eugene Daily Guard reported, they elected Minnie Washburne honorary president, Susan (Mrs. Prince Lucien) Campbell, Mrs. Fletcher, Mrs. M.E. Watson and Mrs. Morris Duryea vice presidents, Mrs. E.J. Frasier recording secretary Lizzie Bryson corresponding secretary. The goals of the club were to “work for votes for women, and to educate women in their political duties and responsibilities.” Membership was open to “any woman.”

Three members of the Portland Woman’s Club Campaign Committee, Elizabeth Eggert, Grace Watt Ross, and Esther Pohl (Lovejoy) traveled to address the meeting. According to the Portland Evening Telegram Eggert stated, “we were royally entertained and found the sentiment in favor of equal suffrage very strong and held by the foremost men and women of the city.” She noted that University of Oregon’s President Prince Lucien Campbell and “many members of the faculty are firm adherents, and there is a flourishing college league, with Miss Birdie Wise, of Astoria, acting president.” She also noted that Eugene men had formed a league and asserted that “it looks as though Lane County would be one of the most active in the state during the coming campaign.”

The Eugene Equal Suffrage league held regular meetings. Clara Bewick Colby visited the group in May 1912. She reported on conditions in Wyoming, long a votes for women state, and concluded that “the success of woman suffrage had answered every possible argument against it.” Members invited other speakers throughout the campaign.

Eugene suffragists also helped to pioneer the use of popular culture and mass campaigning strategies. Like Portland activists Esther Pohl Lovejoy and others who sponsored a suffrage lunch wagon and entered a float in the Portland Rose Festival that June, Eugene workers prepared to advertise suffrage at the Oregon Electric Parade. They made plans for a suffrage “sandwich wagon” with ham and homemade-bread sandwiches and coffee for sale. “Of course,” the Eugene Daily Guard noted, “the main object of the ‘sandwich wagon’ is to attract attention to the cause of suffrage.”

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) visited Eugene on October 2, part of a speaking tour to support states like Oregon with votes for women on the November 1912 ballot. Shaw had first arrived in Pendleton for the Round-up, then spoke at many events in Portland. She visited Corvallis on her way to Eugene so that the students at Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) would have the opportunity to hear her speak. After her speech in Corvallis suffragists drove Shaw and her colleague Lucy Anthony to Junction City, where a delegation from Eugene greeted them.  The entourage drove to the Hotel Osburn in Eugene and then went to the courthouse at 8 p.m., when Shaw delivered her speech to a record crowd. The Eugene Register Guard reporter thought she made the most effective plea ever made for a cause in the city. 

The meeting featured prominent Eugene citizens. Mayor F. J. Berger spoke in favor of woman suffrage and suggested it was the most important issue being voted on that election year. Berger introduced President Prince Lucien Campbell of the University of Oregon. Campbell supported woman suffrage because he believed that equal rights had prevailed for many years on campus. Campbell then introduced Anna Howard Shaw.  Shaw asked that Oregonians create a true Republican form of government governed by representatives elected by the people and asserted that women were people and should have a voice. Shaw believed that votes for women and more complete female citizenship would bring a better understanding between the sexes. Modern industrial conditions had changed society and the political relations between men and women also needed to change.

It took more than seventy years for women to achieve suffrage in Oregon. The right to vote was an important victory for women. Suffrage is not something to take lightly or for granted. I believe women should actively participate in the political process. I was a candidate for the State House of Representatives, District 20 in 2004. Like many other candidates I participated in the interview process, where ordinary citizens questioned each of the candidates to ascertain whether or not the candidates supported their values.  Canvassing door-to-door is something I have always done as a Polk County Democrat and a member of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 503, OPEU (Oregon Public Employees Union) Local 082-the classified staff at Western Oregon University. Canvassing is particularly important to candidates. Voters feel they know you if you go to their home and discuss the issues that are important to them. Phone banking is also something I have participated in for years for both the Polk County Democrats and SEIU.  Nothing is more important than getting the voters to drop their ballots in the mailbox or deliver them to the ballot box on Election Day. Tabling is also an important political tool. I have joined other SEIU members and the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) faculty union at Western Oregon University in this process. Students are an important voting bloc, and it’s necessary to provide them with information on the ballot measures as well as the candidates, so that they can make educated decisions. Now that retirement is near, I predict that I will spend even more of my available time participating in the political process, and I encourage others to join me.

Primary Sources:

“Big Crowd Hears Dr. Anna Shaw’s Addess,” Eugene Daily Guard, October 3, 1912, 6.

“Eugene for Suffrage Say Women Workers,” Portland Evening Telegram, March 30, 1912, 7.

“Eugene Suffragists Organize League in Eugene Last Night,” Eugene Daily Guard, March 29, 1912. 6.

“Suffrage League,” Eugene Daily Guard, May 14, 1912, 3.

“Suffragists Will Be in Parade,” Eugene Daily Guard, October 10, 1912, 1.

Secondary Sources

Edwards, G. Thomas. Sowing Good Seeds: The Northwest Suffrage Campaigns of Susan B. Anthony. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990.

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 (Fall 2007): 350-383.

Mead, Rebecca J. How the Vote Was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States, 1868-1914. New York: New York University Press, 2004.

About The Author

Jeanne Deane is an Administrative Program Assistant in the Social Science Division at
Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon.  She is a senior working toward a
major in Social Science and a minor in German. Jeanne is one of the founders of Abby’s
House Center for Women and Families on the Western Oregon University campus. She
has been the adviser for Abby’s House for the last sixteen years. Jeanne was also an
active member in the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi for many years, and has assisted
in the organization of the Academic Excellence Showcase at Western for the last several years.