Abigail Scott Duniway (right) arrives to vote in Portland for a 1914 election. Source: SoS Archives Division
Planning will get under way this fall for an important anniversary in Oregon’s political and cultural history.
In 1912, Oregon voters gave women the full right to vote but it wasn’t an easy effort. Five previous statewide suffrage ballot measures had failed in the previous three decades, the most recent by increasingly large margins. Its final success in 1912 still placed Oregon among the first states to give women the complete right to vote and it came full eight years before ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In 2012, Oregon will celebrate the suffrage centennial with appropriate displays and retrospectives coordinated by the Oregon Archives Divisions. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Kate Brown will take part in a small reception at the Archives Building to mark the start of planning for the centennial celebration.
“I’m really excited to be a part of this process,” Brown said. “This was a vote that changed the face of Oregon and it came with the support of some brave and colorful figures from our past. This is a golden page in Oregon history.”
Taking part in the celebration will be the Oregon Women Suffrage Centennial Project, a part of the Northwest History Network. The project has already started a web site, www.oregonsuffrage.org, that takes a close look at Oregon’s suffrage movement with articles, a time line and photos.
President Teddy Roosevelt took a leading role in the Progressive Era. Source: Oregon SoS Archives
Full suffrage for women had its first debate in the Oregon Legislature in 1872. By 1878 women – if taxpayers — won the right to vote in school elections only. By 1912, suffrage had been defeated in five statewide votes, the first in 1884 and 1900, put before voters by the Legislature, and again in 1906, 1908 and 1910, put on the ballot by the newly-established right to citizen initiative. The last three measures lost by increasing larger margins, going from 44 percent support in 1906, to 49 percent in 1908 and 37 percent in 1910.
But 1912 saw a groundswell toward progressive causes, which included women’s suffrage. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt and his Progressive Party (known as the Bull Moosers) came in second in Oregon to Woodrow Wilson in the presidential balloting. And that year, after five defeats, suffrage finally won approval, gaining 51.7 percent of the vote.
We’ll keep you updated on other events leading up to the suffrage centennial.