Honoring women’s history and the positive impact they’ll have on the future
Women’s history represents not only the history of half of the world’s population, but also a history that has, and has always had, extremely significant effects on people in every part of the world. It is not one history, but many… many stories and many ideas across the planet. Yet it is undervalued and underappreciated.
March is Women’s History Month
It’s a time to put extra focus on women’s history and all the ways in which women have shaped the world. A time to recognize the issues that affect women and the enormous impacts that women have had on every aspect of the world.
One of the most important issues to discuss in relation to women’s history is the historical underrepresentation of women in government. This deficit exists in federal and state governments as well as local ones. The city of Beaverton and the state of Oregon have experienced this; Beaverton has had only 17 women on its city council in the 129 years since its incorporation, and just three women have ever served as governor of Oregon since it became a state 163 years ago. It’s critical that we honor the achievements of women such as these and, at the same time, recognize how far we still have to go in representing women in government.
There are many women who have broken barriers to attain government offices and who have made their impact on Oregon. Carrie Shelton was not only the first woman to serve as governor of Oregon, but also the first female governor in the United States. She served as acting governor for a period of two days in 1909 (the inauguration of the governor about to take office was postponed due to his illness), three years before women in Oregon could vote.
The first female governor of Oregon to be elected to the position was Barbara Roberts, who took office in 1991. Oregon’s current governor, Kate Brown, is the third woman to serve in the position; she was elected in 2016 and reelected in 2018. More locally, the first woman to be elected to Beaverton’s city council was Gayle W. Higgs in 1963. Current mayor, Lacey Beaty, is also one of the 17 women to have served on the city council.
Women’s suffrage movement: Another very significant aspect of women’s history, one that has dramatic effects to this day, is the history of the women’s suffrage movement. Activists in Oregon fought for the vote for decades. Abigail Scott Duniway, one of the most notable leaders of Oregon’s suffrage movement, made many important contributions; her involvement spanned 42 years. Esther Pohl Lovejoy was another important figure in the suffrage campaign, creating the Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League to encourage more diverse support for and involvement in the suffrage movement. The issue was first voted on in 1884 and was put on the ballot four more times over the next 26 years before it finally passed in November 1912. Oregon became the seventh state where women could vote. Among the reasons for the success of the 1912 campaign were the modern advertising and campaign tactics employed by the suffragists and the increased diversity in the campaign. For example, African Americans were more widely involved in the 1912 campaign than in the others. Some women, however, particularly those who were Asian immigrants or indigenous, were still denied their right to vote.
Recognizing the accomplishments of women: After the 1912 success, there was an increase in the number of women serving in government offices in Oregon. By 1915, Kathryn Clarke and Marian Towne represented their constituents in the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. By 1920, the city of Yoncalla had an all-female city council. Changes after women began voting in Oregon included pensions for single mothers, the abolishment of the death penalty, regulations to ensure safe milk, and more funds used on public health. Women voting resulted in many significant changes because it was now much easier for them to have their voices heard in government.
While Women’s History Month is a good time to put extra energy into recognizing the accomplishments of women, it’s not enough to think about it for one month of the year. Great progress has been made, and great accomplishments have been achieved, but there is still much more to do.
It will take effort and dedication from people across the country and the world, but if that is given, we can create a world that honors women’s history as it should be honored – which will have incredible, positive impacts on the future of society.
Anna Janowski is a teen volunteer at the Beaverton City Library. Outside of school, she likes to read, write, play softball and the trumpet.