Women’s Suffrage in Oregon: The right to vote is essential to democracy
Recently, I have been researching the women’s suffrage movement in Oregon for a project in my history class. In honor of Women’s History Month, I would like to share some of what I have learned about the movement and all that went into the momentous suffrage victory of 1912.
Oregon women worked for the cause of suffrage for decades. The issue was first put on the ballot in 1884, and it would take 24 years and four more unsuccessful campaigns – in 1900, 1096, 1908, 1910 – before Oregon’s voting population approved it in 1912, eight years before the national victory. No state voted on women’s suffrage as many times as Oregon.
A variety of factors contributed to the 1912 success. Esther Pohl Lovejoy – a dedicated suffragist and Portland’s first female city health officer – founded the Everybody’s Equal Suffrage League, which helped the suffrage movement draw more diverse involvement than it had during previous campaigns. Prominent political figures in Oregon, such as Governor Oswald West, publicly supported women’s suffrage. Suffragists also made use of modern campaign tactics that allowed them to reach more people.
Women having the ability to vote resulted in several notable changes in Oregon. These included the abolishment of the death penalty, the implementation of regulations to ensure safe milk, and an increase in funds used on public health. Additionally, though women could run for office before the suffrage victory, that victory made government offices much more accessible to women. Clara Munson, Marian Towne, and Kathryn Clarke were among the first women to hold political offices in Oregon, serving, respectively, as mayor of Warrenton, in the Oregon House of Representatives, and in the Oregon Senate.
The right to vote is essential to democracy, so it’s important to learn about and recognize the efforts of the suffragists who worked for that right for years. Their accomplishments continue to have profound effects on Oregonians.
Anna Janowski is a teen volunteer at the Beaverton City Library (grade 12). Outside of school, she likes to read, write, play softball and the trumpet.