The year 2012 marked a centennial for the state of Oregon – a truly historic victory in the lives of Oregon women in 1912 — suffrage, or the right to vote. Pioneers breaking down barriers in the cause of woman suffrage in Oregon included Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, Abigail Scott Duniway, and Hattie Redmond, among many devoted others. As the rise of forces for suffrage continued, the United States Congress passed the 19th Amendment in June 1919. This was only the first step toward its final passage. The amendment required thirty-six states to ratify the amendment in order for it to be formally passed into law. After sustained toil and arduous efforts, Oregon became the twenty-fifth state to ratify the amendment. By August of 1920, a total of thirty-six states had ratified the 19th Amendment, the requisite number, enacting the amendment into law. August 2020 marks the centennial, the 100th anniversary, of woman suffrage in the United States and the enactment of the 19th Amendment into law.
The activism and leadership required for this feat are incomparable and immeasurable in our nation’s history. The level of sacrifice and the energy exerted in support of such a paramount cause as suffrage is reflected throughout its long history. Humanity is wrought with periods of crisis and victory; it is inherent and inseparable to our existence. The dawn of the struggle for suffrage in the 19th century reflected a sustained period of tests and trials, of determination and fortitude, and of ardent devotion. Perseverance ultimately remedies inaction; Oregon woman suffrage stood trial at the ballot box six times prior to its passing.
The common adage to study history so that it may not be repeated can be transmuted in acknowledgment of cycles of crisis and victory. It is of principal importance to turn to history in order to see triumphs in the face of adversity, to pay homage, and to extract tactics, be enlivened by the spirit, and to transform what has been learned for tests and trials today. There remains much to be learned, and there is much more still to be done.
The new Spotlight exhibit, Oregon Women Vote! Commemorating Woman Suffrage in Oregon and the U.S., honors and highlights the Oregon and national suffrage movements and the official enactment of the 19th Amendment into law. It examines the contributions of Abigail Scott Duniway and her contemporaries, contributions of women of color, racism in the suffrage movement, and the political influence of the Oregon Women’s Political Caucus and pivotal leader of Oregon politics, Gretchen Kafoury. Join us in memorializing this historic feat, one of many that have passed, and one of many still to come.
Written by Alexandra Mueller, Special Projects Archivist