Abigail Scott Duniway
woman's rights advocate
Oregon Publisher and Editor of the New Northwest
Finally casts her vote in 1916 election after more than 40 years of work
Abigail (Jenny) Scott came overland with her parents in 1852 to Oregon. At age 18, Scott, a self-taught school teacher, married Ben Duniway, a handsome, young horse rancher. He would become her lifetime friend and supporter.
Duniway wrote novels that she serialized in her paper that always had themes which showed the plight of women in the status-oriented society of her times. She wrote letters inquiring if the state of Oregon need only pass a statute to give women the right to vote. She published the answers. The following quote is part of one of those answers:
"In all of the trying struggles of our nation, the women of America have borne a conspicuous part; and who shall say she shall be forever disfranchised and debarred from the privilege of greater and more potent aid in the establishment and perpetuity of those benign principles of which we as a nation boast? It could do no harm to take the erudition of the judiciary of the State on the subject. In haste, and respectfully for the right, L.O. Sterns (ex-Senator)"
Duniway became Oregon's first woman to speak before the state legislature and the state's first woman publisher. She supported equality of the sexes without insisting upon prohibition which she felt would be a difficult law to enforce as well as wrong to take away people's livelihood. Another letter in that same Jan. 22, 1885 number said,
"Women are members of society, members of the great body politic, citizens with men in the same common destiny...." Portland attorney W.S. Beebe, former Oregon legislator. Her presentation of arguments for the right to vote were hard to fight.
In the 1870s when she supported Victoria Woodhull, an Eastern publisher Woodhull & Chaflin's Weekly and first woman stock broker, Duniway alienated some of her best supporters. Woodhull became the darling of the suffrage movement for a time after her landmark speech before Congress which claimed that the 14th Amendment gave women the right to vote because it said "all citizens" and did not specifically exclude women. A great argument but it still would be another 50 years before women actually could "legally" vote every where in the nation. --Bridget E. Smith
This story is an excerpt from the front page of this edition which was published in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of Woman's Suffrage. It was distributed free on August 26th, 1995 in downtown Portland during the march and at the event held as part of the celebration. More than 1500 women and men marched in this parade, as did the editor of the Historical Gazette.
Bridget E. Smith, editor & publisher
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Published in Portland, Oregon