IT SEEMED THAT I WAS INSPIRED:
ABIGAIL SCOTT DUNIWAY, UPPITY NORTHWEST SUFFRAGIST
with author and playwright Susan G. Butruille
With poignancy, humor, and an occasional song, author Susan G. Butruille portrays the Northwest's leading suffragist and human rights newspaper publisher Abigail Scott Duniway.
Known mainly for her suffrage work in Oregon, Abigail Scott Duniway left her mark in Washington, where she once declined an offer to run for governor. With the great Susan B. Anthony, she toured the state she once considered "a Canada for women," and helped to win suffrage there -- twice.
Susan Butruille takes her audience to a world Abigail Scott Duniway knew well: a world in which wives could toil from morning to night and own not one cent of the money they might earn, not even the clothes they wore, or the children they bore. All was owned by the husband. It was a world in which a woman had no vote in home or community, yet could lose everything to a decision or judgment not her own. The husband determined where his family would live, even if it meant a 2,000-mile trek on foot across an unknown and dangerous land.
The teenaged Abigail -- they called her Jenny then -- kept her family's Oregon Trail journal, where she recorded encounters with death and cruelty and near-starvation, as well as scenes of astonishing beauty and human kindness. As a wife and mother of five children, she was called upon to support her growing family. With but a few months' formal schooling, she taught school (on half a man's salary), barely keeping ahead of her students. As the owner of a millinery shop, she learned first-hand the plight of other women with no rights.
Knowing that her "forte" was "scribbling," Abigail Scott Duniway turned to writing, and campaigned for women's rights and human rights in the pages of her own newspaper, The New Northwest, for sixteen years. Her lectures, writing, and women's rights organizing brought her notoriety from coast to coast. Along the way, Duniway confronted prejudice, prohibitionists, preachers, national suffrage leaders, the liquor industry, her own temper, and her own brother. It was Abigail Scott Duniway's stubborn persistence that kept alive her simple belief in "absolute freedom for the mother sex."
Susan Butruille vividly conveys the grit of one woman with a mission, caught up in the passions and prejudices of her times. Abigail Scott Duniway's story reminds us that today's questions of women's and men's roles in society, along with religious and political divides, have a long and colorful history.
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