14 May History Converges in a House on Scenic Drive
531 Scenic Drive
When I walked Scenic Drive recently, I was interested in the oldest house on the street. 531 Scenic Drive was built in 1880. Little did I know the learning adventure on which this house would take me. Come join me on a trip through time, space and Oregon history.
The original 1880 house was a small two-story rectangular box with 1 ¼” thick barnboard walls and layers of newspaper glued to the walls for insulation. When Casey and Jennifer Bright bought the house in 1992, it was abandoned and falling apart. They lovingly restored it and received a Historic Preservation Award in 1997 from the Ashland Historic Commission.
Casey invited me in (keeping physical distance) and showed me a wall where newspaper had been used for insulation. To memorialize that history, Casey and Jennifer created a frame in a small section of the wall to show the newspaper, as you can see in the photo.
When I looked closely, I saw the masthead of a newspaper called The New Northwest from Portland, Oregon, an issue dated September 29, 1871. After I got home, I looked up the newspaper, stepped into the time machine, and began my history journey, which I will share with you.
Abigail Scott Duniway
The New Northwest is important in Oregon history. The newspaper was founded by pioneer Abigail Scott Duniway on May 5, 1871 to press for women’s rights, especially women’s right to vote (known as women’s suffrage). Northwest historian G. Thomas Edwards considered the founding of Duniway’s newspaper to be a key event launching the women’s rights movement in Oregon.
Abigail Scott Duniway was born into a farm family in Illinois in 1834. Though she had only about one year of formal schooling, she learned to read and write. More important – she loved to read and write. When her parents and their nine children took the long Applegate Trail to Oregon in 1852, 17-year-old Abigail was given the responsibility of writing a daily journal of their trip. Their wagon train was led by Jesse Applegate, part of the family that blazed the Applegate trail.
In Oregon, Duniway married, farmed, taught school and owned a millinery (hat) shop. When she founded a weekly newspaper in 1871 at the age of 36, she broke with the past and made writing her career.
Her newspaper was based in Portland, but she had large aspirations, as evidenced by the paper’s name: The New Northwest. The paper’s motto was “Free Speech, Free Press, Free People.” Here’s how she described her newspaper in an 1884 speech:
“No sooner had we begun to agitate the question of equal rights than men responded to our plea; and the result was, first, the establishing in 1871, and its maintenance ever since, of a weekly journal, the New Northwest, devoted to the promulgation of equal political and financial rights between the sexes; and secondly, to the respectful bombardment of biennial legislatures with the pleas, plans and purposes of women, who made the paper their standard-bearer, and who had learned to recognize the ballot as the basis of all rights under any government claiming to be ‘of the people and by the people.’”
Duniway was also a rare voice standing up for the rights of all people in Oregon, including Native Americans and Chinese immigrants. She published the newspaper until 1887.
Though lacking formal schooling, she sounded like a politician and psychologist. In an 1889 speech, she referred to 15 years of travel throughout the Oregon Territory (later the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho) speaking on behalf of women’s right to vote:
“The Declaration of Independence and the Preamble and constitution of the United States formed the basis of my many sermons through all those weary years. … we can only secure our right to vote by and through the consent of voters; and we have only gone ahead in the prosecution of our case when we have succeeded in gaining men’s consent. Whenever our demand for our right to vote is based upon an alleged purpose to take away from men any degree of what they deem their liberties, or own right of choice, we simply throw boomerangs that recoil upon our own heads.”
As noted in her speech excerpt above, Duniway recognized the uncomfortable fact that in Oregon only men voted (white males, actually). In order to pass women’s right to vote, women had to convince male voters they would gain more than they would lose by allowing women to vote. How to accomplish this led to large conflicts within the Oregon women’s suffrage movement, often pitting Duniway against the majority of women activists.
In 1871, Duniway had invited national women’s suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony to do a speaking tour in the Northwest. They traveled around Oregon for six weeks, then went north to the territory of Washington. Being seen with Anthony gave Duniway’s fame in Oregon a huge boost.
Oregon women first got women’s suffrage on the state ballot for the 1884 election. In this first opportunity to decide whether women should have the right to vote, only 28% of male voters (11,223 men) said yes.
Was the low “yes” vote the fault of the anti-liquor Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, or was it the fault of Duniway’s unwillingness to collaborate with others who did not share her approach?
The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and Oregon
The nationwide movement that became the WCTU began on December 22, 1873 in Hillsboro, Ohio. Inspired by an evening talk, 50 women began the very next day to ask every druggist, grocer, physician, innkeeper and saloon owner in town to sign a pledge that they would no longer sell alcohol. The thirteen businesses that did not sign found groups of women praying and singing in their establishments. This shook up the patrons and owners so much that within a few weeks, nine of the thirteen non-cooperating establishments were out of business.
The news from Hillsboro, Ohio swept across the country. In August of 1874, the formal Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was formed in Lake Chautauqua, New York. The primary goal of the organization was prohibition of alcohol, in order to protect women and children, and to improve men.
Like today, domestic violence was often fueled by drunkenness. Unlike today, wives had no legal recourse and little or no community support. Women of the 1870s had few legal or property rights. In most states, the home, the land, the family possessions, even the wife’s earnings if she made money, all belonged to the man.
These simple, stark facts explain two important points. One, women of all social classes had friends whose lives were devastated by the effects of alcohol, so the WCTU message touched a nerve – and a real need – and swept like wildfire throughout the country. Second, despite what most of us learned in history class, the WCTU was not solely an anti-alcohol crusade. It was actually one of the strongest forces for women’s rights in the late 1800s.
According to Sarah Gelser: “While suffragettes appealed mainly to middle- and upper-class white women, the WCTU also served and attracted working class women and women of color. The participation of working class women was demonstrated by the organization’s support of the noon rest hour, employment agencies, labor unions, and vocational training. The participation of women of color was just as striking, with large numbers of African American and Native American women officers and members.”
Thinking about this in hindsight, it seems as though Duniway would have benefited greatly by building bridges with the Oregon WCTU and expanding her base of support for women’s suffrage in the 1884 election and beyond. Instead, she was angry that WCTU didn’t support her tactics of quietly lobbying men’s groups behind the scenes in order to convince men to vote for women’s suffrage.
Granted, the WCTU could be “in your face” when it came to their tactics. On top of that, in 1883 the Oregon chapter invited national WCTU President Frances Willard for a large convention. Because of Willard’s presence and inspiration, the Oregon WCTU was very active in the years 1883 and 1884.
Duniway believed, and some historians have written, that the WCTU scared the liquor industry (nationally and in Oregon), and also scared many traditional beer and whiskey drinking males in the state of Oregon.
One could make a case that increased WCTU activity made the liquor industry (with lots of money to spend) more active campaigning against women’s suffrage. The industry and many male voters may have believed that allowing women to vote would lead to a law banning the sale of alcoholic beverages.
Whatever the reasons, Oregon’s male voters defeated women’s right to vote measures on the ballot four more times – in 1900, 1906, 1908 and 1910. Oregon women’s suffrage finally passed at the ballot in 1912.
In light of the discussion in the last few paragraphs, it is interesting to note that in 1914, the first election after women got the right to vote, statewide prohibition passed by a vote of 136,842 to 100,362. As of “January first, 1916, the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors within the State of Oregon, except upon prescription of a physician or for scientific, sacramental or mechanical purposes” was prohibited.
If you want a surprising example of how Oregon prohibition affected Ashland in 1916, click on the link to read my article: Wah Chung and the Chinese Community in Ashland: Late 1800’s and Early 1900’s
1912 – Women’s suffrage finally passed in Oregon
When the women’s suffrage referendum passed on the sixth try in 1912, an elderly Abigail Duniway (seated in the photo) was asked by Governor Oswald West to sign the official Oregon Proclamation of Women’s Suffrage. Though it was the sixth try here, Oregon still gave women the right to vote eight years before women achieved that right nationally. Duniway was also honored for her decades-long struggle by being the first woman registered to vote in Multnomah County.
A quote for all young women
Here is an important quote from Abigail Scott Duniway that is just as applicable today as when she said it more than 100 years ago.
“The young women of today, free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation, should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price. It is for them to show their gratitude by helping onward the reforms of their own times by spreading the light of freedom and truth still wider. The debt that each generation owes to the past it must pay to the future.”
Our journey next leads us to the connection between fellow-suffragist Marietta Stow of California and Abigail Scott Duniway of Oregon. In San Francisco, Marietta Stow had also founded a newspaper (Women’s Herald of Industry) that featured women’s issues. The paper only lasted from 1881 until 1885, but it gave her a strong platform.
Both the Republican and Democrat parties of the time ignored women’s rights. Some leading suffragists, such as Susan B. Anthony, believed their best hope for success was to work with one of the major political parties, despite being ignored. Others, like Stow, thought women needed to take the lead and form their own political party. In July 1884, Stow took the big step of forming the Equal Rights Party.
Because she knew and respected Duniway, Stow nominated Abigail Duniway as the Equal Rights Party candidate for President. Surprisingly, she did this in a newspaper article without consulting with Duniway first!
Duniway responded in her own newspaper, The New Northwest, saying she would not accept the nomination. She believed women running for office in 1884 would distract from and weaken the movement for women’s right to vote. Duniway wrote that “a disenfranchised candidate of a disenfranchised people will make a sorry run for any office.”
My grandmother and Belva Lockwood
After Duniway’s refusal, Stow turned to Belva Lockwood as the 1884 Presidential candidate for the Equal Rights Party. Lockwood was nationally known, and her life story was quite extraordinary.
This gets us to the connection with my paternal grandmother. I feel a special affinity for women who fought for the right to vote in the late 1800s because my grandmother Belva Finkle, born in 1891, was named after Belva Lockwood. My great-grandparents must have been strong supporters of women’s right to vote.
Belva Lockwood’s life
Lockwood was born into a farm family in 1830. She went to college, became a seminary teacher, then at the age of 40 decided to attend law school. Every step was a battle. At this time, there were only a handful of female lawyers in the entire country, and law schools refused to admit her. She was finally admitted to the National University law school in Washington DC. When she graduated in 1873, they refused to give her a diploma! Frustrated, she sent the following letter to the ex officio president of the law school, none other than the President of the United States, Ulysses Grant.
You are, or you are not, President of the National University Law School. If you are its President, I desire to say to you that I have passed through the curriculum of study in this school, and am entitled to, and demand, my diploma. If you are not its President, then I ask that you take your name from its papers, and not hold out to the world to be what you are not.
Belva A. Lockwood
According to an article at The George Washington University (formerly National University) website, “She never received a direct reply—but a week later, her diploma arrived in the mail.”
She became a successful lawyer, but she was denied the ability to practice law in Federal courts because she was a woman. Again, she was not one to give up. “In 1879, a bill was passed through both houses of Congress and signed by President Rutherford B. Hayes which allowed Belva to become the first woman to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States.” [N.Y. Library] By the way, President Hayes and his wife visited Ashland the following year, in September 1880.
The 1884 Presidential election
“I cannot vote, but I can be voted for.”Belva Lockwood, 1884
When Marietta Stow asked Belva Lockwood to be the Equal Rights Party candidate for President, Lockwood said yes. Stow was her Vice-Presidential running mate. Lockwood campaigned for equal rights for all Americans in order to make the United States “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” In addition to rights for women, she believed Native Americans should become U.S. citizens. She went further than most reformers by her opposition to the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which halted most Chinese immigration for decades. She called it “anti-Christian and unconstitutional.” This was diametrically opposed to the position of Stow, who was very racist despite advocating for women’s rights.
Lockwood was officially on the ballot of only eight states, though that in itself was a huge accomplishment. Nevertheless, she campaigned nationwide. Lockwood and Stow received 4,194 votes in those eight states. Remember, this was a time when women could not even vote for President of the United States.
I am honored that my grandmother was named after such a trail-blazing woman, who along with many other courageous women and men contributed to the increase of liberty, freedom and mutual respect we continue to fight for today. I am glad that my visit to 531 Scenic Drive in Ashland, Oregon took me on this learning journey.
My thanks to the Ashland Tidings for publishing an edited version of this article on April 30, 2020.
Anon. “Women show ability,” The Sunday Oregonian, September 29, 1912, Section Five, p5, at https://thebrewstorian.tumblr.com/post/172330891121/mrs-conklin-miss-louie-church-some-things-i/embed
Anon. “State Suffragists Prepare for Fight Part 1,” Oregonian, November 1, 1912, 4.
Anon. “Nevertheless, They Persisted: Women’s Voting Rights and the 19th Amendment,” Oregon Historical Society website, accessed April 23, 2020.
Anon. Belva A Lockwood Collection [1830-1917], New York State Library, accessed April 15, 2020.
Bozeman, Anne, “The Presidential Campaigns of Belva Lockwood” (2009). Undergraduate Research Awards. 4. Georgia State University.
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Bright, Casey, author interview, April 11, 2020.
Chambers, Jennifer. Abigail Scott Duniway and Susan B. Anthony in Oregon: Hesitate No Longer, The History Press, 2018.
Duniway, Abigail Scott. Speech given at National Woman Suffrage Association Convention, Washington, D.C. March 4, 1884 [Abigail Scott Duniway Papers*]
Duniway, Abigail Scott. “Ballots and Bullets,” speech given at National Woman Suffrage Association Convention, Washington, D.C., circa January 21-23, 1889 [Sunday Oregonian 9 Sept. 1906]
Edwards, G. Thomas. Sowing Good Seeds: The Northwest Suffrage Campaigns of Susan B. Anthony. Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990; pg. 16, as noted in Wikipedia, April 14, 2020.
Gelser, Sarah Anne Acres. “Beyond the Ballot: The Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Politics of Oregon Women, 1880-1900.” M.A. thesis for Oregon State University, December 7, 1998.
Hardy, Sarah B. “Suffrage and Temperance: Differing Perspectives,” Century of Action: Oregon Women Vote, 1912-2012, accessed 4/27/2020.
Kramer, George and Atwood, Kay. National Register of Historic Places, Skidmore Academy Historic District, August 14, 2001.
Jensen, Kimberly. “Woman Suffrage in Oregon,” The Oregon Encyclopedia, accessed April 24, 2020.
Norgren, Jill, Belva Lockwood: ‘I cannot vote, but can be voted for,’ at HistoryNet.com, accessed April 15, 2020. https://www.historynet.com/belva-lockwood.htm
Oregon Secretary of State website, accessed May 12, 2020.