Now just a month before the November election, Scott Duniway continues to speak out against a prohibition measure on the ballot.1 This is an autobiographical account of her awakening to the cause of equal rights and opposition to Prohibition. Again one sees the personal experiences that stimulated her concern for the economic condition of women. The phrase “two kinds of prohibition” encapsulates her argument, repeated hundreds of times, that it was philosophically inconsistent for advocates of woman’s rights to oppose prohibitions on women’s activities but support prohibition of men’s (i.e., drinking).
The text is taken from a heavily edited typescript in the Abigail Scott Duniway Papers. According to her handwritten note at the beginning, this is a “stenographic report” of an address which Scott Duniway was to have delivered “at a mass meeting of citizens in Library Hall [Portland], October 5, from which she was detained by illness from attending in person.” Evidently, it was read in her absence, as the typescript itself is dated the following day, and identifies one D. A. Norton as reporter. Perhaps Scott Duniway then edited the address after its presentation. Most of this story is greatly embellished in the first sixty or so pages of Path Breaking, which itself was part of her unsuccessful campaign to defeat the measure.2
My attention was first directed to the Equal Suffrage Movement by learning through personal experience the legal financial handicap of the average married mother. I had been wooed and won by a young rancher, and taken from my school room to his Donation Land Claim, where I conscientiously attempted to perform the labors of a pioneer farmer’s wife and the duties attendant upon a rapidly increasingly family of many children.
Many experiences occurred, one after another, that led me to see and understand the handicaps, financially speaking, of the mother who went from the school room, where she had her salary and could pay her expenses, to the home of a rancher who was improving a farm in the wilderness and employing many hired men,- men for whom I boiled and baked and stewed and fried and washed and scrubbed and sewed and patched and performed all the duties devolving upon what should have been the work of half a dozen women,- wearing out my bridal outfit and cutting up what was left of it to make clothes for the babies. I would probably have gone on to my death, as other women had done by hundreds of thousands, if it had not been for an accident that befell my husband, who was injured by a run-away team. This threw the entire support of the family upon myself. We moved from the farm to the village of LaFayette, in Yamhill County, where I engaged in the double tasks of teaching school and keeping boarders, doing all the work myself.
I did not then learn the need of woman’s enfranchisement. My husband was not addicted to any bad habits, such as many women whom I knew were enduring, and I felt that I had no special cause for complaint. While assisting my husband to get a new farm and to begin anew, I was occupied by teaching school and keeping boarders, and I used to arise at three o’clock in the morning in Summer and at four o’clock in Winter, to do a day’s work in the kitchen for my family and boarders before beginning my school at nine o’clock. Yet, during all these efforts I did not learn that equal political and financial rights for married mothers could be a cure for the handicaps I had met.
After I had saved up a little money I went into trade and began engaging in merchandising in Albany, in the interior of the State. While thus engaged I was brought into contact with very many women of the farms who were seeking better opportunities for their daughters than they themselves had met. One day a woman came to me in tears, and asked me to go with her to the Court House. I said, “The court house is a place for men.” But she was evidently in distress and I accompanied her. On our way to the halls of manmade laws she told me of her struggles since the death of her husband, to keep the family of daughters together, and raise and sell the produce of the farm to pay the yearly bills. By the time we had reached the court house I was thoroughly enthused with her troubles, and going to the Judge, whom I knew personally, I told him the woman’s story and was, of course, very indignant.
I was, at that time, ignorant of the intricacies of the law and was politely told that, as I was a woman I did not know what I was talking about. But, I said, “We know enough to foot the bills, though!” The lady’s lawyer beckoned to us to come to his table and said, with a twinkle in his eye, “I guess you won’t have any more trouble with that Judge.” We didn’t. But, on the way back to the store the lady told me that if she was not compelled to administer on her husband’s estate, and employ a lawyer, she and the girls would have money enough every year to pay their bills.
That was one lesson. Then I had others, many and varied, until at last I went one day to my home after a discouraging experience in the store with impecunious mothers and I said to my husband, who was ill, “One half of the women of this world are dolls, and the other half are drudges, and we are all fools.” And he said, “Don’t you see that it will never be different with women until they have the right to vote?” I said, “What good would that do?” And he said, “Why, women do fully half of the work of the world, besides bearing all the children, and can’t you see that they ought to have one half of the pay?” The truth dawned on me suddenly, and I began making preparations at once to move to Portland and start a newspaper, “The New North West,” which, with the aid of my family, I published for sixteen years, and reached all the best leading and thinking people of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, who became converts to Equal Rights for women through its teachings.
Then, always having been interested in the temperance cause, a delegation of suffragists went with me to the State Temperance Alliance in Salem, where we were characterized by prohibitionists as “setting hens” and “belligerent females,” bent upon destroying the home, and we were not allowed to take our seats as delegates, although all classes of men, including those from the penitentiary, were given honored seats. I never was a success as a dodger, so I rose to my feet and moved to so amend the report of the Committee on Credentials as to seat the women. The Chairman said, “Take that crazy woman out of the house and take care of her.” The Sergeant at Arms came forward in the discharge of his duty, but he quailed before my uplifted pencil, and several men rushed into the aisle and began taking off their coats to defend me, when the Sergeant at Arms considered discretion the better part of valor and retreated in as good order as was possible under the circumstances.
The next year, when we met at the Alliance, the organization of Prohibition was so complete that it took a running fight of two days to get the Suffrage delegation admitted, causing the Alliance to secede, and finally die of inanition.
The so-called Liquor Traffic had, previous to that time, made no objection to the enfranchisement of women. If often furnished halls, free of charge, for my meetings because the churches were closed against women speakers almost everywhere. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. It was often a saloon man who enabled me to get a hall for a hearing, and I soon got such a start in favor of equal rights for women that the churches found it impossible to crush the movement. So they seized it as their Shibboleth, and began at last, to demand votes for women, “as a short-cut to Prohibition.”
Seeing, at once, the effect of this reflex action against the cause of liberty, and realizing the creation of a new force of enemies in the liquor business that had formerly been the friends of the movement, I began to analyze Prohibition itself, and proceeded to turn all the powers of my paper, my pen and my platform work to an attempt to neutralize the two antagonistic forces of prohibition of the Liquor Traffic and Prohibition of Women’s Right to Vote. For a number of succeeding years the W.C.T.U. and the Liquor Traffic joined in waging a warfare between the two kinds of Prohibition just cited, although the W.C.T.U. was too blind to see the combination.
Finding it impossible to teach fanaticism any commonsense, I began, very cautiously, to convince the liquor buyers and liquor sellers, who had votes (and women didn’t) that the movement for equal rights for the mother sex was not intended as a movement against the liberties of anybody, but was intended to establish equal rights for everybody, by no means excluding the mother sex. It took a long time and much quiet effort to remove the barrier of Prohibition against equal rights for the mother sex from the majority of the people who had votes, but I persevered. I subscribed for the Liquor Journals, to see what they had to say about the subject. For a long time I did not dare to write to one of them, but I would simply watch the newspaper clippings, and whatever I saw, bearing upon my view of the situation I would send unannounced to the Liquor Journals. Finally, when election day came, on November 5th, 1912, the “liquor element,” buyers and sellers,- I put them all together, you know,- called off their dogs and allowed the women to get the majority vote.
Then came amongst us a horde of irresponsible agitators, claiming women suffrage as their weapon, and exciting a reign of despotism, which sent me to the Bible to sustain my attitude and argument, and drove Prohibitionists back to their original slander, accusing me of “selling out to the Liquor Traffic”!
But, I did not flinch, and I want you all to know that I am still in business at the old stand, fighting for liberty for all the people, “by no means,” to quote Abraham Lincoln, “By no means excluding the women.”
I charge that these latter day invading agitators who are preaching prohibition and passing the hat for money are acting in direct violation of the Holy Scriptures, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. It has gone so far that the President of the United States3 cannot possibly accept our demand for the full and free enfranchisement of all women, because he would then have to meet the demands of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for Nation Wide Prohibition. The President of the United States, no matter to what party he may belong, is brought into daily association with European, Asiatic, African and Australian powers, which compel him to so far neutralize the clamor of idealists and cranks as to protect and preserve, as far as possible, our friendly relations with the nations of the world. I do not say this as a Republican, as a Democrat, as a Socialist or as a Prohibitionist or Progressive, but as a patriot. I desire, above all things, to see the ship of State so steadily guided and so intelligently controlled, that, although I am in my eightieth year, I hope to live to see the day when “Swords may be beaten into plow-shares and spears into pruning hooks, and nations may learn war no more.” When that day dawns, the wife of the drunkard will have begun to assert her inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on her own account, and will be able to rise above marrying an inebriate, or raising a drunkard, or creating a soldier to be butchered in war. The pseudo-emotionalism of half-baked theorists seems cheap indeed as compared with the larger questions that surround our planet, will surely, as civilization advances and liberty and knowledge increase, overspread the round globe with the practice of the Golden Rule, which is destined to establish the prosperity, enterprise, sobriety and happiness of all the people. Let the majority of the mother sex become enfranchised citizens. Let them rise above the handicap of servitude without wages that now enslaves so many of the women in the home, over whom the orthodox churches are shedding tears, and the equalization of economic forces will be speedily adjusted to right conditions, and render both the occasional intemperance of husbands, and the money-making schemes of the Prohibitionists alike obsolete.
- As she had earlier at a Progressive Party luncheon. [↩]
- Moynihan, Rebel 218. [↩]
- Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924): Twenty-eighth President; born Staunton, Virginia; educated College of New Jersey (Princeton), University of Virginia Law School, and Johns Hopkins (doctorate), embarking on academic career in political science; married Ellen Louise Axson, 1885; president, Princeton University, 1902; elected governor, New Jersey, 1910; elected President, 1912, receiving only forty-two percent of popular vote in three-way race, but large electoral majority; championed lower tariffs, graduated income tax, Federal Reserve, antitrust, protections against child labor, eight-hour day for railroad workers; narrowly re-elected, 1916; following armistice, 1918, campaigned for Versailles Treaty, containing Covenant of League of Nations, which failed in the Senate by seven votes; nearly died of campaign-induced stroke; nursed by second wife, Edith Bolling Galt, until death (“Woodrow Wilson“). [↩]