“BALLOTS AND BULLETS” – January 23, 1889

The controversy that was to preoccupy Scott Duniway for many years and define her place within the suffrage movement concerned prohibition, which was one of a number of reform-oriented movements to gain favor during the last half of the nineteenth century. Joseph Gusfield attributes the rise in anti-liquor sentiment in part to the influx of European immigrants; temperance was a “status issue” for those seeking to curb “undesirable” behaviors among the “lower classes.” Many eastern suffrage leaders, of older stock and from the large cities with heavy concentrations of new arrivals, came to embrace prohibition as well, as part of a gradual shift from principled arguments for suffrage to expediency-based rationales. As justifications grounded in natural rights (i.e., in the ways in which men and women were fundamentally the same as human beings) slowly were supplanted by justifications grounded in women’s moral superiority (i.e., in the ways in which men and women were fundamentally different in character), prohibition became the paradigmatic example of what women would do with the vote.

Because she did not drink and openly resented the fact that men of the “lower classes” were enfranchised when women were not, it may seem surprising that Scott Duniway did not embrace the political marriage of prohibition and suffrage. But, save for a brief period early in her adult life, she did not.1 As early as 1872, at the anti-suffrage State Temperance Alliance, she had the cheek to advocate suffrage as a prerequisite to prohibition not because women’s votes would outlaw liquor, but because the political and economic freedom realized via suffrage would enable every woman “to settle this prohibition business in her own home and on her own account.”2 Prohibition, she believed, was a matter for character, not law; “sumptuary legislation” would undermine the individual responsibility to be temperate.

Scott Duniway’s opposition to legislative prohibition was pragmatic as well as principled. She was convinced that prohibition advocacy would raise the ire of the powerful liquor and related industries, alienate the votes of men, and ultimately doom the cause of suffrage itself. She viewed the burgeoning prohibition agitation of the 1880s and the growing alliance between suffragists and prohibitionists with increasing alarm, and she interpreted a succession of legislative setbacks as vindication of these views, from which she never wavered thereafter.3 Her outspokenness (even belligerence) on this subject provoked much controversy and earned the enmity of several leaders of “the National.”4

This speech, delivered before the twenty-first annual N.W.S.A. convention in Washington, D.C., is one of her most important addresses on the topic.5 Given her opposition to the organization’s path, her rhetorical situation is tenuous. If her audience was not hostile before Scott Duniway spoke, key segments were after she finished. No trace of controversy can be found in the History of Woman Suffrage, which discreetly reports only that, on the convention’s final day, “Mrs. Abigail Scott Duniway (Ore.) described the recent arbitrary and unwarranted disenfranchisement of the women of Washington Territory.”6 However, Scott Duniway’s conflict with Eastern leaders “broke into open war” over this speech, and she got the “cold shoulder.”7 In fact, Anthony roundly rebuked her and shifted allegiance to the Rev. Anna Howard Shaw, the superintendent of the W.C.T.U.’s franchise department, who had debuted on the N.W.S.A. platform earlier that very afternoon.8

Scott Duniway adapts to this rhetorical situation perhaps as well as her temperament will allow. Her tone is as conciliatory as she probably can muster: She expresses her affection for her sisters, even those who disagree, acknowledges their right to their own opinions, and apologizes for any pain her message has caused.  Moreover, rather than making general arguments against the temperance connection, she invokes her personal experience campaigning for suffrage in the Pacific Northwest. Debating the merits of temperance in abstract, general terms would place Scott Duniway on equal argumentative footing with her opponents. However, basing her arguments on her personal–even private–experience places Scott Duniway in the position of expert vis-à-vis her audience, and her evidence is not so easily disputed or refuted by strangers to the particular circumstances and events she describes.

Together, however, these efforts fail. Appeals to personal experience can reinforce a conciliatory tone by implying that differing experiences can lead to differing, but equally valid, opinions. But Scott Duniway cannot bring herself to say this. On the contrary, to her, her personal experience is not relativized or limited because it is subjective but remains, instead, objective evidence of the “truth.” Thus, she can concede, only half-heartedly, that her opponents are entitled to their opinions “even when wrong”! As a result, given her blunt criticism of prohibitionists (at one point she even implies that they are inferior mothers), and Clara Dorothy Bewick Colby in particular, it is understandable that many did not accept her conciliatory gestures as sincere. And her reliance on personal experience sounds less like the sincere observations of a “humble servant” than self-important lecturing by a self-appointed superior.

At a reader’s behest, this address was reprinted seventeen years later in the Sunday Oregonian (September 9, 1906). Scott Duniway clearly believed that events in the intervening years had vindicated her:

I admit that I have hesitated about offering to the press the vital truths it contains, as I recall the stormy period of which it treats, when it was almost as much as a temperance woman’s life was worth to declare herself opposed to the intemperance of prohibition. But the tide is turning. In the four states where women vote the intoxication of prohibition has given way to the sober responsibilities of a wholly free people, while the only three remaining prohibition states emphatically prohibit the enfranchisement of the daughters of men.

I desire in this connection to say to my friends of the W.C.T.U. that I have no quarrel with them whatever. The most of them, except the professional agitators who make their living out of the business, have agreed with my position since their eyes have been opened by defeat. Quite a number of them no longer wear the little knot of white ribbon, insignia of prohibition, which has the same effect on the average voter when women ask for the ballot as a red rag shaken in the face of an infuriated bull. I love them dearly, and respect their sincerity; but the equally sincere demands of the majority of women for liberty compel me to speak the truth, regardless of consequences to myself.

Scott Duniway also reprinted this speech in her 1914 autobiography, Path Breaking, from which the text is taken.9 Non-trivial discrepancies between the two versions are indicated as follows: material (typically explanations probably added at the later date) in Path Breaking but absent from the Oregonian version is marked by “<>”; material in  the earlier Oregonian version but absent from Path Breaking is marked by “[]”; and differences in treatment of the same material are explained in footnotes.

Madam President10: In presenting my theme before this convention, I realize the magnitude of my task as I rise to perform the most irksome and yet the most necessary duty that has ever devolved upon me since the beginning of my public career [in the interest of woman’s enfranchisement].

It is an easy matter to address an assembly like this along the lines which custom has made comparatively popular; but necessity now demands a deviation from established usage; and it has become the duty of an humble leader, coming from the confines of the far Pacific, [whose experience has compelled her] to discover <and divulge the fact> that the present lines of action (as approved by a majority of our beloved and respected co-workers on the Eastern border) is not the policy for the great National Woman Suffrage Association to pursue to win. For this reason, this humble leader must sound an alarm. She sees that our ships are being scuttled, and she would be recreant to every duty to which her sacred obligation calls her, did she hesitate to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; and that is what, with the help of God, I shall <try to> do tonight.

I confess that I enjoy a controversy with an enemy. I like to puncture his pet prejudices and play havoc with his hoary sophistries. But when I am called, by the sacredness of my trust, to differ from friends whom I love, and show them that their zeal is out-running their discretion; that their efforts are acting as boomerangs to batter down our own breast-works and lay them in ruins at our feet, I realize the peril of my position, and would gladly delegate my duty to another, if one could be found who would undertake to perform it.

[You are all aware that the cause of woman’s enfranchisement prior to the year 1884, had made more rapid advancement in the Pacific Northwest than in any other portion of our great national bailiwick. When my work began, in 1871, there was not within all our borders a married woman who had a legal right to own the clothes that formed even her bridal trousseau. It is true that the pioneer women of the whole of Oregon had enjoyed, from 1850 to 1852, the privilege of acquiring and possessing in their own right–when married–from 160 to 320 virgin acres of the public domain; a right granted them under the specifications of a congressional act known as the Donation Land Law.11 And to this law, from whose benefit many men and women possess homes today, who would otherwise be homeless, we doubtless owe much of the spirit of freedom among our women, as well as much of men’s respect for our inter-dependence with themselves which, until recently overthrown by a new idea, was bringing us to the ballot box as rapidly as Legislative wheels could revolve.]

Oregon is the mother state of the Pacific Coast, and originally embraced the present states of Washington, Idaho and much of Montana. School suffrage was granted to the women of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, almost without the asking, prior to 1883, when full suffrage was given to the women of Washington Territory by legislative enactment, amid almost universal rejoicing.

It is a matter of history that for fifteen years prior to that enactment, your humble speaker had traveled, alone, over Oregon, Washington and Idaho, enduring toil, hardship, privation, ridicule, sneers and vituperation, and steadily overcoming all sorts of obstacles. It was through these experiences that I learned the necessity of using the same tact in dealing with men, in all our work for ballots, that nations had long before learned to exhaust, when dealing with each other, before resorting to force, or the argument of bullets.

Every woman knows she cannot rule her own husband. The man who would consent to be ruled by his wife <(if against his will)>would be so poor an excuse for manhood that she wouldn’t consider him worth corralling in the chimney corner after somebody had driven him home. What is true of men in the abstract is equally true of men in the aggregate. Learning this fact, I proceeded, very early in my public career, to make the most of it; so I said everywhere, “Gentlemen, in our demand for the ballot we are not seeking to rule over you. We only ask for our enfranchisement because we desire freedom for ourselves. We recognize your right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, with yourselves as the only proper judges of your own methods in that pursuit. And we most earnestly and respectfully demand a like recognition, on your part, of our right to the pursuit of liberty and happiness for ourselves, by methods of our own choosing, so long as they do not conflict with your prerogatives.”

The Declaration of Independence and Preamble to the Constitution of the United States formed the basis of my many sermons through all those weary years. If any other line of argument had been pursued we could have made no headway with our voters; for you must yet learn to bear in mind, my sisters, one fact of which most of you12 seem strangely to have lost sight: 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.

Every woman who stands behind the prison bars of her present political environment, reaching her manacled hands to men, who hold the key to the locked gates of constitutional law, through which she alone can gain her liberty, and says to them, “Give us the ballot, and we’ll put down your whiskey!” only arouses a thousand men to say by their votes, “Very well, we won’t give you the ballot and that will settle it. You sha’n’t have it at all if you are going to use it as a whip over us.”

And right here, in the face and eyes of the temporarily fashionable fad of prohibition, I declare that as a temperance woman, I am opposed to prohibition on principle, [and always have been]. I have raised to manhood a large family of sober sons, who have wended their way to school and office, past the drug store and the groggery, all their lives. I never preached prohibition to them and never talked temperance in their hearing, except occasionally to say <(alluding to some drunken man)>, “Boys, you know that if you should go astray, the world would say it was your mother’s fault. She has dared to deviate from established custom by publicly advocating woman’s right to equality with man before the law. Men say boys are what their mothers make them and I accept the verdict. If you go wrong, your mother will bear the full blame for her <own> failure to make you what you ought to have been.”

Madam President, that was always argument enough. My boys needed no prohibitory law to keep them sober, nor will the son of any woman whose guiding star is liberty and self-dependence. I have always left money, sweetmeats and other things that other people’s children might be tempted to steal, within my children’s reach. I would say by word and deed, “I trust you,” and they were proud to prove worthy of the trust. It is liberty that the mothers of children need; then responsibility and self-dependence naturally follow. But I recognize the right of others to hold different views, even if wrong; and their right to exercise their opinions is as sacred to me as my own, so long as they do not, by a mistaken policy, overthrow a greater work through their excess of zeal.

At the time the women of Washington Territory received enfranchisement–on the 23d day of November, 1883, when Governor Newell13 signed the suffrage bill amid the mingled hallelujahs of Olympia’s guns and bells–the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was of recent origin on the Coast, and was looked upon by the mass of [our] voters in the Pacific Northwest as being quite as harmless in its way as the average woman’s prayer meeting. Its rank and file were not suffragists. They had never lifted voice or finger to secure their right to vote, but had often sat in the sanctuary singing, “Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight,”14 when the little hoodlum was kicking up a rumpus at my suffrage meetings.

A constitutional amendment for extending the right of suffrage to women was pending in Oregon at the time the women of Washington <Territory> were enfranchised, and great caution was needed, lest by excess of newly awakened prohibition zeal, we should scare the voters into ambush, where, behind the coverts of the law, they would be on the alert to strike us down. I had already scented the lurking danger that menaced us from the coverts of the liquor power–not liquor sellers <only>, for their numbers are limited, but liquor buyers and drinkers, who comprise everywhere the very large majority of the voters. So I came over here to our National Convention in 188415, and by the co-operation of our suffrage forces organized a “still hunt” campaign of our own, through which I verily believe we would have been successful at the June election of that year if it had not been for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which, though feeble in Oregon, was reinforced by <hired> lecturers from the East, who held suffrage meetings of their own in the interest of prohibition agitators, which nullified our “still hunt” method, and quite naturally aroused the ballot-handed liquor league, and its constituents, the voters, against us almost as a unit, everywhere.16

I had previously made arrangements with the Republican and Democratic central and county committees of Oregon by which, if the W.S.A. would furnish the ballots ready printed, they would handle “yes” tickets in such a way that fair play could be secured for us at the ballot boxes, and these committees, in turn, authorized the local committees of both parties to furnish bands and halls for the immense meetings of the campaign that awaited me at <the> county seats all over the state. I remember such a meeting at Pendleton, one of our principal eastern Oregon towns. A crowd had gathered at the opera house, the band was in attendance, vocal music by local talent was provided, and when the lecture hour came I made my way with great difficulty through the throng to the platform. There I was met by the excellent wife of the Congregational minister, president of the newly organized local W.C.T.U., who had never attempted to attend17 a suffrage meeting before in her life. This lady informed me that Mrs. Mary Clement Leavitt18 was present; that she had been speaking for several evenings in the church to a small W.C.T.U. audience, and she wanted her to be heard, before leaving the town, by the general public. Though I knew that I would not at that time have been allowed to speak on the W.C.T.U. platform at all for fear I should say “ballot,” I could not afford to violate a principle of liberty by checking freedom of speech on a suffrage platform. So I asked Mrs. Leavitt to the seat beside me. Then, after an hour’s talk by myself on the fundamental principles of a republican form of government, during which men frequently tossed their hats to the ceiling in token of their appreciation of our cause, I introduced Mrs. Leavitt as “a distinguished ‘round-the-world ambassador of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, who hailed from Boston.” The dear little one-idead woman came to the front and said: “The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which I have the honor to represent, is not a Woman Suffrage Association. The vast majority of our women are vehemently opposed to woman suffrage. They claim our work is devotional and religious, while the woman suffrage work is, as you know, political. But our leaders have learned, to our sorrow, that we can do very little toward securing prohibitory legislation, before Congress or legislatures, because women do not have votes. So we are gradually learning to accept woman suffrage as ‘a short-cut to prohibition.’”19

When the speaker took her seat the band began playing <to drown my effort to reply> and the crowd filed out, leaving that great audience of voters, two-thirds of whom were probably full of whiskey to their necks, to organize against us secretly, which they did to such purpose, all over the state, that when election day came, a few weeks later, every man who could be bought, cajoled or prejudiced against our amendment was voted, by their orders, against our unballotted hosts, while we sat with “our hands on our mouths and our mouths in the dust,” in powerless despair, our work of years overthrown in a day, while the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union remained as benignantly and self-righteously oblivious to the ruin it had aroused the enemy to bring down upon our devoted heads as Mrs. Leary’s cow.* <(*It was this cow that kicked over a lamp and created the great Chicago fire.)>

But we still had hopes for Washington Territory, where the women had secured full suffrage before its W.C.T.U. was out of its swaddling clothes. Women were voters in that territory for three and a half years, notwithstanding the fact that repeated unsuccessful attempts to defeat them were made by men–attempts which nobody could parry but those who were acquainted with all the leading politicians, and knew every inch of the ground. It is needless to say to this convention that the attempts of leading men and women to secure a constitutional convention of woman suffragists was frustrated at this critical period by the untimely invasion of Mrs. Clara B. Colby20 and other self-imported Eastern Suffragists, who created a “hurrah” campaign that completed the ruin the W.C.T.U. had begun.

In January, 1886, when Washington was on the eve of Statehood, a Legislature met which had been chosen at the election of 1885, largely by women’s ballots. Both political parties had endorsed woman suffrage during the campaign, and the security of the measure seemed permanent. But in the meantime the prohibition wave that had arisen in the East, had swept over the women and preachers of the churches, and designing politicians, the kicked-outers of other political parties, massed themselves among them as its leaders. Clergymen who, by the very nature of their calling, are [generally] as full of impracticable business methods as inexperienced women, combined their forces all over the territory <as promoters of local option> and they said to the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which they patted, petted, paid and praised, till it was no wonder it thought itself holier than the woman suffragists: “Women are Voters! Now is the time to show the world what you can do with the ballot”–forgetting that no ballot is in force in any State at this date of human development, unless there is a latent bullet behind it.

The Legislature convened at Olympia in the very midst of this excitement, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, led by an enthusiastic little [old-maid] lecturer from <a little> Pennsylvania <village>21, [and] backed <secretly> by the National Liquor League, which worked hand and glove with it (though it did not know it), had no difficulty in securing just such prohibitory legislation as it asked for <under Territorial government>, while [the] men who <were secretly opposed to prohibition>22 chuckled over their success as strategists <, as they prepared to vote it down at the polls>.

At that time my own home was over-shadowed23 by the trailing [shadow of the] wing of Azrael.24 My beloved only daughter25 was in the last stages of a fatal illness, and my duty kept me at my darling’s bedside. Women, wives of the members of the Legislature in some instances, wrote to me, saying: “The cause of woman suffrage is being drawn into a trap! Come over and help us to protest against this prohibition movement, which (under the guise of local option) will surely destroy our suffrages, if it is not checkmated.” I answered, “Now is your time to lead. Checkmate this movement while there is yet time! I cannot leave my post at home!” But the husbands of these women would not permit them to act, unless I would lead them, and receive in my own breast all the barbed arrows of the combined whiskey and prohibition elements. And, as [I could not leave my post at home, and] no other woman could be found who was willing to meet the crisis, women’s freedom went by default, and the frenzied friends of prohibition were made the cat’s-paw of the liquor league at its will.26

Need I tell <you> the result? In every precinct, no matter how the vote on local option went, the women got the blame. If a precinct went wet, prohibition shriekers cried: “There, don’t you see that women will not vote our way?” If a town went dry, the men who opposed prohibition would say: “There, we told you so! The women and the preachers are all fanatics together!”27

In the spring of 1886, seeing the danger that threatened women’s ballots at the next territorial election, I went to Walla Walla to sound the alarm. But I found a boycott against me in all the churches. So I was compelled to go to the residence of the widow of a brewer, from whose husband I had in former years often rented an opera house for suffrage meetings, before church pulpits had been opened to women at all.28

The brewer’s widow, at first indignantly denied my request. She said, and mark you, Madam President, there is a lesson here: “When we came to Walla Walla, the town was little, and it was dead already, but my husband brought with him ten thousand dollars. I earned more than half of that29 money myself, a-washin’ for miners at Canyon City. But the30 money was not mine! [De] women had no rights! So my husband, he start a brewery. He buy the people’s barley; he subscribe to churches and bridges and schoolhouses; and by and by he build this brewery. I scolded, for I don’t like the business! [It is a nasty business!] But what could I do? Women had no rights. By and by he die, and leave31 me a mortgage of forty thousand dollars. You know he helped you for [de] woman’s rights when the churches wouldn’t! When the <suffrage> law was made, I, too, was glad; but now comes prohibition! Women’s votes will shut up my business. Interest will come due, I cannot pay. By and by comes a32 sheriff and turns me and my children in the street. You call it33 Christianity! I call it robbery! No; you can’t have34 my hall.”

I assured her that she greatly misunderstood35 the spirit of Christian women (as I then <thought I> understood it), if she believed that they intended to raid or loot her means of livelihood <, and provide her nothing in return>! I told her we would gladly help her to pursue a different business, if she would let us; and I added: “Come out tomorrow night and hear me speak in your hall, and I will present your side of the question to the women.” She answered like a flash: “You would not dare! Women would ostracize you! You don’t know the36 spirit!”

I assured her that I had dared greater things, and after a little parley I hired her hall for two nights. On the first evening the hall was packed, in spite of opposition meetings held by prohibitionists in all the churches. My theme was “Woman’s Opportunity.” I told the new voters that the present conflict was forced upon them by the combined efforts of their friends, who were blinded by zeal, and their enemies, who, alert from self-interest, were determined to lead their ballots into a trap. In telling the story of the brewer’s widow, I added: “Last night, after I had left her house, I paused on the sidewalk, under the blooming locust trees, and looked up at the moonlight, shimmering through the leaves, and lying in lambent sheen on that brewery, a great pile of mortar and masonry, held down by that widow’s mortgage; and I thought ‘here is woman’s opportunity.’ If, instead of joining men in this conflict for prohibition, which, even if successful at the ballot-box, cannot be enforced, except by bullets, you will utilize your newly acquired power by forming a corporation to buy or lease that great building–if you will convert it into a cannery, or creamery, or both, and [will] give employment to that woman and her children, and to the wives and children of all the men in your midst, whose means of livelihood are now in jeopardy, the fame of your philanthropy and common sense will go out to other portions of our goodly country and the success of your business methods will inspire the voters of all other states and territories to emulate the example of the men who gave you the ballot. Then, in due time, under the happy environment of a free motherhood, a race of men will spring up who will not be slaves to appetite, and prohibition <and drunkenness> will die a natural death.”

This proposition took immensely with the women that night, but the next morning’s papers, after being interviewed by prohibition agitators, contained awful criticisms, under flaring scareheads, accusing me of pandering to the liquor interests; and all the women of the churches, except the leading suffragists, whose protests were lost in the clamor, accepted the story of a whiskey-soaked, loud-mouth37 prohibition agitator from <the brothels and saloons of> Portland, who said, “Mrs. Duniway has sold out to whiskey!” and the prohibitionists <, repeating the slander,> cried, almost with one accord, “Away with such a woman from the earth!38

Dear friends, why prolong the story? That ex-brewer’s widow still runs her dead husband’s business39. The men voters of Oregon and Washington still drink intoxicating liquors whenever so inclined, as they always will, whether women vote or not; and the women ex-voters of <the State of> Washington find themselves with the iron gates of a state constitution shutting them out from the exercise of their liberties, while they are left to chant mournfully: “Whisky recovered from the fight; ‘twas woman’s vote that died!”40

As I conclude, I must crave your indulgence while I repeat an illustration often used by myself in that memorable struggle, because I feel that its potency is yet to be required in other places, perhaps for years to come, ere women learn the ins and outs of one-sex politics, against which they seek blindly to do battle, with their own hands in manacles.

The story goes that a man was walking on the beach and came to a little bayou, leading from the ocean, up which a salmon was struggling, favored by the tide. The man had a scythe on his shoulder. The bayou was so narrow that he could step across it; and with all his mind on the alert, possessed by the one idea that he must have that salmon then and there, he brought down the handle of his scythe to knock the fish upon the head, but it eluded his blow, and the blade of the scythe came down upon his own neck with such force that it severed his head from his shoulders.

Dear friends, let us seek first the kingdom of liberty and its power; then all other blessings can41 be gradually attained42 as fast as they can be understood and assimilated by a free people, led by men and women who respect everybody’s rights.

If in anything I have said tonight I have given any one of my sincere co-workers a moment’s pain, I can only say I am sorry, but I must not withhold the facts. In spite of our blunders we are marching on! The fiat has gone forth and men and women together will alike be free!


  1. Moynihan sheds some light on the family background that may have contributed to Scott Duniway’s opinions. Although Grandfather Roelofson had been a teetotaler since his religious conversion in 1795, the Scotts were “moral suasionists rather than prohibitionists,” and the Sons of Temperance, to which Tucker Scott belonged, was “frequently denounced by cold-water Yankees” (ardent New England temperance advocates who settled the nearby town of Tremont, Illinois) as a “secret order” opposed to legal prohibition and even to “true religion” (Rebel 23).

    The General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church endorsed prohibition in 1883 and national prohibition in 1885, while in 1884 the National Conference of the Unitarian Church merely called “affectionately” on moderate drinkers “to give up such use out of compassion for their weaker brethren” (Cherrington 217, 221-22, 225). This difference likely contributed to Abigail’s drift from the denomination of her childhood to the more moderate Unitarians. []

  2. History of Woman Suffrage 3: 772. []
  3. The 1880s witnessed greater state-level agitation for prohibition than had been seen in thirty years, although the measure ultimately failed in three-fourths of cases. The Oregon legislature twice (in 1883 and 1885) approved an amendment, endorsed by the Republican state convention in 1886, which was rejected by voters in the fall of 1887 (Cherrington 216-17, 225-26, 231). Washington Territory adopted local option in 1885 and voted down prohibition four years later (Cherrington 223, 236). Thus, it is not surprising that, as she does here, Abigail attributed the 1884 defeat in Oregon and the 1887-88 reversal of fortune in Washington to those who campaigned loudly for suffrage as a “shortcut to prohibition.” []
  4. Suffragists and prohibitionists were warming to each other nationally as well. The W.C.T.U., which Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard founded in 1874 and of which she became President in 1879, endorsed “the ballot for woman as a weapon for the protection of her home” in 1880 (Campbell, Man 2: 317). Willard’s Home Protection Party merged with the Prohibition Party in 1882, and Willard persuaded it to endorse woman suffrage in 1882, although this endorsement was withdrawn two years later (Cherrington 167; Campbell, Man 2: 317). N.W.S.A.’s 1887 convention passed a resolution praising the W.C.T.U.’s endorsement of woman suffrage (History of Woman Suffrage 4: 122-23). In April, 1888, Willard joined Anthony, Cady Stanton, and others in testifying before the Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage (History of Woman Suffrage 4: 137-42). Meanwhile, committed prohibitionists such as Anna Howard Shaw, Clara Dorothy Bewick Colby, and Mary Ashton Rice Livermore played increasingly prominent roles in N.W.S.A.

    Such developments made Scott Duniway fear for the association’s direction. Some measure of jealousy probably also was involved: Prohibitionists–no matter how famous–were jenny-come-lately’s to the suffrage cause. No doubt Abigail would have choked on a subsequent assertion, by the General Secretary of the World League Against Alcoholism, that the W.C.T.U. “pioneered the movement for equal suffrage” (Cherrington 174-75). []

  5. Scott Duniway’s autobiography, Path Breaking, and the Sunday Oregonian, September 9, 1906, both date the speech in February. However, History of Woman Suffrage reports that the convention was held on January 21-23 (4: 143). []
  6. 4: 151. []
  7. Chittenden, American West 27. []
  8. A. Duniway, Path Breaking 201-03. []
  9. 188-200. []
  10. Susan B. Anthony, who was presiding in Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s absence (History of Woman Suffrage 4: 144). []
  11. An act of Congress disbursing public lands in the Oregon Territory to settlers; provided that U.S. citizens who had resided upon and cultivated the land for four consecutive years were granted 320 acres if single or 640 acres if married, half to be held by the wife; encouraged not only settlement but also many marriages, and greatly enhanced women’s property rights and economic security (Corning 75; History of the Bench 28-30). []
  12. Oregonian: “women” for “of you” []
  13. William Augustus Newell (1817-1901): born Franklin, Ohio; graduated Rutger’s College, New Jersey; studied medicine at University of Pennsylvania, becoming accomplished surgeon; elected to Congress, 1846, 1848; elected Governor, New Jersey, 1856; returned to Congress, 1864; failed candidate for Governor, 1877; governor, Washington Territory (appointed by Rutherford B. Hayes), 1880-84; woman suffrage first adopted in territory during his term, 1883 (Honeyman; Bancroft, History of Washington 282). []
  14. Words and music by well-known Baptist minister and composer Robert Lowry (1826-1899), of Philadelphia and then Plainfield, New Jersey. Lowry wrote five hundred or so gospel tunes. “Where is My Wandering Boy Tonight,” one of his “most popular and sweetest” melodies, was published in The Fountain of Song in 1877 (“Where is My Boy Tonight?“; “Robert Lowry“; Jacob Henry Hall, “Robert Lowry: Baptist Preacher and Hymn Writer“). []
  15. See “National Woman Suffrage Association Convention.” []
  16. At the time, Scott Duniway blamed defeat–at least publicly–on a lack of financial support from Eastern suffragists (“U.S. Senate Select Committee on Woman Suffrage“). When and why she apparently came to a different view is uncertain. Perhaps at the time she found it was easier to blame outsiders than friends and acquaintances. But events of 1886 appear to have altered her thinking, or at least her candor. She first told the sad story of the brewer’s widow, repeated here, in the New Northwest (25 Mar. 1886); as she recounts here, prohibitionists immediately charged that she had been “bought by whiskey.” In addition to enduring “villainous slanders” regionally, the libel spread eastward, prompting, for example, the Massachusetts Woman’s Christian Prohibitory League to censure her (Moynihan, Rebel 186). Under intense personal attack, her attitude hardened. Perhaps she began to blame prohibitionists for defeats that a more generous spirit had attributed to other causes. At minimum, she seems to have resolved no longer to keep silent about their bungling: Her characterization of the Washington debacle here is frank to the point of pugnacity.

    Apparently she also had been reluctant to criticize a religiously-inspired movement until it became overtly political. A few months later, in an “open letter” to the Oregon W.C.T.U. and Prohibition Party, she wrote that she had “long postponed the telling of these disagreeable truths” while prohibitionists were fighting only “under the gospel banner,” but that, with the birth of the Prohibition Party in 1886, which “lowered the banner of the cross beneath the stars and stripes,” she “would be recreant to every principle of public duty” in failing to “protest against such suicidal proceedings” (New Northwest 17 June 1886).

    Finally, although an exceptionally tough-minded woman, it bears emphasizing that (as she intimates here), at the very time when political opposition had become most venomous, Scott Duniway was grieving for her only daughter, Clara, who had died that January (Moynihan, Rebel 137). []

  17. Oregonian: “attended” []
  18. Mary Greenleaf Clement Leavitt (1830-1912): born Hopkinton, New Hampshire; valedictorian, State Normal School, West Newton, Massachusetts, 1851; began teaching in schools throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts at 16, including as head assistant at the Boylston Grammar School in Boston, 1854-57; married Thomas H. Leavitt, 1857; founded private school for young ladies and children, Boston, 1867-81; attracted by “Woman’s Crusade” of 1873-74, she helped organize Boston W.C.T.U.; beginning 1881, spoke throughout Massachusetts on behalf of New England Woman Suffrage Association and in favor of temperance education in schools; first superintendent of Franchise Department of national W.C.T.U., 1882; asked by Frances Willard to undertake work in California, Washington, and Oregon, July, 1883; began seven-year missionary journey to New Zealand, Australia, the Orient, India, Africa, and Europe, November, 1884; secretary, 1882-91, and honorary president, 1891, World’s W.C.T.U.; her ties to W.C.T.U. eroded during the 1890s and she mounted strident, even hysterical, attack on Willard (Giele; Who was Who 714). []
  19. Scott Duniway’s “open letter” also singles out Clement Leavitt for rebuke, calling her “good but impractical” (New Northwest 17 June 1886). []
  20. Clara Dorothy Bewick Colby (1846-1916): born Gloucester, England; raised in Wisconsin; graduated valedictorian, University of Wisconsin, Madison, having followed regular men’s curriculum in philosophy and Latin; moved to Beatrice, Nebraska, 1872; helped organize Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association, 1881; president, 1885-98; editor, Woman’s Tribune, 1883-1909, which came to be regarded as official organ of National Woman Suffrage Association; moved to Washington, D.C., after 1888; worked to achieve “Minor plan” for suffrage, devised by husband of Virginia Louisa Minor (losing plaintiff of Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162, 1875; Pinkney), who argued that women, as “people,” possessed Constitutional right to vote for members of House of Representatives, which Congress could effectuate by simple majority vote; declining subscriptions to Woman’s Tribune and divorce encouraged her to make fresh start in Portland, 1904, eventuating in power struggle for O.S.W.S.A. leadership; entry in Notable American Women ignores this conflict, saying only that Bewick Colby “participated in several state suffrage campaigns led by” Scott Duniway (Green; Jerry, “Clara Bewick Colby”). []
  21. Narcissa White Kinney (1854-1899?): born Grove City, Pennsylvania; sixth daughter of George W. White and Susanna Kerr Wallace; graduated Pennsylvania State Normal School with high honors; principal, Edinborough, Pennsylvania, training school; president, Grove City W.C.T.U., then county president; then state superintendent of scientific temperance instruction; became national lecturer and organizer, 1880; twice campaigned in Oregon and Washington; married Marshall J. Kinney, proprietor of fish canneries on Columbia River, 1888, moving to Astoria; W.C.T.U. state president, 1894-c. 1898; moved to Portland, 1899; died suddenly; “Her great heart was stirred to its very depths by the wrongs inflicted upon defenseless women and children by the liquor traffic and her deep sense of right and justice was outraged by the protection the traffic received from our national and civic government, so she threw her whole soul into the battle for prohibition and her strong personality and burning eloquence left their impress upon every community she visited in our great commonwealth” (Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette 121-25). She is named in New Northwest accounts of these events (14 Jan. and 25 Mar. 1886). []
  22. Oregonian: “men who wanted it.” []
  23. Oregonian: “over-clouded.” []
  24. The angel who, in ancient Hebrew and Muslim traditions, parts the soul from the body in death. []
  25. Clara Belle Duniway Stearns (1854-1886): oldest child, and only daughter, of Ben and Abigail; in face of family disapproval, eloped with Don H. Stearns, publisher of short-lived, muckraking Portland Evening Bee and land speculator, December, 1876; “taken ill by something mysterious” in “swampy desolation” of Lake Camus on the Washougal during recession, 1884, which Stearns treated with hot lemonade for several months; returned to Duniway home in Portland, suffering from consumption, summer, 1885; died January, 1886; loss of “the precious earth-life that has throbbed in unison with ours since the days of our earliest womanhood” profoundly stirred Scott Duniway’s grief and sense of mission–at end, Abigail told Clara, “I wish I could go with you darling,” to which her daughter’s last words were, “You must finish your work, Ma!”; Scott Duniway, with long-standing spiritualist convictions, reported contact with Clara “through private psychic sources, within a month; and I have never since been able to think of her as dead” (Moynihan, Rebel 124-26, 133; A. Duniway, Path Breaking 279). []
  26. Clara died of consumption on January 21, 1886, two weeks after the Washington Territorial Legislature passed the local option bill for which the W.C.T.U. had been agitating. Actually, the front page of the New Northwest (14 Jan. 1886) reported the territorial legislature’s action in blandly positive, certainly not denunciative, tones, and it printed a letter from an “old reader” that praised the law profusely. If Abigail felt this way about the bill at the time, she was pulling her punches, at least in print. The gloves soon would come off. []
  27. Scott Duniway’s chronology here is confusing. She is speaking in this paragraph of local elections on the question, which would have occurred in June, after her trip to Walla Walla, described below. []
  28. Scott Duniway departed for Walla Walla on March 18. Voicing greater doubt than she had when the local option bill first passed the legislature two months before, but still in a dispassionate, reasonable tone, she writes that the Walla Walla ordinance is “good–so far as it goes,” but is “lamentably deficient” by confiscating liquor dealers’ property without compensation. She claims that, because prohibitionists, like most women, “have comparatively little taxable property themselves, and therefore have nothing to lose,” they do not appreciate sufficiently “the demands of business, or the property rights of men and women whose daily bread depends” on the liquor industry, “however much we must despise it”; yet, with a “carefully prepared ‘compensation clause’” the bill could be “a most effective means of dealing with this vexed and vexing question.” The brewer’s widow is her object lesson (New Northwest 25 Mar. 1886). []
  29. The Oregonian version records a Germanic accent, “o’ dot.” []
  30. Oregonian: “dot” []
  31. Oregonian: “leaf” []
  32. Oregonian: “dot” []
  33. Oregonian: “calls dot” []
  34. Oregonian: “haf” []
  35. Oregonian: “mistook” []
  36. Oregonian: “dot” []
  37. Oregonian: “red-mouthed.” The reference is to “Col.” Hawkins; infra, n. 38. []
  38. Abigail’s own experiences as a businesswoman are powerful evidence that her defense of property rights was genuinely principled. Nonetheless, it was seen readily by true-believing prohibitionists–who already were distrustful of Abigail’s consorting with a brewer’s widow–as consorting with the devil himself. And it could be twisted by forces bent on discrediting her and her cause into the charge that she had been bought. Three months later, in a rage, she would recount recent events in Yakima: Agitators from the national W.C.T.U., “frenzied” advocates of a local option bill, “had accepted as a welcome ally in an insane and ineffective crusade” one “Col.” Hawkins, “an irresponsible vagabond, a dead-beat, a drunkard, and a habitue of bruisers’ resorts and vile dens,” who spread the “vile and characteristic falsehood” that she had received $1,000 from the liquor interests of Walla Walla and $10,000 from those of Portland. The “dodgers” announcing her speech in Yakima were mutilated: Words were pasted over so that the invitation to speak, which had been extended by the “many friends of Woman Suffrage,” was made to read “many friends of the wholesale liquor dealers.” This “villainy” was perpetrated by one Charles Lillie, “a gambler, an ex-gin-slinger, an opponent of Woman Suffrage, of course, and a notorious ward striker, who makes it his business at elections to act the bully in challenging the votes of women” (New Northwest 17 June 1886).

    Under such intense personal attack, it is not surprising that Scott Duniway’s attitude hardened. While she had voiced reasonable reservations about the Walla Walla measure, she flatly would denounce the Yakima bill as a fraud: The “wily advocates of rum” have prepared a “trap” for woman suffrage by enabling “any man, woman, or child” to obtain “any quantity” of liquor from “any druggist or apothecary, without a written permit from any clergyman or church officer, or any physician, scientist, or mechanic,” simply by alleging that the liquor is for “sacramental purposes,” and “the result will be that you will have all the horrors of the whisky traffic, with no power whatever to control or regulate it.”

    Over the next several weeks, she would author a seven-part series, entitled “The Temperance Problem,” that reinterprets history through this firmly anti-prohibition lens (New Northwest 8 July-19 Aug. 1886). The third installment contends that her “line of argument and action in the temperance work is precisely the same to-day that it has always been,” but confesses: “The storm that has lately beaten about our own ears shows plainly that we did not underrate the fury we should have to encounter if we dared bid [prohibitionists] open their eyes and see that they were going wrong. But the knowledge of the storm that we would evoke did not justify our procrastination or cowardice during by-gone years, and for this alone we ask the public’s pardon. We are devoutly repentant for having been lashed under compulsion into the tardy performance of our duty; but we are devoutly thankful also that the lashing no longer annoys us” (New Northwest 22 July 1886). Nor would she let the Charlie Lillie episode rest. When the Washington Farmer subsequently printed a different version of events, she called it a “tissue of falsehoods” and railed: “It is just such infamous scoundrelism as this in behalf of ‘temperance reform’ that is fast making its very name a hissing and a by-word among honest, fair-minded people” (New Northwest 8 July 8 1886).

    This seven-part series became the foundation for “Ballots and Bullets” (and other talks on prohibition): The articles tell many of the same stories related here, only in greater detail and frequently in the same idiom. []

  39. Oregonian: “‘nasty business’” []
  40. In February, 1887, about eight months after the local option elections, ruling on a case brought by a gambler who had been indicted by a grand jury that included some women, the territorial supreme court voided the 1883 suffrage statute on a technicality. Scott Duniway pointedly criticized this reversal (New Northwest 10 Feb. 1887.) When the next legislature, in January, 1888, rectified the defect and reenacted the law, a test case was contrived in which Mrs. Nevada Bloomer, an opponent of suffrage and wife of a saloonkeeper, arranged to have her ballot rejected in a Spokane municipal election and then sued the precinct judges, with the result that the territorial supreme court voided the new act on the grounds that Congress had not intended to empower the territories to enfranchise women (Larson, “Washington” 54-55; History of Woman Suffrage 4: 1096-98). []
  41. Oregonian: “shall” []
  42. Oregonian: “added thereunto” []

Comments are disabled for this post