“THE PIONEER MOTHER” – July 6, 1905

Nineteenth-century women seeking to justify a larger role in public life often looked to exceptional historical women as models. Scott Duniway, for example, fondly invoked Abigail Adams, for whom she was named. At the turn of the next century, an obscure native woman known to Lewis and Clark would become the most important heroine in the cause of woman’s rights. Although Sacagawea had her admirers as early as 1893, the legend of the Shoshone maiden who, baby on her back, guided the Corps of Discovery through the wilderness was popularized by Eva Emery Dye’s historical novel, The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clark, in 1902. In fact, it has been suggested that Dye, a writer of some repute who happened to be Clackamas County chair of the O.S.E.S.A., manufactured the now-familiar Sacagawea myth for suffrage ends in the wake of the defeat of 1900. ((See Taber.)) While this probably exaggerates Dye’s intentions, just as the myth exaggerates Sacagawea’s importance to the Corps of Discovery, it is undeniable that suffragists quickly appropriated the Shoshone woman as a forebear: Sacagawea soon became closely associated with the movement, both in Oregon and nationally.

Certainly Dye’s close friend, Abigail Scott Duniway, was quick to seize on the new strategy. She happened to be president of the Portland Woman’s Club when it created the Sacajawea Statue Association (with Dye at the helm) for the purpose of securing a statue of Sacagawea for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. ((Taber calls the Statue Association “the center of equal-suffrage activity in Oregon from 1902 until 1906” (8).)) A Denver sculptress, Alice Cooper, was commissioned to execute a bronze for $7,000, and funds were raised across the nation.

While planning for the Centennial was underway, the legislature passed an equal-suffrage measure to be submitted to voters the following year, and the president of the Exposition invited N.A.W.S.A. to hold its annual convention in Portland. Thus, the summer of 1905 witnessed a remarkable confluence of events. The Exposition opened on June 1, and the women’s convention was gaveled to order on June 28. Sacagawea figured quickly and prominently in both. In her presidential address to the assembled suffragists, Anna Howard Shaw praised the native woman’s character and achievements, while July 6–the day following the convention’s conclusion–was Sacajawea Day at the Exposition. This also was two days after Independence Day, and “patriotic” was the operative word. Noting “a thrill of patriotic emotion for all thoughtful spectators,” the newspapers vividly reported the scene:

It was in a large sense woman’s day, and with swelling pride in the significance of the occasion–the celebration of a woman’s historic achievements–representatives of a great national woman’s organization, Susan B. Anthony, Mary Blackwell, Anna Shaw, Carrie Chapman Catt, Abigail Scott Duniway and others of nationwide repute, with many members of the Sacajawea Monument association and also hundreds of members of the Improved Order of Red Men were in a parade that moved through the streets and was witnessed by countless thousands of people who lined every sidewalk along the line of march. ((Oregon Daily Journal 6 July 1905.))

Then the “tremendous throng” assembled on Lakeview terrace on the exposition grounds to witness the unveiling of the statue of the “Bird Woman.” Following “patriotic airs” offered by De Caprio’s band, an invocation by Shaw, President H. W. Goode’s address of welcome, a “patriotic song” delivered “with fine effect” by Charles Cutter, an Alaska native, and the “address of the day” by Anthony, Scott Duniway delivered the following. (( A brief account in the History of Woman Suffrage mistakenly attributes these events to Woman’s Day at the Exposition, on June 30 (5: 132-33).

Scott Duniway also invoked Sacagawea in the second verse of her “Centennial Ode,” penned for the Exposition:

“And then, to make the prophecy complete,
An Indian Mother led the devious way,
Foreshadowing woman’s place, which man shall greet
Without a protest in a hastening day,
When Womanhood, benignant, wise and free,
Shall lead him to yet greater heights of strength and victory.”

)) The Oregon Daily Journal and Portland Evening Telegram carried Abigail’s remarks “in part” that evening (July 6, 1905); the Oregonian followed suit the next morning (July 7). I have followed a more complete manuscript in the Abigail Scott Duniway Papers, which adds three concluding paragraphs. ((For a valuable analysis that reveals how the commemoration of Sacagawea helped “redefine traditional values and reconstitute the membership of a public community” (17), see Richards.))

It is scarcely probable that the pioneer mother who trudged across the almost untracked continent with her babe in arms and other little children clinging to her gown, in the days when the nineteenth century was young, ever gave a passing thought to her own heroism, much less to that of the Indian woman of the earlier years of the same century, who, like herself, was building better than she knew. Nor when the long and arduous journey was over, and she found herself and children alone in the border cabin of the Oregon wildwood, while her husband was exchanging work with a neighbor, who also was hewing out a home in the wilderness, did she then realize the part she was acting in the great drama of life; for whether she was engaged in the domestic pursuits of peace or defending her rude domicile from wild beasts or wilder savages, she was equally with man a necessary factor in the great aim of human effort, out of which has culminated in this dawn of the twentieth century the splendid achievements of this historic day.

Little did the pioneer mothers of Oregon imagine, still less did Sacajawea ((Sacagawea (c. 1786-1812): Shoshone woman and westward companion of Lewis and Clark; probably born in present-day Idaho’s Lemhi Valley; taken captive by Hidatsa raiders when 12 or 13 and sold to French-Canadian fur trader, Toussaint Charbonneau; first reference in historical record is Sgt. John Ordway’s journal, November, 1804, when Corps of Discovery was wintering in Knife River Indian villages near present-day Stanton, North Dakota; some months later she, newborn son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, and husband left Knife River villages with Corps of Discovery on journey westward; interpreter; pointed out landmarks in Shoshone territory, especially Bozeman Pass route over Continental Divide; left expedition again at Knife River villages, August, 1806; probably died 1812 at Fort Manuel in present-day South Dakota (Wells; Corning 214; “Sacagawea“; Mulford 8-15).)) think, the day would come when womanhood would be recognized as it is recognized today. Still less did any man imagine, 100 or even 50 years ago, that away out here, hard by the surging shores of the sundown seas, there would be erected, by women, in enduring bronze the statue of a woman whose unveiling we are here to celebrate.

This woman was an Indian, a mother and a slave. And, as she pointed out the devious way in the wilderness that led at last to the home of her people, from which she had been stolen, a man-child on her back, and in her heart the protective mother instinct that was of itself sufficient to nerve her to deeds of daring in emergencies before which strong men quailed and her own husband cried like a baby, little did she know or realize that she was helping to upbuild a Pacific empire, upon whose borders the white man and the white woman would unite to perpetuate a nation (not yet born) where a government of the people and by the people is destined to supercede an aristocracy of sex.

“Dux femini facti” was an ancient motto ((In the Aeneid, Virgil says of Dido’s flight from Tyre to Carthage: “dux femina facti,” or, “a woman was leader of the expedition” (IV.335).)), and ‘a woman hath inspired the deed’ is still echoed and reechoed along the moving decades, carrying woman with it till at last she stands face to face with a monument of her own creating that is destined to endure for ages.

Other evidences of human handiwork in these enchanted grounds will pass away. They are not meant to be enduring. But this statue of Sacajawea, representing the past subjection of womanhood, is destined to remain as a historic reminder of a vanished era, when woman carried man on her shoulders–a feminine Atlas, upholding a world whose full significance was yet to be realized. In carrying this child, herself symbolic of liberty in bondage, Sacajawea is keeping watch and ward over the outer gates, pointing to the orient, where countless hordes of women still exist in slavery, who shall ultimately look to our enlightened men and women of this Pacific coast for the full fruition of a freedom that has dawned on us already.

On the dome of the nation’s capitol stands the Goddess of Liberty, overlooking from her breezy height the home of Washington.

Away out on the Atlantic’s border is a conspicuous island, placed there by God himself to guide the people of all lands through the great gateway of nations. Did you ever notice, men and brethren, that in always representing liberty as a woman you have been building better than you knew? “Liberty enlightening the world” is written in letters of fire on that eastern statue; the man-child on her back is the pioneer history of woman that is written upon this.

Upon the dome of the nation’s capitol stands another figure of woman; and she, like the statue at the gates of our eastern seas, is forever posing–an emblem of the liberty that is dawning for the women of this western coast, where man, chivalrous, patriotic, wise and free, is gladly welcoming his wife and mother to their proper sphere while helping them in this statue of the historic past to perpetuate the memory of those barbarous times when woman carried man upon her back.

Today we honor a new type of heroine; not a seer of visions, nor hearer of strange voices, not even a philanthropist sustained in her labors by the knowledge of her lofty mission, but she whom we now enthrone was a simple child of the unbroken forest, who, with a pure heart and mind tutored by danger and nature’s lore, endured the calamities and embraced the opportunities of her life with a calm philosophy which we all may profitably acquire. As child she met disaster with courage and hope; as wife she was faithful; as mother, she threw the protecting armour of love around her child, and worked with hand and brain for humanity. She met every demand. She did what she could cheerfully and cleverly, without hope of reward and without foreseeing results.

In honoring her we pay homage to thousands of uncrowned heroines, whose quiet endurance and patient effort have made possible the achievements of the world’s great men whom they loved and served. It is this same disposition to [missing] that brought Independence and Coquille to this platform today.

Independence gave to this nation this beautiful emblem of freedom and progress, what more fitting than that this flag, which Sacajawea, standing on the brow of shining Rock mountains, first waved over this great Empire of the Northwest from mountain crest to the boundless sea, waving back the dark savagery to which she was born, beckoning forward the advancing civilization to which she was wed–what more fitting than that this should perpetuate forever her memory with its lessons, to the city of Independence, whose prompt response first cheered the hearts of the unselfish women, Mrs. Sarah J. [sic] Evans ((Sarah Ann Shannon Evans (1854-1940): born Bedford, Pennsylvania; attended Lutherville College (Maryland Woman’s College); married William M. Evans, 1873; three daughters; lived in North Dakota, where collected Indian relics; moved to Oregon, 1894, settling in Oswego; co-founder, Portland Woman’s Club, 1895; president, 1903-04; co-founder, Oregon State Federation of Women’s Clubs, 1899; president, 1905-15; chaired committee on free public libraries, 1899, and lobbied legislature for tax bill enabling same in Portland; organized financing of Sacagawea statue for Lewis and Clark Exposition, 1905; proponent of trade schools and domestic science education (founded cooking school in South Portland that led to public school curriculum), humane care for mentally ill (campaigned for certified nurses to accompany insane when transported to state hospital in Salem), child labor reform, and pure food laws; appointed Portland city market inspector, first in U.S., and policewoman, August 17, 1905 (position held until 1935); appointed state Liberty Loan coordinator by President Woodrow Wilson; an active Democrat, sought to ally Portland Woman’s Club with Clara Dorothy Bewick Colby and Anna Howard Shaw, and to undercut Scott Duniway’s suffrage leadership, after 1906 debacle (Corning 81; Downs 220-23; Gaston, Portland 2: 718-19; Oregon Lung Association; First Annual Report; Oregonian 11 Dec. 1940; Writer’s Project; Agnes Holt, “Sarah A. Evans (1854-1940),” in H. Smith, With Her Own 229-30; Moynihan, Rebel 213, 215).)) and Mrs. M. A. Dalton ((Martha Angeline Cardwell Barnhart Dalton (1839-1913): daughter of William Lee and Mary Ann Biddle Cardwell, who crossed plains from Jacksonville, Illinois, 1852, settling in Marysville (Corvallis), then moving to Portland, 1858; married December 28, 1854, to James B. Barnhart at Corvallis; married Frank Dalton of Lewiston, Idaho Territory, July 24, 1866; music teacher; charter member, Portland Woman’s Club; frequent member of library and chautauqua committees of Oregon Federation of Woman’s Clubs; sister of Dr. James Robert Cardwell, Portland’s first dentist; died in September (Weekly Oregonian 13 Jan. 1855; Daily Oregonian 26 July 1866; Moynihan, Rebel 84; Writer’s Project; Scrapbooks #21: 13, #44: 105, 155, OR Hist. Soc.; Oregon Federation of Woman’s Clubs Yearbooks, Mss 1511, Box 10, OR Hist. Soc.; Gaston, Portland 387-92). Scott Duniway comments: “She remained a member of the Executive Committee of the State Equal Suffrage Association up to the time of her death; and, though a prohibitionist, always agreed with my efforts to hold the Suffrage Movement aloof from affiliation with the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, after it got into politics” (Path Breaking 217).)), Mrs. C. M. Cartwright ((Charlotte Terwilliger Moffett Cartwright (1842-1915): born Hancock County, Illinois; of Dutch descent; family removed overland to Oregon, 1845; married Walter Gray Moffett, 1860; two children; married Charles M. Cartwright, 1897; four children; resided Portland; Unitarian; chair, Women’s Auxiliary, Oregon Pioneer Association, for fifteen years; honorary president, 1912; died Gearhart (Oregon Pioneer Index, OR Hist. Soc.).)) and Mrs. Breyman ((Phoebe Anna Cranston Breyman: born Champaign County, Ohio; daughter of Ephraim and Rosanna Sears Cranston; came overland, 1851, taking two years and wintering in Missouri; married Arthur Henry Breyman (1840-1908; emigrated from Germany, c. 1857, merchant in Lafayette, Yamhill County, then Canyon City, then Salem; moved to cattle ranch near Prineville, c. 1872; merchant, Prineville, c. 1877; moved to Portland, 1882, opening leather goods and saddlery factory) in Salem, 1867; five children; vice-president, family leather goods concern (Gaston, Portland 3: 322-27; Cornish 882).)) and their helpers, to whose untiring energies, entirely without compensation, Portland and this nation is indebted for this beautiful work of art, portraying not only divine motherhood but also the soul-growth resulting from larger service to mankind.


    Comments are disabled for this post