ASTORIA, OREGON – August 9, 1883

In August, 1883, Scott Duniway was in Astoria, campaigning for the suffrage amendment that was to be voted upon in June, 1884, which, she asserted predictably, the “wide-awake, whole-souled and public-spirited” residents favored “with all their hearts.”

Abigail wrote an enthusiastic account of the rally. She credited the potent “printer’s ink” of the “gentlemanly editor” of the Daily Astorian1 with arousing the public, so that the church in which the rally was held, on a Thursday evening, was “crowded to overflowing–crowded till the entrance is blocked and no late comer can get standing room.”2 The rally began with a violin solo by Freeman Parker3, “a grand medley of national harmonies, in which the patriotic strains of ‘Hail Columbia’ and ‘Yankee Doodle’ predominate.” So infectious was the music that “[t]he people cannot keep their feet still, and our own Presbyterian toes feel light.”4 Then, following another medley by “a well-trained choir of local musicians,” Scott Duniway addressed the crowd, emphasizing in particular–as she often did-the economic hardships imposed on women by a “one-sexed” government.

The text of her address “as nearly as we can recollect,” her report of the occasion, and commentary about the City of Astoria, appear in the New Northwest, August 16, 1883.

You will remember, friends, that when I last stood before you I explained our work in the Oregon Legislature from 1872 to 1880. I related how, step by step, the grand good men of Oregon had acceded to our demands until our statutory rights and responsibilities with themselves had all been conceded, and I said that the Legislature of 1882 would ratify the action of the Legislature of 1880, which had passed a resolution for so amending our State Constitution that the women of Oregon might become possessors of their rightful heritage–the elective franchise. I am here tonight to rejoice with you over the fulfillment of that prediction.

The opposition to Woman Suffrage has all died out among thinking men. They have learned that women do not base their plea for equal rights upon any real or imaginary antagonism between the sexes. They have learned that this movement is going forward in their interest quite as much as in the interest of women. They know that all good women appreciate and honor everything that is good and noble in men. And women know that men have rescued the earth from its pristine wildness. Men have felled the forests, fenced the lands, builded the railways and bridges, erected homes, school-houses and churches, and made the world a comfortable place for women to live in. The roofs over our heads are the products of their handiwork. They have not proved themselves our enemies, but our friends. And if any man present would say that women are not the friends of men–the best, indeed, that man can have–I would pause to ask if the memory of his own mother does not dissipate at once all thought of such a theory. Remember, sir, that what your mother was to you all men’s mothers are to them.

I am here tonight to speak to you of the best friends men have–their own dear, faithful wives and mothers. I am here to do what I can to awaken you to the justice of our demand that these best friends of men shall be allowed equal rights with the sons of women before the law. The weeds of tyranny and selfishness must be no longer left to grow unchecked. The abrasion of conflicting interests is a necessary factor in solving the great problem of human rights. Once, years ago, when I was in San Francisco, during one of my semi-annual visits to the metropolis while I was engaged in trade, after a busy day in the wholesale stores, I returned to my hotel, and, retiring, fell into a sleep from which I was soon awakened by the sound of a man’s and woman’s voices in an adjoining room, between which and my own there was a transom open.

“Go to sleep!” exclaimed a gruff voice, “and stop your slack!”

“How can I sleep,” replied a feminine echo, “when I know I’ll have to go home to-morrow without the necessaries of life for myself or children? The girls expect new shoes and dress, and they’ve worked so hard all Summer, and now you’ve brought our butter and eggs to town and drank and gambled everything away; and I’ve got to go back to the poor children without even a paper of needles or pins or a spool of thread to use.”

“Go to sleep!” was the emphatic response, followed by a wicked oath about a “woman’s tongue.”

The man fell to snoring, and I could hear his wife weeping till a late, late hour.

While listening to the woman’s sobs, I thought of the rank weeds of tyranny and selfishness that had grown unchecked in that man’s heart till they had choked out all the wheat; and I reflected long upon the fact that there was in all America no Canada for that fugitive woman to flee to with her little ones, no redress except through the horrible inquisition of the divorce court. And I reflected that if that man had not been that woman’s husband, she, instead of weeping in unavailing agony over the robbery of her own and children’s earnings, could and would have had him arrested for misappropriating the proceeds of her toil. Then I thought of the system of one-sided power that made these things possible in the home, where above all other places under the sun there should be equal and exact justice. Thus by degrees did the Infinite Father open my eyes to facts that otherwise would have escaped my notice. Gradually, through the evolution of thought, the startling truths of the Declaration of Independence came home to my awakened understanding, till I saw through and through the great network of government; saw through it to the ballot-box, where the sovereignty of the individual first finds expression.

I know that it is only in individual cases that the weeds of tyranny and selfishness have choked out every semblance of justice in the human home; and I also know that in a rightly ordered condition these weeds would not be permitted to grow unchecked anywhere.

It seems to me that the time for argument has passed. This movement has progressed until all the liberty-loving men of Oregon have seen the justice of our plea, and they are coming to the rescue in battalions now. They see that a government, however correct it may be in theory, which is administered upon the one-sexed plan, necessarily falls short of its highest possibilities. A one-sexed government is like a one-sexed home. It is a bachelor’s hall on a big scale. And while it is true that men’s hearts are right toward women, it is equally true that we cannot hope for a just government, where one-half of the people–the home-making element–are denied a voice in making the laws which vitally concern them, and the power to cleanse and purify the moral atmosphere immediately surrounding their homes.

If you tell me that bad women will control the government, I must reply that they control it now, and that is what we complain of. The woman whose husband gambled away her earnings was not a bad woman, or she would have taken advantage of the immoral conditions that men allow, and would have secured, in spite of law, temporal rights by a sacrifice of honor, instead of taking refuge behind unavailing tears. Men have never been successful in remanding bad women to back seats–unless good women were around. This is to be the work of good women; and woman will never reach her highest and best position till she has learned to take interest not only in her own home, where everything that ennobles life must originate, but also in the moral and political atmosphere that surrounds her home. The mother who has instilled good precepts in the mind of her son at home too often sees her work of years overturned in one evil hour by the bad associations outside of home. Gradually with woman’s freedom will come the power to right these wrongs.

But I am not going to make a speech. Hon. C. W. Fulton5, who has promised to speak later in the evening, is now busy at court; but I want to say before he comes that to him belongs the credit of championing the pending amendment in the State Senate of 1880. And while he is engaged elsewhere, I am happy to state that another gentleman who is present will occupy the platform–Hon. B. F. Dennison6, ex-Chief Justice of Washington Territory.

When Oregon and Washington were geographically one, Hon. Samuel R. Thurston7, an Oregon Representative in Congress, set the great question of equal rights in motion by securing the passage of the Donation Land Law.8 Oregon and Washington are yet one in interest. They cannot be otherwise, since they are joined together by the pulsing arteries of our mighty Columbia River. The enfranchisement of Washington’s women will doubtless be accomplished by her next Legislature–while she is yet a Territory.9 Oregon, being a State, must leave the final solution of this great problem to what is called the popular vote.

The gentleman from Washington already alluded to will now speak for himself. I have the honor to introduce Judge Dennison.


  1. John F. Halloran, who in 1880 had purchased the paper, launched in 1876, from its founder, DeWitt Clinton Ireland (E. Miller 87-88). []
  2. Thus, the date of this address is inferred from the fact that August 9 was the Thursday immediately preceding her published account. []
  3. Gelo Freeman Parker (1854-?):  born in Petaluma, California, where he received a common-school education; worked the family farm until moving to Astoria at 20, where he worked as a mercantile clerk for six years; at the time of this address, surveyor of the city and Clatsop County. Improbably, his father, Freeman Parker (1822-1914): born in Washington, Vermont; became a school teacher, surveyor, and farmer; emigrated to California via Panama during the gold rush, 1849; settled in Petaluma (Gaston, Centennial 3: 466; cf. “Cypress Hill Memorial Park, Petaluma, Sonoma County, CA“). I have not attempted to determine whether the elder Parker, 61 at the time, might or could have been visiting his son or, for that matter, whether he played the violin. []
  4. Abigail was raised in the Cumberland Presbyterian church but, insofar as organized religion held any attraction for her in adulthood, she inclined toward Unitarianism (see About Scott Duniway n. 92; “Constitutional Liberty and the Aristocracy of Sex” n. 7; “Ballots and Bullets” n. 1; “The Visit of Nicodemus to Jesus by Night“). []
  5. Charles William Fulton (1853-1918): state and U.S. Senator; Republican; born Lima, Ohio; studied law and admitted to Nebraska bar, April, 1875; left for Oregon three days later; taught school at Waterloo (Linn County) until July, when entered law practice in Astoria; elected to state senate, 1878, 1880, 1891, 1893, 1898, 1899, 1901; presiding officer for three sessions; elected by state senate to U.S. Senate, 1903-09; prosecutions of the Mitchell faction for land fraud resulted in defeat in 1908 primaries (Corning 94; Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette 90-91; Scott, History of the Oregon Country 1: 346-47). []
  6. Benjamin F. Dennison: appointed by legislature to board of regents, University of Washington, 1866-67, and elected president; appointed by governor to three-person commission charged with revising and codifying territorial law, c. 1868; appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant chief justice of territorial supreme court, 1869-71; delegate, territorial constitutional convention, 1878 (which Scott Duniway also attended and addressed), which guaranteed right of women to pursue “any lawful business, avocation, or profession” but failed to remove gender as qualification for voting (Bancroft, History of Washington 216, 273, 279, 290-91). []
  7. Samuel Royal Thurston (1816-1851): first Oregon delegate to Congress; born Monmouth, Maine; graduated Bowdoin College, 1843; admitted to Maine bar, 1844; went to Iowa, 1845; edited Burlington Gazette, 1845-47; came overland to Oregon, 1847, opening law office in Oregon City; Democrat; elected to Provisional legislature from Washington County, 1848; Territorial delegate to Congress, 1849-51; prime mover behind Oregon Donation Land Law (Corning 244; Scott, History of the Oregon Country 2: 242). []
  8. 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). []
  9. This prediction would prove correct (“Oregon State Woman Suffrage Association (1884)“). []

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