Little is known about this manuscript, which was found in folder “Suffrage Correspondence 1905-1906″ in the Abigail Scott Duniway Papers. Textual clues strongly suggest a meeting of the Oregon Federation of Women’s Clubs in Portland, with Scott Duniway speaking as a Federation representative (in her home city, of course). If so, its probable date is 1905.1

Madam President: In responding to our masterly welcome, to which we have just listened, and in appreciative acknowledgment of the honor that accrues to me, on behalf of the Oregon Federation of Women’s Clubs, I am peculiarly impressed with the deep significance of this important gathering.

How vividly I recall the time, 30 years ago, when, of the many silver haired women now present, few if any imagined that the time would ever come when any other Oregon woman save only my fool-hardy self, would ever be guilty of such a supposed-to-be-unwomanly act as to assist in forming, much less to address a public assembly of this character. Still less did you imagine that the 20th Century would find you convened from all over the state, in a sort of handicapped, semi-official Legislative capacity, to consider the ways and means necessary to accomplish the betterment of humanity’s conditions, temporal, civic and economic.

Thirty years ago, when many of these blooming delegates had scarcely passed their babyhood, and many others had not yet been born, your humble speaker braved the odium of public opinion and the misrepresentation of ignorance and prejudice alone, in behalf of just such work as now convenes us. But she did not dream that she would live to see her own adopted state regard it as an honor for women to appear upon any platform in any other capacity than that of singer or actress; still less did she imagine that, were such an assemblage of women possible, she would ever be chosen as one of its honored spokeswomen. But the world moves and women are moving with it. The church has learned, much to its credit and advantage, that the omniscient Author of human destiny understood His business when he endowed women with brains and tongues and the capacity and will to use them wisely, graciously and usefully. The school long ago learned that the great multitude of its most capable teachers had to be selected from the ranks of women, if the work of training immortal souls for their highest destiny were to be successfully pursued. The “co-ed,” in the greatest institutions of learning, has already taught her brother that she can carry off the highest honors in competitive examinations, and at the same time increase her capacity for usefulness in the home that awaits her, causing the home, that greatest, most important of all institutions under the sun, to keep pace with the march of her understanding, and enabling the husband of her choice (not alone, his choice, mind you) to glory in her domestic achievements in proportion as he has learned to “give her of the fruit of her hands,” and thus “let her own works praise her in the gates.”

Civic Improvement leagues have learned to welcome the Club Woman to their councils as aids and inspiration in sanitation and comfort; and our own Portland, to which we are so proud to be welcomed today, is planning for our cooperation in creating in our midst a Rose City, the like of which has never been seen on this continent. Already, although Oregon is tarrying a little behind the block of great inter-mountain States directly to the East of us, and has not yet bestowed upon us our full and free enfranchisement, the State welcomes us to assist patching the more serious of its blunders; for does it not seek our aid in caring for its feeble-minded and deserted offspring which, as many men now see, are merely the outcroppings of the subjugated condition of motherhood?

Women are learning, by and through this great Club Movement, the true nature of their own heretofore narrow environment. They are learning the value of personal, civil and political liberty for themselves, and in turn, are teaching men that “we will do them good and not evil all the days of our lives,” in proportion to the opportunities they do not withhold, as well as the many we take without the asking.

While we believe that men are destined to receive the greatest benefit from every enlargement of our liberties and opportunities in the future, as they have been in the past, we are by no means unmindful of the benefits accruing to ourselves from this “moving to and fro in the earth,” through which we have the promise that “knowledge shall be increased.”

It has been said of the latter half of the Nineteenth Century that he (I believe centuries are always called masculine) discovered woman. It can truly be said of this great Club Movement that through the aid of her own search light, turned full upon the dawn of the Twentieth Century, woman has discovered herself–a discovery more important to the race than all the others that have preceded it, since through its agency the wonderful potential possibilities of a free enlightened and spiritual motherhood is already seen, though only, as yet, “through a glass, darkly.”

Already have we learned to do much to alleviate horrors of war. No longer do we drudge in sorrowing seclusion or sit in helpless inactivity when the children of our peril go forth to kill and maim each other in battle. But we have gone further. We are teaching men and Nations that ultimately wars shall cease; and then even race wars shall gradually become obsolete, for the mothers of all races will deem it best for each to maintain its own social structure and build its own vantage ground. A woman has discovered, by faithful study of the great corporate powers, as well as the limitations invested in our National charter of Federation that we have, from the beginning of this great Woman Movement been building better than we knew. A great question, out of which had risen at first a cloud no larger than a woman’s hand, seems now to have been settled for us by a Providential discovery. But my time is limited and I can only say, in closing, we are glad to be welcomed by the Women’s Clubs of Portland. Officers, delegates, members and visitors alike are glad.


    1. Notwithstanding a notation, “1906?,” not in Abigail’s hand. It seems probable that the “honor” to which she refers is her selection as honorary president of the Federation, in 1905 (Haarsager 291). []

    Comments are disabled for this post