Five months after “another dismal defeat” at the polls, the thirty-eighth annual convention of O.S.E.S.A. met at the Portland Commercial Club. Among others, Clara Bewick Colby1 spoke about the suffrage efforts of London women, Myrtle E. Pease2 reported on her efforts as the association’s organizer, and Sarah A. Evans3 described the national convention of Federated Women’s Clubs, held the previous summer in Boston.

However, the opening address on this Friday evening belonged to the president, who gave a historical account of the international woman suffrage movement over the preceding seventy-five years. This history, informative in its own right4, harmonizes well with Scott Duniway’s common themes (here more implicit than explicit) of evolutionary progress and inevitable success, particularly when she turns, near the end, to the forthcoming 1910 campaign in Oregon.

Of particular interest is the fact that the 1910 campaign that Scott Duniway presages here–-her fifth–-was for a constitutional amendment conferring, not universal suffrage, but suffrage for tax-paying women only. The idea for this half-way measure had come from several editors, as well as Governor George E. Chamberlain. Apparently it was intended to break the doldrums of four consecutive losing campaigns by trying something new, to reinvigorate the slogan that “taxation without representation is tyranny,” and to reassure business interests who were wary of “freak” measures concocted by “irresponsible and nomadic” citizens via initiative and referendum.5 Even so, this compromise in the interest of political expediency must have been hard to swallow; ultimately, Abigail’s principles could not be satisfied with “half-steps.”

The text is taken from the Oregonian of November 29, 1908. A slightly condensed version of the speech was adapted as an Open Letter, mailed to all the leading men of the state during the subsequent campaign.6

Alice Stone Blackwell7, the gifted daughter of Lucy Stone8 and Henry B. Blackwell9, recording secretary of the National Woman Suffrage Association, and one of the most thoroughgoing chronologists of modern times, says: “It is sometimes said that while the movement for women’s education and property rights has advanced rapidly, the movement for suffrage has made little or no progress. On this point let the ‘hard facts’ speak for themselves.”

Seventy years ago women could not vote anywhere, except to a very limited extent in Sweden, and a few other places in the Old World. In 1838, Kentucky gave school suffrage to widows with children of school age. In 1850, Ontario gave it to women, both married and single. In 1861, Kansas gave it to all women. In 1867, New South Wales gave women municipal suffrage. In 1869, England gave municipal suffrage to single women and widows. In that year, Victoria10 gave it to women, both married and single, and Wyoming gave full suffrage to all women. In 1871, West Australia gave municipal suffrage to women. School suffrage was granted in 1875 by Michigan and Minnesota; in 1873, by Colorado; in 1877 by New Zealand; in 1878, by New Hampshire and Oregon; in 1879, by Massachusetts; in 1880, by New York and Vermont.

In 1880, South Australia gave municipal suffrage to women. In 1881, municipal suffrage was extended to single women and widows of Scotland. Nebraska gave women school suffrage in 1883. Municipal suffrage was given by Ontario and Tasmania in 1884, and by New Zealand and New Brunswick in 1886. In 1887, municipal suffrage was granted in Kansas, Nova Scotia and Manitoba, and school suffrage in North and South Dakota, Montana, Arizona and New Jersey. In the same year Montana gave tax-paying women the right to vote upon all questions submitted to tax-paying citizens.

In 1888, England gave women county suffrage, and British Columbia and the Northwest Territory gave them municipal suffrage. In 1889, county suffrage was given to the women of Scotland, and municipal suffrage to single women and widows in the Province of Quebec. In 1891, school suffrage was granted in Illinois. In 1893, school suffrage was granted in Connecticut and full suffrage in Colorado and New Zealand. In 1894, school suffrage was granted in Ohio, bond suffrage in Iowa and parish and district suffrage in England, to women, both married and single. In 1885, full suffrage was granted in South Australia to women, both married and single. In 1896, full suffrage was granted to Utah and Idaho.

In 1898, the women of Ireland were given the right to vote for all offices except members of Parliament; Minnesota gave women the right to vote for library trustees; Delaware gave school suffrage to tax-paying women; France gave women engaged in commerce the right to vote for Judges of the Tribunal of Commerce, and Louisiana gave tax-paying women the right to vote upon all questions submitted to tax-payers. In 1900, Wisconsin gave women school suffrage, and West Australia granted full suffrage to women, both married and single.

In 1901, New York gave tax-paying women, in all towns and villages of the state, the right to vote on questions of local taxation. Norway gave them municipal suffrage, and the Kansas Legislature voted down, almost unanimously, “amid a ripple of amusement,” a proposal to repeal municipal suffrage. In 1902, full National suffrage was granted to all women of federated Australia, and state suffrage to the women of New South Wales. In 1903, bond suffrage was granted to the women of Kansas, and Tasmania gave women full suffrage. In 1905, Queensland gave women full suffrage. In 1906, Finland gave full suffrage to women, and made them eligible to all offices, from members of Parliament down.

In 1907 Norway gave full Parliamentary suffrage to the 300,000 women who already had municipal suffrage. Sweden made women eligible to [hold] municipal office, Denmark gave women the right to vote for members of boards of public charities, and to serve on such boards, and England, with only 15 dissenting votes out of the 676 members of the House of Commons, made women eligible as Mayors, Aldermen and County and Town Councillors.

In 1908 Denmark gave women the right to vote for all officers except Members of Parliament, and Michigan has just adopted a new constitution containing a clause granting suffrage to taxpaying women.

Years ago, when equal suffrage was much more unpopular than it is now, somebody asked Bishop Gilbert Haven11 if it were true that he had been at a suffrage meeting. “Yes,” answered the Bishop, “I don’t want us to fall in at the rear of this reform. I mean to march with the procession. There can be no doubt as to which way the procession is moving.”

With these facts before us, added to the recent remarkable progress of the movement in the municipality of Chicago, the adoption of full suffrage in the whole of Federated Australia, and the activity of the leaders of the movement in Washington, California and Oregon, with the enfranchised states of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho laughing in their sleeves at the men of Oregon, whom they accuse of being afraid of the women of their households, and giving that accusation as a reason for men having voted us down last June, we believe the time has come to so far respect the conservatism of the voters of our state as to offer them a compromise. We are, therefore, asking them for a constitutional amendment, providing that no citizen who is a taxpayer shall be denied the elective franchise on account of sex.

The initiative petitions leading to this amendment found such ready approval before the voters, after our June defeat, many of whom had before opposed the movement in its entirety, that we were able to gather, through men’s assistance, approximately 10,000 certified signatures inside of six weeks, although it had previously required as many months to obtain as many names for submitting an amendment, asking for full suffrage to the voters at large.

Ever since school suffrage was extended to women in 1878, that is, those “who have property in the district on which they or their husbands pay a tax,” there have been leading spirits among us who have been considering the advisability of presenting to the Legislature a bill, having the same provisions as the school suffrage act, but extending the full power of the electorate to taxpaying women of the state at large. But we were never able to agree unanimously upon this point until the late election proved to all of us the overwhelming opposition of the ultra conservative votes and the vote of the ignorant, brutal and criminal classes, who, no matter how widely divergent may be their views, habits and votes on other questions, have always voted together as a unit in opposition to equal rights before the law for the mothers of men. In the hope of allaying the opposition of the former class, but without any expectation of securing the co-operation of the latter combination, we are moving forward expectantly.

Our pending constitutional amendment was legally launched on its way to victory on the 16th of September of the current year, and if not made unnecessary by Legislative enactment in 1909, is to be voted upon November 10, 1910. Our platform of principles is absolutely non-partisan. We are not proposing to govern men, nor do we intend to attempt to “drive” them. All we ask is the power to march side by side with our husbands, fathers and brothers and sons, enjoying equally with them the rights and privileges made necessary by the changed conditions of modern times, which have driven so many women out of home into the business and wage-earning world in defense of the homes and property rights which they are paying taxes to maintain.

The slogan of our campaign is “No Taxation Without Representation.” The eyes of the enfranchised women of the four states to the east of us, and those of the enfranchised women of the world, are turned with patriotic interest upon Oregon. She alone holds the key to the present situation in the United States of America. It rests with her voters to decide whether she will take the lead in this important progressive movement or leave the honor of victory to Washington, Montana or California, which are now marching in our rear, hoping to overtake and distance us in the race toward liberty, which we believe public-spirited Oregonians will not permit.


    1. 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”). []
    2. Myrtle Evalyne Pease Hatfield (1873-1913): born Newton, Iowa; daughter of Clinton W. (1839-1913) and Margaret A. Pease; came to Oregon with parents, 1899; taught school in Albany for five years, c. 1904, then two years in rural sections, then three years in Mt. Tabor; resigned to take position with Boy’s and Girl’s Aid Society, traveling throughout state “looking after neglected children, often undergoing great hardship and privation”; corresponding secretary, O.S.E.S.A., 1906-11; married Charles Hatfield, retired Forest Grove merchant, Oct. 4, 1911; died suddenly in Forest Grove, March 14; coroner’s inquest; cause of death unknown (Forest Grove Press 20 Mar. 1913; Washington County News-Times 20 Mar. 1913; A. Duniway, Path Breaking 215; cf. Springsteen, who says she was born in Nebraska in 1874). []
    3. 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). []
    4. Although I have not attempted to verify each assertion of fact. []
    5. A. Duniway, Path Breaking 181-82; “A Pioneer Incident” n. 2. McKern notes that, despite its restrictive title, the text of the amendment was more expansive and would have granted all women the vote; moreover, the restriction would have been more apparent than real because even paying a small tax on an article of clothing would qualify. This discrepancy generated much confusion and opposition from socialists, non-tax-paying men who feared that they would be disenfranchised, and the W.C.T.U., which thought the measure was sure to be ruled unconstitutional (135-36). Although the discrepancy might have been a printing error, Abigail suspected deliberate sabotage in the state printer’s office while son Willis, the state printer, was absent, recuperating from a heart attack. In any event, the cause was lost; the amendment would be defeated by 22,600 votes, producing “general satisfaction” in many quarters, including among those who delighted in Abigail’s failures (Moynihan, Rebel 214; History of Woman Suffrage 6: 544). []
    6. Cf. Path Breaking 182-86, where Scott Duniway states more clearly than does the first paragraph, above, that the historical facts recited here were compiled by Alice Stone Blackwell. []
    7. (1857-1950): born Orange, New Jersey; graduated Boston University, 1881; for thirty-five years, editor of Woman’s Journal; for almost twenty years, recording secretary, N.A.W.S.A.; championed Armenian refugees, Friends of Russian Freedom, W.C.T.U., Anti-Vivesection Society, Women’s Trade Union League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, American Peace Society, and many other causes (Blodgett; Willard and Livermore 1: 90; Lord passim). []
    8. (1818-1893): first Massachusetts woman to earn college degree (at Oberlin, 1847); lecturer for American Anti-Slavery Society; instrumental in calling national woman’s rights convention in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1850; presided over seventh national woman’s rights convention in New York, 1856; instrumental in organizing American Equal Rights Association to agitate for both woman and Negro suffrage, 1866; co-founder, American Woman Suffrage Association, 1869; founder, chief financier and, after 1872, editor of Woman’s Journal (Filler, “Stone”; Lord passim). []
    9. Henry Browne Blackwell (1825-1909): born Bristol, England; Cincinnati hardware merchant and abolitionist; one of earliest advocates of woman suffrage in America, making first speech in its favor in Cleveland, 1853; married Lucy Stone, 1855; co-edited Woman’s Journal. []
    10. Alexandrina Victoria (1819-1901): Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 1837-1901; also became Empress of India, 1876. []
    11. (1821-1880): abolitionist; bishop, Methodist Episcopal Church; born Malden, Massachusetts; entered ministry in New England Conference, 1851; “advocated civil rights and absolute social equality, even to racial amalgamation”; edited Zion’s Herald, 1867-72, allied with Charles Sumner, the radical Republicans, prohibition, woman suffrage, and lay representation; elected to episcopacy of General Conference, 1872, and settled in Atlanta, where he was ostracized and threatened with violence for practicing what he preached; helped found schools and colleges for freed slaves, and publicized Southern repression in the North, fearlessly denouncing secret organizations that “murdered people for their opinions”  (Joy). []

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