The progressive currents making headway across the United States in the early years of the twentieth century influenced Oregon as well.1 In August, 1908, during Democrat-cum-populist Harry Lane’s2 second term as Mayor of Portland, a Charter Commission began to consider alternative forms of municipal government such as the recently-devised “Des Moines Plan” of government by nonpartisan, elected commissioners. For months the Commission was the epicenter of fierce political wrangling.3 Midway through the Commission’s deliberations, soon after launching the statewide campaign for suffrage for tax-paying women, and just days after progressives managed to revoke the city’s street paving monopoly, Scott Duniway appeared before the Commission to urge that it include an analogous municipal suffrage provision for tax-paying women in the new city charter.

Abigail had no patience for the anti-suffrage view of “True Womanhood,” in which women required “protection” from the hostile forces of the world outside the home; in her view, such “theories” were grossly unrealistic. Here, for example, she notes the increasing numbers of working women, argues that women in fact are better businesspeople than men, and then appeals to the principle of justice, i.e., that taxation without representation is tyranny. (She also argues that municipal suffrage would not violate the state constitution.) The strategy of limiting equal suffrage to tax-paying women was designed, in part, to reinvigorate this principle’s rhetorical appeal. But a half-measure suggests a half-hearted principle and, in a context of populist foment, must have seemed particularly “old guard.” This may have been exactly the wrong moment to play it safe.

Also noteworthy is a tension in Scott Duniway’s attitude toward her audience. At the outset she seeks to reassure her audience of a spirit of “amity and friendship.” Nonetheless much of the remainder pointedly chides the “average man” generally and the men of the commission in particular, so much so that one wonders, when she exempts “present company” from her needling, how sincerely this is meant. In a nutshell, this captures a recurrent problematic feature of Scott Duniway’s rhetoric: the effort to praise men and appeal to their sense of chivalry, from a sharp-witted woman with a finely-honed sense of sarcasm. Abigail struggled throughout her public life to strike the peace between these conciliatory and antagonistic tendencies, which helps account for the widely divergent reactions she provoked in allies and enemies alike.

A (corrupt?) manuscript of this speech appears in Scrapbook #2 of the Abigail Scott Duniway Papers. Her comments (at least substantial excerpts) also were reprinted by an unidentified newspaper, a clipping of which can be found in Scrapbook #1.4 In broad outline, and sometimes in stylistic detail, the two are parallel, establishing without a doubt that they represent different versions of the same speech. Yet, they also differ dramatically. Scott Duniway’s habit of extemporaneous delivery rather than slavish adherence to prepared remarks is well-established; here, the newspaper report repeatedly amplifies upon the manuscript and probably more faithfully conveys the entirety of Abigail’s actual speech.5 Further evidence that the manuscript was less a polished script than a set of “talking points,” which she often embellished or departed from, is that two pages merely rework two others.6

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Charter Commission, Gentlemen, and (incidentally) Ladies: In grateful acknowledgment of the courtesy extended to me tonight on behalf of the many present and prospective wage-earning, tax-paying women of Portland, whom I have the honor to represent, I wish, first of all, to impress you with the fact that we come before you in the spirit of amity and friendship. We all like men better than we like women. I, myself, had spent nearly a quarter of a century in mothering men before the public heard from me at all; and, although, since that work was accomplished, I have been the recipient of fame and honors far above my early anticipations, there is no other part of my strenuous life upon which I look backward with the extreme satisfaction that crowns the memory of the busy years when “With little children clinging to my gown,” I was one of the myriads of humble mothers who “Trod the old kitchen floor.”7

But the world of working women has changed its front. The manufactures which formerly occupied women within the home, have been transferred from the home to the store, the office, the lodging house, the hotel and the factory. And women, whose physical necessities are equal to men’s and their moral obligations to others often far greater, have been compelled in many, if not the majority of cases, to follow the work that has been taken away from the home to the business they are compelled to pursue in order to have any home at all to keep.

I admit and admire the power of men. I admire their theories about “clinging vines” to which they delight to compare women, and “sturdy oaks” to which they love to compare themselves. If these theories were facts, with only an occasional exception, there would never have been a “woman movement” on the face of the earth, for there would never have been any cause for it. But the average man, (this Honorable Body, the Charter Commission and its aiders and abettors of course excepted) is not a successful business man. Look at the lodging houses, boarding houses, apartment houses, little hotels–all kept by women. Follow the crowds of women clerks, stenographers, day-laborers, sewing machine operators, laundry women and house cleaners, none of whom are supported and protected by husbands and fathers, not to mention teachers, doctors and professional women of all sorts and grades, whose livelihood depends upon their own efforts, and I am sure you will agree with me that, (present company excepted) the list of women who are not “supported” within the home is much larger than that of the sheltered, favored few whose husbands and fathers have endowed them with a livelihood they have not earned by labor of their own hands or brain.

I am not coming to you tonight with a request for anything new or tentative. But I do ask, in all seriousness, that you embody, in the charter you are taking so much pains to prepare, an article granting municipal suffrage to the tax-paying women citizens of Portland who are as deeply interested as yourselves in the governing provisions of this rapidly growing metropolis, whose expenses they must help to pay.

I know that lawyers–especially those educated in the archaic law schools of Eastern Universities, will oppose us with the cry of “unconstitutional.”

Mr Chairman8: In the masterly argument on this very question which I heard you make at the Forum last Sunday evening, you said, and your speech was applauded to the echo, that nothing was more unjust or ridiculous than attempts to . . . created by them for their safety and happiness; that, whenever any government becomes subversive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.

The tax-paying, wage-earning, home-making mothers of Portland have not commissioned me to ask you to alter or abolish the government we are compelled to pay taxes to maintain. But we do ask you to so extend its provisions by a clause in your proposed Charter that every woman, within the confines of this great and growing metropolis may have a voice in the distribution of her taxes.

Women insist that they are not asking you for any new or untried experiment. I have here a summary of precedents to9 . . . to which I respectfully call your attention. Passing over tax-paying school suffrage, which has been granted to women in a majority of the States in the Union without a change in their respective Constitutions, of which Oregon is a noted example, and omitting mention of the many governments of the Old World where municipal suffrage prevails, please note that this form of suffrage is now enjoyed by the women of Kansas and Louisiana without a change in their State Constitutions.

I have myself voted, in company of many other tax-paying women upon bonds for bridge building, and you all know the Constitutionality of that vote has never been questioned.

Your Honor informed us the other night at the Forum, that everybody was to be allowed to vote for or against the new Charter, not in sections, but as a whole. Duty to my constituents compelled me to ask if everybody included women. But, when I asked if women were not people what are we, I confess that I sympathized with your evident embarrassment when you dodged the question, for I knew a man so noted as yourself for chivalry and justice would have been glad to acknowledge the existence of the mothers of men as a component part of “everybody” if we had been voters already. We ask you to relieve yourselves of this embarrassment by throwing for us a10 . . . a municipal plank and extending to our freed hands the power to seize it. You know you can do it if you will; you know you ought to do it if you don’t. But, whether you extend this plank to us for use in the city government at this time or not, there is one thing you can do for the faithful women wives and mothers of the men of Oregon at the next State election. As you know, we have a tax-paying citizens Constitutional Amendment pending for the election of 1910. This election is placed beyond the power of the present Legislative Assembly to prevent, it having been accepted and filed by our Secretary of State under the laws of 1907-8.

You can, gentlemen, and we sincerely

The newspaper reports:

In grateful acknowledgement of the courtesy you have extended to me tonight, and on behalf of the many present, prospective business and tax-paying and home-building women of our rapidly growing metropolis, I wish, first of all, to impress you with the fact that we come before you in the spirit of fair dealing, amity and friendly association. I myself had spent the greater part of a quarter century in mothering men before the public had heard from me at all. And, although, since my children have long been useful and honored citizens of the Union, residing in homes of their own, I have become the recipient of fame and honor far beyond my early anticipations, I am proud to tell you that there is no other part of my long and strenuous life upon which I look backward with the extreme satisfaction that crowns the memory of those busy years when, “With little children clinging to my gown,” I was one of the faithful, old-fashioned mothers who “Trod the kitchen floor.”

But the world for working women has changed front since then. The manufacture of food and clothing, which formerly occupied the time of working women within the home, has been transferred to the restaurant, the store, the hotel, the office, the lodging-house, the creamery, the laundry and the factory. Women who are so situated that they must work or starve, whose financial and physical necessities are equal to men’s, and their moral obligations to others dependent upon them often greater, have been compelled to follow the work that modern enterprise has taken away from the home, in quest of the gainful occupations they are compelled to pursue if they are to have any homes at all to keep.

I admire the power and enterprise of men. I admire their pretty theories about women, whom they call “clinging vines”; and their own assumption that they are “sturdy oaks” makes pretty reading and lacks only the application of truth to make them universally irresistible. We all know that the average man (present company of course excepted) is not a “sturdy oak,” nor is the average woman a “clinging vine.” If this honorable body really believes that women, as a class, are “supported” by men, let them consider the numerous rooming-houses, boarding-houses, apartment-houses and little hotels, kept by women, whose husbands stand at the receipts of customs; or, if the wife demands her right to take over that part of the business herself (as these unreasonable creatures called women sometimes do), look at the divorce docket and study, as I have so often been compelled to do when, in their helplessness, deserted women have appealed to me for advice and assistance.

Then, let them follow the crowds of women on almost any week-day morning going to their work. Note the clerks, stenographers, day laborers, sewing-machine operators, typewriters, laundresses, house cleaners, none of whom are adequately supported within the home, not to mention the professional women, such as teachers, doctors, etcetera, whose livelihood depends upon their own efforts, and you cannot help but see that the list of women who contribute to the support of the home on the outside is much larger than the sheltered classes, including the few whose husbands or themselves have inherited fortunes, manipulated franchises, wrecked banks, conducted speculations successfully, or maneuvered skillfully to outwit the law.

If I do not appeal for the few women who pay taxes upon inherited property to any considerable amount, it is because they are able to speak for themselves; and when the shoe of the law pinches them, they will, like Mrs. Russell Sage11, Mrs. Clarence McKay12 and other millionaire legatees of New York, begin to make protests on their own account.

I am not coming before you with any tentative proposition. But I do ask, in all seriousness, that you do not barter away the women’s franchise as men bartered away other franchises against which they now struggle in vain.

All we ask is that you incorporate in the new charter a provision extending the privileges of the elective franchise to taxpaying women. You need not be afraid of us. We will do you good, and not evil. See what we are doing, or trying to do through the Women’s Clubs, all along the line. Most women are, as yet, too timid to make protest before you on their own account. But they are alive to the situations, as you will discover when you invite them into their rightful heritage, for which they expectantly wait. I know that lawyers, especially those educated in archaic universities, such as abound in archaic states, will say our demand for municipal enfranchisement for taxpaying women by charter is “unconstitutional.” But I have often noticed that lawyers and judges can find ways to stretch the constitution, throw planks across it or tunnel through it, if they or their clients so desire. I might cite many decisions of the courts to illustrate this point if I had the time.

In the masterly argument made at the People’s Forum recently, your honor said (alluding to Judge McGinn), and the speech was applauded to the echo, that “nothing was more ridiculous than attempts to compel the people of today to live under the rigid restrictions imposed upon them by men long since dead, who, by the very nature of our changed conditions, could not have foreseen our Twentieth Century necessities.” And this frank admission of facts, as applied to men, is doubly true of women who are denied to this day all the rights as to citizenship which dead men bestowed upon you before you were born.

The tax-paying, business-managing home-making women of industrial Portland are not asking you to insert a patch in your constitution. All we ask is that you open the way for women to go around it, or as you do when you so desire, to bridge, or tunnel through it. In so doing you will deal by women exactly as you know we should do by our husbands, fathers or sons under like conditions.

I have here a summary of precedents to which I wish to call your attention. Passing over school suffrage, which men have accorded women in the majority of the States of the Union without the formality of a constitutional amendment–states in which Oregon is a notable example–and omitting mention of the many governments of the Old World where municipal suffrage prevails, please note that this form of suffrage is now enjoyed by the women of Kansas, Louisiana and many towns and cities of New York and was granted to them without any change in their state constitutions. That the women of the four states directly to the east of us are enjoying full suffrage is another story, not germane to this contention.

I have, myself, voted, in company with other tax-paying women of Portland, upon bonds for bridge building, and you all know that the constitutionality of that vote has never been called in question. Yet it is exactly in line with municipal suffrage for which we ask a place in the new charter. Your honor (addressing the chair), informs us at the Forum that “everybody” might have a vote for or against the new charter. But when you were asked if “everybody” included women, the blush that overspread your features did credit to your manhood when you shook your head and answered “No.”

We are [imploring]13 you, men and brethren, to insert for taxpaying women a municipal suffrage plank in the new charter, to maintain which the tax gatherer will never miss us. We know you can do it if you will, and you know you ought to do it if you don’t.


    1. Generally, see Dodds 152-84; Schwantes 345-62. []
    2. (1855-1917): Portland’s first populist mayor, who clashed repeatedly with corrupt authorities; born Corvallis; graduated with medical degree from Willamette University, 1876; appointed superintendent, state hospital for insane, 1887; mayor, 1905-09; U.S. Senate, 1913 until death, where worked particularly in child labor, pure food, and Indian affairs; final Senate vote was against resolution committing U.S. to entry in World War I; grandson of Gen. Joseph Lane, first territorial governor; Democrat (Corning 142; “Biography: Lane, Harry,” Vertical File, OR Hist. Soc.). []
    3. The full story cannot be told here. Suffice it to note that the Commission’s chair, Republican Henry E. McGinn, was an old political rival of Lane’s (defeating Lane in a state senate race in 1901) and that, in April, 1909, the City Council was presented with two competing new charters. The commission form of government finally replaced the old councilmanic ward system in 1912, Lane’s last year as mayor (Dodds 173). []
    4. The Oregonian, Oregon Daily Journal, and Portland Evening Telegram all reported on January 27 that Scott Duniway had addressed the commission, the first describing it as “one of her forceful talks” and the last an “able address.” However, none published the text. Another copy of this clipping is located in “Biography – Abigail Scott Duniway,” Vertical File, OR Hist. Soc. []
    5. There is one important exception: The manuscript also appeals for support of the 1910 statewide referendum, but the newspaper report does not. Perhaps Scott Duniway spontaneously omitted this portion of her planned talk; perhaps the report, even if comparatively more faithful, still is incomplete. []
    6. The manuscript is consecutively paginated one through nine, but there are two sixes and two (actually three–see below) eights; each pair comprises two versions of the same material. Discontinuities at the page breaks (noted herein by ellipses) often signal missing pages in a manuscript. However, given her extempore habits, this pagination could signal that the manuscript is complete as a set of notes, achieved by discarding draft pages; as “talking points,” the discontinuities between pages would have been unimportant and the paired pages would represent choices that she would wait until the moment to make.

      Scott Duniway’s struggle to navigate antagonistic versus conciliatory attitudes is palpable in three versions of comments directed to Judge McGinn near speech’s end: Some of the bite of the first manuscript version is moderated in the alternate manuscript version, and the “embarrassment” that McGinn’s statements are said to cause him in both versions is transformed into a “credit to your manhood” in the newspaper account! []

    7. Apparently loosely borrowed from a poem published, alternately, as “Old Kitchen Reveries” (Good Housekeeping 24 Dec. 1887; author “unidentified”) or Memories of the Old Kitchen” (Manford’s New Monthly Magazine Oct. 1888; by Mrs. S. P. Snow). []
    8. Henry E. McGinn (1859-1923): son of Irish Catholic baker; born Portland; studied law, University of Oregon; admitted to bar, 1879; elected prosecuting attorney for Fourth District, 1880, serving 2 terms; elected state senate, 1892; appointed Circuit Judge, Fourth District, 1895; elected to state senate, 1901, defeating Harry Lane; married Louise Summers, 1909; elected state circuit court judge, 1911, serving six years and refusing second term; Republican; close friend of Theodore Roosevelt, Harvey Scott; refused national office because didn’t want to leave Oregon (Lockley 2: 810-14; Republican League Register 243; Scrapbook #261: 104, OR Hist. Soc.)

      Many eulogies and stories are preserved in Scrapbook #261: 104-08, OR Hist. Soc. Evidently, McGinn was fond of drink and impatient with precedent and technicality on the bench; see clippings in Scrapbook #272: 76-82, especially the scathing “The Truth About McGinn” by one Elmer L. Amidon, who calls him a drunk, a womanizer, and unpatriotic, lumping him together with Emma Goldman, I.W.W.’ers, and Bolshevism (76-79). But he was a good friend of the Duniway family. On what would have been Abigail’s eighty-first birthday (she had died eleven days before), McGinn wrote to Wilkie Duniway, recalling those days in 1871 when the Duniways had come to Portland, and extolling his mother’s “great life,” “noble work,” and “splendid example” (Morning Oregonian 25 Oct. 1915). []

    9. The second, apparently unchosen, version of page six reads instead: “created by them for their safety and happiness. That whenever any government becomes subversive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government that shall be conducive to their safety and happiness.

      I am not here, gentlemen to ask you to alter or abolish the government, but to so extend its provisions that it shall conform to the present conditions of women in this wage-earning, property-holding, tax-paying municipality.

      Every member of this Commission knows, in his heart of hearts, that our demand is reasonable and just.” []

    10. The second version of page eight renders this paragraph as: “Mr. Chairman, when you informed us the other night at the Forum that the ‘everybody’ you were telling us would have a chance to vote yes or no on the proposed Charter didn’t include tax paying women, I confess I felt a motherly sympathy for your evident embarrassment. That it is in the power of this commission to give tax-paying women a referendum vote on a separate clause in its many articles respecting their own right to the equal protection of the laws they help to maintain by an enforced levy for which they are now denied representation”. The relevance of a third page eight, which simply lists “Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, New Hampshire, Massachusetts,” is highly uncertain; it might have been related to the earlier discussion of “precedents.” []
    11. Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage (1828-1918): philanthropist; born Syracuse, New York; graduated Troy Female Seminary, 1847; taught at Chestnut Street Seminary, Philadelphia, where ill health forced her to resign after two years; married Russell B. Sage, former Congressman, 1869; Presbyterian; interested in home and foreign missions, W.C.T.U., elimination of prostitution, tobacco, and vice, pure food (especially milk inspection), humane treatment of animals, woman suffrage, and education; when Sage died in 1906, leaving estate in excess of $63 million, she became America’s foremost woman philanthropist, with total gifts $75-$80 million, comparable to Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Morgan; founded Russell Sage Foundation and Russell Sage College; other major gifts benefited U.S. Military Academy, Harvard, Yale, Emma Willard School (formerly Troy Seminary), Syracuse, Tuskegee, Hampton, New York Public Library, Children’s Aid Society, Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, New York Botanical Gardens, New York Zoological Society (Wyllie). []
    12. Katherine Alexander Duer Mackay Blake (1879-1930): Gilded Age socialite, author; born New York City; descendent of Catherine Alexander (“Lady Kitty”) and Col. William Alexander Duer, member of Continental Congress and Treasury official (appointed by Alexander Hamilton) whose insider speculation in bank stocks triggered crash of 1792; daughter of William Alexander Duer, lawyer, and Ellin Travers Duer; educated at home; married Clarence Hungerford Mackay, 1898, heir to John William Mackay’s silver fortune (co-discovered Bonanza mines, founded Bank of Nevada), and capitalist who developed cable and telegraph interests, eventually director, International Telephone and Telegraph; resided “Harbor Hill” (stone French chateau designed by Stanford White) on six hundred acres, Roslyn, Long Island; daughter Ellin was second wife of composer Irving Berlin; “beautiful, vivacious, determined and opinionated”; Roslyn Public School Board, 1905-10; founded Equal Franchise Society, 1909, contributed large sums, recruited many of New York’s most influential women; refused to let Society march in Fifth Ave. suffrage parades, 1910-11, favoring less combative theatrical pageants; reports circulated that Mrs. Joseph Augustus Blake, M.D., would file for divorce and sue her for damages, September, 1913; divorced Mackay, May, 1914; married Blake, November, 1914, one day after his divorce was final; lived in Paris during war, where he was chief American surgeon; divorced Blake, 1929 (he remarried–for third time–almost immediately); authored “Stone of Destiny,” 1903, “Some Letters,” 1917-18; contributed to North American Review, Harper’s, others; Episcopalian; member, Colony Club; died of pneumonia (New York Times 20 Apr. 1930; Who was Who 104, 763; Graham 39; Lumsden 99, 107; Rhoda Amon, “The Architect of Desire”; “Trinity Church History“; Kathy Larkin and Joyce Gabriel, “LI’s Rebels With a Cause”; “The New Netherlands Ancestors of Catherine Alexander Duer, the Wife of Clarence Hungerford Mackay”; “John William Mackay”; Brian Trumbone, “William Duer and the Crash of 1792”). []
    13. The newspaper mistakenly reads “employing” []

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