Meanwhile, back in Washington . . . Two years after Scott Duniway’s 1873 “Opposition” speech before the Washington Territory Woman Suffrage Association convention and the legislative defeat of the Eldridge suffrage bill, yet another bill, this one introduced by Elwood Evans (((1828-1898): born Philadelphia; came to Oregon via Panama, 1851, arriving at Steilacoom; went to Washington, D.C., 1852, returning to Washington Territory, 1853, as aide to first territorial governor, Isaac Ingalls Stevens; appointed secretary, Washington Territory, November, 1862; died Tacoma; author, History of the Pacific Northwest; “a lawyer and a public speaker of rare ability” (Scott, History of the Oregon Country 2: 283).)), a Republican from Thurston County, failed by eleven votes to fifteen. ((Larson, “Washington” 52.))

And so woman’s enfranchisement remained an open question when the territory’s first constitutional convention convened in Walla Walla in the summer of 1878. On Monday, June 17, Judge Benjamin Dennison ((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).)), delegate of the second judicial district, presented a petition signed by six hundred suffragists of both sexes, and George H. Steward of Clark County presented a request from the women of Walla Walla that “Mrs. A. J. Duniway be allowed to appear before the convention and present a memorial touching female suffrage.” The petition was referred to committee, and Steward’s motion that Scott Duniway be permitted to speak at 10:00 the following morning carried–barely–seven to six. Then Dolph B. Hannah of Pierce County moved that Abigail be seated and declared a delegate of the convention; even though this motion was defeated, it bore remarkable witness to her stature.

At 10:00 the next morning, Tuesday, the convention recessed when the featured speaker was late. The proceedings record:

During the recess the hall soon filled with ladies of Walla Walla and vicinity, and by their smiling faces, light, gay laughter, bewitching and winning looks ‘lent a softness’ to the sober and sage aspect of the assemblage of a moment before. Above the hum and buzz of many voices could be heard the sonorous tones and vigorous laughter of the ‘Peer of female kind.’ The interest taken in this Territory on the right of women to vote, was manifest by the number of ladies turning out to witness the presentation of a memorial by their champion.

During the recess many of the delegates were button-holed and talked to with much earnestness.

At 10 1/2 o’clock the Chair called the Convention to order, and our gallant and venerable delegate, Mr. W. A. George ((Wyatt A. George, delegate-at-large from Walla Walla County.)), escorted Madame Duniway to the front and introduced her to the Convention. The reading of the memorial by her ladyship occupied about half an hour. It was sweetly perfumed with midnight oil.

The text that follows is abridged, and “while the reporter did not use one-third of the document . . . his extracts were well copied and give the main thought.” It is taken from the convention proceedings as reprinted in the Washington Historical Quarterly in 1918. ((Meany and Condon 137-40. These proceedings in turn are reproduced from the original reports published in the weekly Walla Walla Union, beginning on June 15, 1878. Tantalizingly, the editors claim that “[t]he original of this interesting memorial is written in a large bold hand and dated at Walla Walla June 18, 1878,” and located at the University of Washington (Meany and Condon 132, 140). Unfortunately, the Special Collections, Manuscripts and University Archives there could locate no such manuscript (Lundell).)) The convention ultimately excluded woman suffrage from the constitution by a vote of eight to seven. ((This event is omitted from Mary Olney Brown’s account in History of Woman Suffrage, which skips from the Anthony-Scott Duniway appearance in 1871 to the constitutional convention of 1881 (3: 780-88).))

I come before you at this auspicious hour on behalf of a large body of the unrepresented citizens of your embryo commonwealth, and at their instigation and invitation to ask you in their name, for reasons which they and I are prepared to substantiate, to so honor your present important public work by recognizing their inalienable rights and interests that the name of Washington, first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, may also be the first in the grand galaxy of States to wheel majestically into her proper orbit, in harmony with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

My constituents ask me to call your attention, and that of this honorable deliberative body to the unnatural grievances of men and women as set forth in their original bill of rights, that you may see as they do how exactly parallel the complaints of women run today with those of men a hundred years ago. My constituents complain, and I aver with good reason, that their inalienable equal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is [sic] yet circumscribed by special legislation, which denies to them equal immunities and privileges with another class, and refuse thus to grant to them the equal protection of the laws. They bid me say that they especially deplore the growing domestic insurrection among the wives of this soon to be sovereign State, also divine the prime cause of this insurrection. You, gentlemen, would be equally rebellious under equal political and financial restraint, else you would be unworthy of your boasted manhood. We regard the home as paramount to all else, and the domestic hearthstone as the sacred guardian of human liberties. But we have learned that, first of all, there must be a home to keep, and a united head to keep it. (A writer once said, “Home is the place for women, and a home without a woman is no home at all.” A woman clad in the breeches of man is not the woman to make home happy. It requires the tender care, and gentle instincts of a refined woman to successfully constitute a united head to keep a home.) We have often seen the hard earned home swept from us by, and through the unwarrantable jurisdiction exercised over us by the authority of sex. That we find domestic rebellion and insurrection constantly on the increase; and it is not possible for us or you, to cure the effect, until the cause ceases. Oppression is, and ever has been, the mother of discontent. My constituents do not come to you asking privilege or power to usurp political jurisdiction over you. They would not if they could abridge your immunities or trample upon your inalienable rights. They will do you good and not evil. Do your duty. The eyes of the whole earth are upon you; you are writing history; see that your individual page is written so as to immortalize your name.


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