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Monday, August 23, 2010

Lillian Tingle, Market Inspection and the Question of Salary

In 1905 Portland women came together in a coalition to demand the inspection of Portland markets through the city health department and to call for the appointment of a woman to that post. The city council reluctantly agreed after a great deal of public pressure and Lillian Tingle became the first market inspector in Portland. It was a triumph for women's activism in public health and domestic science.
On July 1, progressive mayor Harry Lane, M.D.'s first day in office, Tingle resigned at the city board of health meeting. The reason? Salary. The Oregon Journal (July 1, 1905, 2) reported it this way:


Before accepting the new post of market inspector for the city on May 1 Tingle was director of the Portland School of Domestic Science at a salary of $125 per month. When less-than-enthusiastic Mayor George Williams and the business-oriented city council agreed to create the post under public pressure they had not funded it and asked the health board to foot the bill of a salary of $65 per month. Supporters raised the additional question of transportation costs, but the mayor said he could do no more.
Tingle had taken the post at almost half of her director's salary. According to the Biennial Report of the Oregon Superintendent for Public Instruction (1907) in 1905 the average monthly salary for female teachers across the state was $43.50 (men made more -- $55.69) and they were calling for raises to these small salaries. For this former director in expensive Portland who also had to pay for streetcars to take her to markets all across the city $65 a month was not enough.
The Journal reported: "when asked whom she would recommend as her successor" Tingle "stated that she did not know any one competent to fill the position who would accept it."
The situation underscores the challenges women activists faced as they worked to create new institutions and carve out appointed civic offices available to women. Tingle, with graduate training in domestic science and considerable administrative experience, had taken the post as women celebrated victory. But with the city council unwilling to authorize enough salary and expenses they exercised a great deal of control over the situation. Perhaps they hoped to squelch the whole business. As the Journal noted, the "clean shop crusade is likely to languish."
Tingle moved on. She wrote a "Domestic Science" column for the Oregonian, headed the domestic science department for all Portland High Schools and, when the University of Oregon called in 1917, relocated to Eugene to found the U of O's first Home Economics Department. ("University Lures Miss Tingle Away," Oregonian, June 14, 1917, 6). She died in Eugene in 1951.
Faced with this dilemma -- a new city post in the health department created as a direct result of women's activism that was severely underfunded -- what would Portland women do?  More soon on the rest of the story.

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