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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Oregon Legislature and Votes for Women: February 9, 1911


Gentle reader, thank you for your patience with my brief hiatus from this blog.

The Oregon legislature is now in session. Their predecessors gathered in Salem 100 years ago this month and took action in what would be Oregon's final campaign to achieve voting rights for women. Esther Lovejoy and many other workers contributed to the success of the November 5, 1912 ballot measure. Across these next months until that centennial in November 2012 I'll continue to blog about this vital campaign in addition to more on Lovejoy's life of activism in Oregon and beyond.

Oregon passed legislation in 1902 making it possible for citizens to place a measure on the ballot through initiative petition. In December 1910 members of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association had completed this task, well in advance of the deadline for the 1912 election. And at the end of January 1911 they acted to bring this to the formal attention of the Oregon legislature with a request for a joint resolution approving the measure. This was not the same thing as referring it to the voters for action, and the legislative support was not necessary for the initiative measure to go on the ballot (that had already been accomplished). But the joint resolution would be an important way for the legislature to signal support for the cause.

Both houses took some action 100 years ago today, on February 9, 1911, as we can see from the Oregon House and Senate Journals from 1911. Suffrage supporters in the OSESA used many of the arguments that would become the core of the campaign: Oregon was behind other states, suffrage momentum was growing and Oregon men needed to act to keep the state in step, and there had been five other campaigns and work would continue until passage. The OSESA also linked its efforts with Emma Smith Devoe of Washington State and the National Council of Women Voters.


FEBRUARY 9

Thursday, February 9, 1911, Afternoon Session, Oregon House of Representatives:

With unanimous Consent, Mr. [Timothy] Brownhill [Independent of Yamhill County] introduced the following:

HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 24

Resolved, by the House, the Senate concurring, That we have carefully considered the equal suffrage amendment, as submitted by the initiative petition to the present legal voters of the State, for their adoption or rejection, and can see no reasonable objection to its adoption, and we cordially recommend its ratification at the November election of 1912.

The executive committee of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association, at its meeting on the 31st day of January, held under approval of Mrs. Emma Smith DeVoe, president of the National Council of Women Voters, passed, by unanimous vote, the following appeal to the Legislative Assembly of Oregon, with a request that Mrs. Abigail Scott Duniway, the venerable president of the state association, and mother of the equal suffrage movement in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, should present, in person, as a joint memorial to that honorable body.

Mrs. Duniway, in accepting the trust, said, in a voice husky with emotion, “My years are passing, but I shall take pleasure in presenting the memorial, and sincerely hope it will be the last appeal I shall ever be compelled to make to the sons of women for equal rights before the law for the mothers and daughters of men.”

The memorial, and subjoined copy of the proposed equal suffrage amendment follows:

To the Honorable Body, the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon:

            Gentlemen: Whereas, The agitation of the equal suffrage movement, which began in Old Oregon, in 1871, and has long been an established part of the state constitutions of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho, and was adopted by an overwhelming vote of men at the late general election in the State of Washington; and

            Whereas, California has caught the inspiration of the movement, and has passed, by its Legislative Assembly, a resolution for a referendum vote on an equal suffrage amendment, to be taken at the election of 1912, with no reasonable doubt of its ratification by a majority of the present electorate; and

            Whereas, Montana is pressing close upon California, with a similar amendment; and

            Whereas, The Equal Suffrage Association of Oregon with over forty thousand (40,000) women adherents, and a recorded vote of over thirty-six thousand (36,000) of the electorate at the past general elections; and

            Whereas, The Equal Suffrage Association has not on file, in the office of the Secretary of State an initiative petition, for a vote for an equal suffrage amendment at the general election of 1912, and

            Whereas, This agitation can never cease until the men of Oregon have crowned our efforts with victory; therefore

            Resolved, That we respectfully request your honorable body to adopt a joint resolution, approving our proposed amendment which is herewith appended.

            The resolution was read and referred to the Committee on Resolutions.

Journal of the House of the Twenty-sixth Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon, Regular Session, 1911 (Salem: Oregon State Printer, 1911), 452-53.
           

Thursday, February 9, 1911, Afternoon Session, Oregon Senate

Senator [George W.] Joseph [Republican of Multnomah County] introduced the following:

SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 12

Be it resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives, jointly concurring:

Be it resolved by the Senate, the House concurring:

That we have carefully considered the Equal Suffrage Amendment, as submitted by initiative petition to the present legal voters of the State, for their adoption or rejection, and can see no reasonable objection to its adoption, and we cordially recommend its ratification at the November election of 1912.

[The resolution was referred to the Committee on Resolutions, as noted in later entries, but that referral was not noted in the proceedings.]

Journal of the Senate of the Twenty-sixth Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon, Regular Session 1911 (Salem: Oregon State Printer, 1911), 384-85.

What happened next?  Come back tomorrow for the unfolding story.




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