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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Esther Pohl Sends Portland Woman's Club Campaign Committee Resolutions and Abigail Scott Duniway Letter to Anna Howard Shaw

In 1912 Esther Pohl had a strong working relationship and friendship with Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Shaw and Pohl had worked together in the 1906 Oregon campaign and Pohl had visited and stayed with Shaw at her home in Pennsylvania on her way home from clinical medical studies in Vienna in 1910. Both women believed that new tactics and organizations were necessary for Oregon women to win the vote in 1912.

The minutes of the regular meeting of the Portland Woman's Club of January 26 (part of the Portland Woman's Club Records at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library) tell us about the first actions of the Portland Woman's Club Suffrage Campaign Committee, of which Pohl was a member. Committee members knew that they needed to organize a sophisticated and relentless campaign with vast amounts of publicity and advertising across the state.

"The Campaign Com reported that at a meeting held a few evenings ago the com had decided to send a copy of the resolutions passed by the club, to every women's organization in the State with a letter asking their endorsement.
Mrs. Evans moved that several number of copies of the letter be made in type, and sent out.  Carried."

Esther Pohl sent a rough draft of the resolutions to Anna Howard Shaw in Pennsylvania. The copy here (from the materials held by Amy Khedouri) has cross-outs and Pohl has added the names of the committee members in her own hand. It appears that she wanted to get the first available draft to Shaw as soon as possible. Woman's Club endorsement of suffrage was new in 1912, and the draft resolutions show that clubwomen in Portland hoped that all clubwomen in the state would work as groups for the vote. They were beginning a very active campaign and Pohl wanted Shaw to know it.



Pohl also included typescript copies of correspondence between Abigail Scott Duniway and Sarah Evans in which Duniway reacted to the "surprise" coup by the club to begin a campaign committee outside Duniway's Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association.

Shaw and Pohl knew that the 1912 campaign was crucial -- the sixth time the question of votes for women would be on the ballot in Oregon. Washington State and California voters had passed suffrage amendments. But conflict with Abigail Scott Duniway could derail everything. So they would have to plan with care. Pohl's letter to Shaw is not available in the Khedouri materials, but Shaw's response is -- and we'll review it in February, 100 years after Shaw penned it and Pohl received it.

Next up -- the resolutions redux . . .

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