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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 21, 1912: Esther Pohl and Sara Bard Field Ehrgott Speak at the Oregon Irrigation Conference in Favor of Woman Suffrage

Esther Pohl and her suffrage colleagues in Oregon knew they needed to reach as many male voters as possible with their message about the importance of votes for women in the 1912 campaign. By February 1912, in addition to her work with the Portland Woman's Club Suffrage Campaign Committee, organizing speaker forums, and helping to promote the cause with votes for women literature, Pohl also began speaking to various business associations and other male groups.

On February 12, 1912 Pohl and suffragist Sara Bard Field Ehrgott spoke to members of the newly-organized Oregon Irrigation Congress assembled in Portland from around the state. The Portland Evening Telegram reported: "Yesterday two of the prominent suffragettes, Mrs. Sara Bard Field Ehrgott and Dr. Esther Pohl, were given a hearing before the Irrigation Congress. The women spoke briefly but to the point and were cordially received by the men, many of whom come from districts considered doubtful by the suffragists who are anxious to seize every opportunity to reach voters of remote sections of the state." ("Hanley Out Strong for Woman Suffrage," Portland Evening Telegram, February 22, 1912, 1.) Eastern Oregon developer William Hanley, the Telegram noted, also spoke in favor of the votes for women cause.

The Telegram's report points to several of the tactics Pohl and her colleagues were developing to bring the suffrage message to as many Oregon men as possible. Pohl and other suffragists, the paper noted, were "anxious to seize every opportunity to reach voters of remote districts of the state." Speaking at a statewide convention in Portland that brought men from many regions was one way to do this; Pohl later traveled to towns for direct organizing. 

Pohl and Field Ehrgott "spoke briefly and to the point and were cordially received by the men." As we have seen, Pohl believed that it was politically advantageous to gain men's support rather than confronting them and causing conflict; it would hurt the cause to "attack public men." And it always helped to have a leading male figure support the cause, in this case William Hanley.

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