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Monday, February 13, 2012

Votes for Women Forum February 10, 1912: Esther Pohl on Teddy Roosevelt's Suffrage Turnaround

At the second of the twice-monthly suffrage forums in Portland, Esther Pohl opened the discussion about Theodore Roosevelt's announcement that after a lifetime opposed to votes for women he was now in support. TR would be the Progressive Party candidate for the presidency in 1912 and was apparently angling for all the votes he could.

Visiting suffragists Helen Hoy Greeley of New York and Charlotte Anita Whitney of California had attacked TR as an opportunist. May Arkwright Hutton of Spokane called him a "hot-air artist." 

Pohl and her colleagues saw things differently.

"Critics of T.R. Hit," Oregonian, February 11, 1912, 14.

In "Critics of T.R. Hit," the Oregonian reported some of Pohl's remarks: "'I think it is injurious to the interests of our cause to attack public men,' said Dr. Pohl yesterday. 'Where one of us who criticizes a public man may have one follower, that man criticized may have a thousand. Suppose all of us became public speakers and started out to criticize men in public life; why, in a short time we wouldn't have a friend left and our cause would be hopeless, unless the men were big enough to overlook our foolishness.'"

Esther Pohl believed that suffragists were on the political razor's edge and that the votes for women cause needed all the friends it could get. Pohl was a Progressive Democrat, had served in Democratic Portland Mayor Harry Lane's administration as city health officer from 1907-1909, and hoped to run for elected office someday herself. But she was willing to welcome latecomer and Republican Progressive Teddy Roosevelt into the suffrage camp.

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