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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 1912: Suffrage Organizing and the Professional Woman's League

Esther Pohl and her colleagues, part of a second generation of votes for women activists, participated in broad coalition building and organizing to achieve victory in the 1912 campaign. Suffrage organizations appear to have engendered other leagues and associations, including a Portland Professional Woman's League.

The Oregonian reported in June 1912 that the new club had its first organizing meeting at the home of Portland librarian Mary Frances Isom. "The club is strictly non-political and has for its object the creation of good fellowship between professional women and ultimately the establishment of a downtown club." Members "represent many different professions, including medicine, music, journalism, library and craft work." Members elected Mary Frances Isom to be the group's president. Esther Pohl was there and her colleagues asked her to be a member of the committee working to create the league's constitution. ("Professional Woman's League," Oregonian, June 2, 1912, 3:3)

Whether by design or by serendipity, July brought Pohl and league members together with another kind of constitution. The Portland Spectator reported that the Professional Woman's League "gave a delightful launching party on the 'Constitution,' which steamed up the Willamette River at 5 c'clock Wednesday evening."

"News for Clubwomen -- The Professional Woman's League," Portland Spectator, July 20, 1912, 14.
The establishment of the Portland Professional Woman's League in the midst of the 1912 suffrage campaign suggests that activists were thinking about ways that they could build women's rights beyond the vote, including in their professions. Perhaps the successful proliferation of suffrage leagues and societies became a model for other organization building. And this report reminds us that even though Esther Pohl was hard at work advocating for votes for women and building her medical practice, she still took the time to socialize and to celebrate friendship and good fortune with a launching party and voyage on the Willamette in the summer of 1912.

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