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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Carolyn Shelton Notes Oregon Women's Political Accomplishments in 1914 and Gives Business Women a Motto: Be Willing to Work


In January 1914, Carolyn Shelton, former "acting governor" of Oregon in 1909 and woman suffrage supporter, granted an interview that was reprinted in the Magazine section of the Oregonian and syndicated elsewhere in the states. Here's a small image of the entire feature and larger sections posted below:


"Woman Who Was 'Acting Governor' of Oregon, Oregonian, January 11, 1914, Sec. 6, p. 2.


As with other reports, the interview contained information about Shelton's accomplishments and skills but also reflected fears about women in positions of political power. The interviewer noted that Shelton gained experience with commercial and then criminal law as George Chamberlain moved from private practice to the post of District Attorney of Multnomah County and served as "acting governor" of Oregon as his private secretary. As she continued in that post in Washington D.C. with Senator Chamberlain, her accomplishments were those of which "any man of middle age might be proud." Yet the interviewer also cautioned that if readers were worried that the former "acting governor" might be a woman who wore "square toed-boots," with "short hair" and "spectacles" they had nothing to fear. They could picture her "seated behind a tea table at a fashionable afternoon function."

Shelton provided a detailed answer to the question of women's political activism in Oregon. She discussed the "feminist movements" in the state "which have taken . . . more than the shape of 'votes for women,'" -- in other words, voting was a foundation for other political action by women.

"I was very glad that the women of Oregon were enfranchised," she noted, "because they worked long, seriously, and conscientiously for it." She noted the long career of suffrage activist Abigail Scott Duniway as an example of the long struggle. Shelton believed that Oregon women would use the vote wisely, in part because they had a strong record of accomplishment even before attaining the vote. She included Oregon's 1903 child labor law, and a maximum hour law for some women workers passed in 1905.

Shelton's suggested motto for women about to enter the business world? "A capacity for, and a willingness for work."

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