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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Portland Political Study League, Women Citizens, and Jury Service 1916

Many Oregon women and their supporters joined women in the U.S. and other nations and looked to women's political and civic participation beyond the vote as a key to progress. As we've seen with the case of Astoria, Oregon, women participated in civic organizations to take action to better their communities.
In Portland many women activists joined the Political Study League to prepare themselves for informed voting and other civic action. Many believed that jury service was a next step in political participation and worked to pass state legislation removing restrictions on women's jury service.
This article from the Oregonian in November 1916 reports on a meeting of the Political Study League with featured speaker lawyer and activist C.E.S. Wood. Wood echoed the view that women would bring a particular perspective to political action that was different from men. And he made this argument specifically for women's jury service.
"Woman, with her sympathy and intuition, can do more than the man," he noted. "In the jury a woman is in her own right. The judges and lawyers exalt law above justice, while the jury comes in as a fresh breeze and cares for the human side of the case."

"Woman Rated Higher," Oregonian, November 19, 1916, 5.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Astoria, Oregon Women and Political Activism 1914: The Civic Club

More news from Astoria's microfilmed newspapers on women's political participation.

In October, 1914 Mary (Mrs. Gabriel) Wingate wrote an article outlining the goals of the Civic Club of Astoria. She emphasized the importance of women using their newly-won civic power of the vote.

Wingate told her readers that the members of the Civic Club were interested in all forms of community betterment and the group was "wishful to have every woman who is a resident of our city and interested in its welfare to join with us and it should be a heartfelt duty with every woman to help along these lines." Like many other recently-enfranchised women in the state, Wingate emphasized that women had a civic obligation to put their votes to good use. Members saw the Civic Club as an institution to harness that duty for collective action.

Like Portland activist Sarah Evans, Wingate contrasted women's limited "influence" before they held the right to vote with the power they now wielded with the ballot. "A few years ago we had a prosperous women's club in this city," she wrote, "with a large and enthusiastic membership who were zealous to aid in all matters that would better social and business conditions." But the women learned, she said, that "any suggestions for improvement of our city, made to the powers that be, were never seriously considered by them."

The right to vote changed that, Wingate insisted. "Now that women have the vote, and a voice in affairs, conditions in that regard are radically different, and any suggestions or recommendations we may make will, no doubt, be given careful and serious consideration." Optimistic about this new power, Wingate noted that the Civic Club was an "outgrowth" of the women's club and urged Astoria's women to register to vote and to exercise their right to have a voice in community affairs.

"The Civic Club," Astoria Daily Budget, October 12, 1914, 7.

Mary Wingate and other Astoria women were part of a larger pattern when they formed civic clubs to study legislation and civic education. "It is natural for women to be interested in the governing of their city, county, and state," she wrote, "and they should all cultivate civic pride and patriotism." Wingate was not alone in her view that women could make a significant difference in their new civic roles. Oregon women achieved the vote earlier than most women in the nation but the transformation of the National American Woman Suffrage Association to the National League of Women Voters in 1920 mirrors the activities and organizations of women in Astoria and across Oregon in their local organizations after achieving suffrage in 1912.

Astoria women also worked to become office holders, to become part of and transform what Wingate called the "powers that be." The Astoria Civic Club supported the candidacy of Mary Strong Kinney for the Oregon legislature in 1921 and helped her remain there through 1927.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mary Strong Kinney Successful Candidate for Oregon House of Representatives 1920

On a recent visit to Astoria, Oregon (a vibrant community celebrating its bicentennial) I spent time at the Astoria Public Library (thank you Jane Tucker and staff!) with the Morning Astorian on microfilm. I gathered some great information about Astorian Mary Strong Kinney, who ran for the Oregon House of Representatives in 1920, the same year Esther Lovejoy ran for U.S. Congress from Oregon's third district.
Kinney ran as a Republican in the May primary and won the field in this first election after the First World War. Oregon women had been voting since the 1912 achievement of suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment would pass in August 1920.
Her campaign advertising emphasized a variety of qualities to appeal to her constituency: she was a successful businesswoman and mother, would work to support Astoria, Clatsop County, and Oregon, and was free of "political obligations" so she could represent "all the people." And, in the postwar climate of fears about radicalism that Lovejoy and other candidates also had to face, Kinney was "not only an American, but a GOOD American."
As with other Oregon women candidates, Kinney gained support (and advertising dollars) from organized women. In Astoria the Women's Civic Club had formed after women achieved the vote with the particular purpose of studying legislation and working to make their new civic power a reality. The Civic Club members who paid for Kinney's campaign ad for the May primary also chose a frame of trees, fountains and flowers.
"Vote for Mrs. Kinney," Morning Astorian, May 21, 1920, 4.

Kinney won election that year and was a sponsor of legislation for women's jury service (more on this topic in future posts). She won election to the Oregon Senate in 1923 and 1925.