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Saturday, January 28, 2012

January 28, 1912 Esther Pohl Meets with Business and Professional Women to Organize Fortnightly Suffrage Forums at Olds, Wortman and King

On January 28, 1912 Esther Clayson Pohl joined other professional and business women to organize suffrage forums to be held twice a month at the auditorium of the Olds, Wortman and King department store in Portland.

From 1890 to 1894 Esther Clayson worked her way through the University of Oregon Medical Department as a sales clerk, part of that time at Olds and King, predecessor to the Olds, Wortman and King store of 1912. Certainly the auditorium was a good venue in terms of its size. But given her support of wage-earning women, it's quite possible that Esther Pohl helped to choose the location so that these twice-monthly meetings would be close and accessible for many working women in the city, certainly for the sales clerks at Olds, Wortman and King.

Dr. Pohl joined other professional women in planning these forums. Professional women and wage-earning women had much to gain from the power of the ballot. And the meeting also indicates that Pohl and other suffragists did not want to work from within just one suffrage organization -- she took steps to be involved in many suffrage groups across different communities to build coalitions. Pohl was a leader of the Portland Woman's Club Suffrage Campaign Committee and worked through club networks for the vote; but she also saw the importance of working with other groups -- here with professional and business women -- to emphasize additional reasons why wage-earning and professional women needed the vote. As we'll see, Pohl worked with many organizations and formed a new suffrage group in the fall of 1912.

The Portland Evening Telegram reported about the meeting this way on January 29, 1912, 7:

"Fortnightly Suffrage Meeting
Business and professional women met Saturday afternoon and decided to hold an open forum in the auditorium of Olds, Wortman & King's store, twice a month, in the interest of the equal suffrage cause.  Among the speakers were: Dr. Esther Pohl, Miss Frances Gottshall, Mrs. Grace Watt Ross, Miss Blanche Wren, Mrs. H.R. Reynolds, Dr. Mary Thompson, Mrs. Carrie Johnson, Miss Emma Wold, Mrs. Sarah Evans." 

Pohl and Thompson were physicians, Gottchall a publisher and printer, Blanche Wren a stenographer, Emma Wold a science teacher at Portland's Lincoln High School. Sarah Evans was Portland Market Inspector, Carrie Johnson a milliner, Mary K. (Mrs. H.R.) Reynolds an author. Records to date don't provide information about Grace Watt Ross's involvement in business. She was a widow and active clubwoman, and worked with Esther Pohl on the Portland Woman's Club Suffrage Campaign Committee.

And here is the Oregonian's note:
"Suffragists Arrange Meetings," Oregonian, January 29, 1912, 7.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Networking and Mass Campaigning for Suffrage January 1912

Esther Pohl and her colleagues Elizabeth Eggert, Grace Watt Ross, and Sarah Evans served as the leaders of a suffrage campaign committee for the Portland Woman's Club, as postings here across the month have shown, to "consider ways and means of best promoting the cause of suffrage through the club organization" for the 1912 ballot measure.

They decided that a "first step" would be to send copies of the club's resolutions to every woman's club in the state. Esther Pohl sent a copy to NAWSA president Anna Howard Shaw. And the committee had Sarah Evans publish the resolutions in her widely read "Woman's Clubs" column in the Sunday Oregon Journal on January 28.

Oregon Journal, January 28, 1912, 5:5.

Mass campaigning and networking would be key to the success of the 1912 campaign and Esther Pohl and her colleagues were using these tactics from the beginning of their organization.

The resolutions reflect many of the arguments that suffragists around the state would use that year. Oregon was surrounded by suffrage states in the West -- "Oregon is the only remaining state on the Pacific coast where women have not yet been enfranchised," they wrote. (Washington state women achieved suffrage in 1910 and California women in 1911). They termed votes for women an "advanced step in the progress of civilization" and "the highest and best citizenship."

In addition, Pohl and the campaign committee argued that the tide of public opinion was turning in favor of votes for women -- those who had been indifferent were now "enthusiastically laboring" for the success of woman suffrage and the national press was becoming supportive, taking "the stand that any good reasons against it which ever existed, have largely disappeared and need no longer be given serious consideration."

They urged clubwomen around the state to support the campaign by passing resolutions, appointing local committees to work with the Portland Woman's Club Campaign Committee, "and by instituting such active measures as shall in your judgment seem best adapted to secure the desired results." The PWCCC hoped to facilitated a large, federated system of campaign committees in which local women would make decisions about what kinds of active campaign strategies and events would be most effective in their communities.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Esther Pohl Sends Portland Woman's Club Campaign Committee Resolutions and Abigail Scott Duniway Letter to Anna Howard Shaw

In 1912 Esther Pohl had a strong working relationship and friendship with Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Shaw and Pohl had worked together in the 1906 Oregon campaign and Pohl had visited and stayed with Shaw at her home in Pennsylvania on her way home from clinical medical studies in Vienna in 1910. Both women believed that new tactics and organizations were necessary for Oregon women to win the vote in 1912.

The minutes of the regular meeting of the Portland Woman's Club of January 26 (part of the Portland Woman's Club Records at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library) tell us about the first actions of the Portland Woman's Club Suffrage Campaign Committee, of which Pohl was a member. Committee members knew that they needed to organize a sophisticated and relentless campaign with vast amounts of publicity and advertising across the state.

"The Campaign Com reported that at a meeting held a few evenings ago the com had decided to send a copy of the resolutions passed by the club, to every women's organization in the State with a letter asking their endorsement.
Mrs. Evans moved that several number of copies of the letter be made in type, and sent out.  Carried."

Esther Pohl sent a rough draft of the resolutions to Anna Howard Shaw in Pennsylvania. The copy here (from the materials held by Amy Khedouri) has cross-outs and Pohl has added the names of the committee members in her own hand. It appears that she wanted to get the first available draft to Shaw as soon as possible. Woman's Club endorsement of suffrage was new in 1912, and the draft resolutions show that clubwomen in Portland hoped that all clubwomen in the state would work as groups for the vote. They were beginning a very active campaign and Pohl wanted Shaw to know it.

Pohl also included typescript copies of correspondence between Abigail Scott Duniway and Sarah Evans in which Duniway reacted to the "surprise" coup by the club to begin a campaign committee outside Duniway's Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association.

Shaw and Pohl knew that the 1912 campaign was crucial -- the sixth time the question of votes for women would be on the ballot in Oregon. Washington State and California voters had passed suffrage amendments. But conflict with Abigail Scott Duniway could derail everything. So they would have to plan with care. Pohl's letter to Shaw is not available in the Khedouri materials, but Shaw's response is -- and we'll review it in February, 100 years after Shaw penned it and Pohl received it.

Next up -- the resolutions redux . . .

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Esther Pohl and the Portland Woman's Club Campaign Committee Surprise Many Oregonians

In the last blog I noted that the Portland Woman's Club as an organization resolved to support woman suffrage in Oregon for the first time in January 1912. Esther Pohl, her friend and colleague Sarah Evans, and other members had been suffrage supporters for years and now other club members were catching up. In her Women's Club column Evans noted that "it has been a matter of some surprise, particularly to clubwomen outside of the city, that the Portland Woman's Club should have endorsed the suffrage amendment."

Other sources tell us more about the surprise. The Portland Evening Telegram reported that the suffrage resolutions "were sprung as a surprise at the close of the business session" of the club. Grace Watt Ross read the resolutions and "hardly had Mrs. Ross finished reading when Mrs. Sarah Evans moved the adoption of the resolutions, a second was quickly made in another part of the house the question put and passed with not more than three or four faint voices opposing."

"Before the close of the session" club president Dora Espy Wilson named members for a special campaign committee. They were Esther Pohl, Grace Watt Ross, Elizabeth Eggert and Sarah Evans as chair. The wonderful Historical Collections & Archives at Oregon Health & Science University has digitized a splendid image of Pohl, Eggert and Ross canvassing for suffrage at a later date in the campaign.

"Woman's Club Votes for Equal Suffrage," Portland Equal Telegram, January 13, 1912, 8.
Esther Pohl and Sarah Evans apparently headed an "inside coup" that led to the surprise. Since the 1906 campaign many suffragists had been in conflict with first generation leader Abigail Scott Duniway. Pohl, Evans and their colleagues in the women's club had planned this series of events to create a separate woman's club campaign committee outside of Duniway's Oregon Equal Suffrage League and away from her leadership.

Duniway was not pleased. In a January 29, 1912 letter to Evans (in the private collection of Amy Khedouri), Duniway wrote "Sorry you thought it necessary to side-track the wheel-horse and leader of the cause. But all is well that ends well . . . You couldn't have planned the Club movement better if you had told me yourself. But I cannot yet see what you expected to gain by secrecy. I quite agree with you that it is well to withhold that matter of History till after election."

Next -- why did Esther Pohl send a copy of Duniway's letter to Anna Howard Shaw president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Esther Pohl and Suffragists Bring the Portland Woman's Club to the Campaign

Esther Pohl was an active worker for votes for women in Oregon before the final 1912 campaign. As noted in the last post, she and the club members voted unanimously at their January 12, 1912 meeting to work for suffrage and to form a special campaign committee. Pohl declined the candidacy for Portland school board, saying it might put off male voters in the campaign.

We might suppose that it was natural for the Woman's Club to support votes for women. But Sarah Evans, colleague and close friend of Esther Pohl, shed light on just what a new development this was for Portland and that Pohl, Evans and other suffrage supporters had finally won the day within their club.

Oregon Journal, January 21, 1912, 5:5
 In her weekly column "Women's Clubs" for the Oregon Journal, Evans noted:

"It has been a matter of some surprise, particularly to clubwomen outside of the city, that the Portland Woman's Club should have endorsed the suffrage amendment. Time was when this would, perhaps, have rent the club asunder and brought disaster." So what had changed? "These, however, were in the self-improvement days," Evans noted, "and before the club began to come into touch with the larger things in life."

The clubwomen had been divided, but at the last January 12 meeting "the hour had struck. It simply felt the impulse of the times and it fell with many organizations that had come to recognize suffrage, not as a political issue, not as a fad, nor as a militant movement, but as an advanced step in the progress of civilization."

Evans hoped that the action of the Portland Woman's Club would encourage other clubs to similar conclusions, that "club women of the state will give the matter of suffrage serious thought and dispassionate discussion, and where expedient as a club, indorse it." But in those clubs where "strong convictions or prejudice exists, better do individual work until such time as the club is ready for it."

Esther Pohl had worked for suffrage as an individual; in 1912 she would have the support of many groups, including the Portland Woman's Club behind her.

Next -- Pohl and the Portland Woman's Club Suffrage Campaign Committee, Anna Howard Shaw, and an angry Abigail Scott Duniway.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Esther Pohl Declines School Director Candidacy at the Beginning of the 1912 Suffrage Campaign

As a member of the Portland Woman's Club Esther Pohl was at the center of the group's strategies for success in the 1912 votes for women campaign from the very beginning of the year. Thanks to the Portland Woman's Club Records held at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library we can learn all about her activities.

The women looked ahead not only to the November 5, 1912 statewide ballot but for opportunities to build women's civic credentials along the way, including women as candidates for office. Voters in June 1912 would choose a new director of the Portland school board and the club members resolved, unanimously, that Esther Pohl was their choice for the position. Pohl had served as Portland City Health Officer from 1907 to 1909 and had important experience and preparation for the post.

At the January 12, 1912 meeting of the Portland Woman's Club Grace Watt Ross "offered the following resolution:
Whereas, our neighboring states, Washington, California, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah have adopted a republican form of Gov. where all people vote; and Oregon is the only remaining state, bordering the Pacific where women have not been enfranchised Be it resolved that the P.W.C. petition the men of Oregon, to grant 'Votes for Women' at the next election and ---Be it resolved that the P.W.C. direct its work during the remaining months before the election, toward this end, that all Oregon women may gain the power of the ballot."
The group adopted the resolution and another one to appoint a committee to begin the work.

Then "Dr. Esther Pohl recommended the withdrawal of the candidate for school director from the field.  In view of Mrs. Ross's resolution she fears it will create enemies and cause us to lose in our campaign for 'Votes for women.'" Sarah A. Evans moved to accept Pohl's recommendation and the motion carried.

Pohl, it appears, worried that another campaign would distract male voters from the votes for women movement in the state and even "create enemies and cause us to lose." In this sixth attempt at placing the question before male voters in Oregon she urged her colleagues to remain focused on one goal at a time.