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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.