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Friday, March 2, 2012

Early March 1912: Cooperation and Conflict in Portland Suffrage Circles

The month of March 1912 brought important developments to the suffrage campaign in Portland. Esther Pohl and members of the Portland Woman's Club Suffrage Campaign Committee were determined to break the cycle of defeat by forming a new organization apart from Abigail Scott Duniway's Oregon State Equal Suffrage League because of discontent and conflict with Duniway and the need to move forward. Other groups, such as the College Equal Suffrage League and the Portland Equal Suffrage League were forming and active. But Duniway and her supporters, particularly Viola Coe and Marie Equi, were angry and saw this as an attempt to take power away from the OSESA.

At the beginning of March the Woman's Club Campaign Committee held a meeting to organize an advisory committee to coordinate the efforts of suffrage groups. Many members of the new organizations wanted to work together; Duniway and her allies were angry and tried to control, then block the new advisory committee.

On March 13, 1912 the Oregonian published a long article titled "Suffrage Branch Gets Aid in East." As we've seen in earlier postings, Pohl and the Woman's Club Committee were working with Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, whom Duniway despised. They announced, as the Oregonian reported, that "an Eastern woman" was contributing to the Oregon campaign, "with the express stipulation that these funds shall be received and expended by this committee exclusively." They did not disclose that it was Shaw. Shaw, Pohl and other allies were convinced that conflict created by Duniway after the 1906 campaign and her poor handling of the 1908 and 1910 ballot measures with little support, had to be turned around. Shaw would not provide the money unless through the Portland Woman's Club Campaign Committee.

The Woman's Club Committee, the Oregonian noted, "realizes that harmony is the all-important essential to success in the coming campaign, and is anxious to co-operate in every possible way with all other organizations in the various lines of work each is following. Duniway responded that any and all funds had to come to her organization alone; and each local organization, she said, had to pay dues to hers.

"Suffrage Branch Gets Aid in East," Oregonian, March 13, 1912, 15.