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Friday, April 27, 2012

April 28, 1912: Suffrage Goblins?

Esther Pohl, Sarah Evans and other members of the Portland Woman's Club were active suffrage supporters. They had many challenges and, as Sarah Evans's April 28, 1912 Women's Clubs column suggests, some came from within the Portland Woman's Club.

Sarah Evans, "Women's Clubs," Oregon Journal, April 28, 1912, 5:4.
Evans used the phrase "the goblins will get you if you don't watch out" from the popular 1885 poem by James Whitcomb Riley "Little Orphant Annie." Here Evans suggests that the goblin some clubwomen feared was that women's clubs would be turned in their entirely into suffrage clubs. "Like most things in this life, this is foolish and utterly without cause," Evans wrote. Suffrage was a national question, "it concerns women more nearly than any question before the public today; it affects civics, public health, civil service reform, forestry, good government, and in fact, every line of women's club activities."

Evans's definition of suffrage mirrored Esther Pohl's own: the vote was a vital tool to make society better. They did not understand how other clubwomen could oppose this important fight.

The woman's club had endorsed suffrage that past January "with but three negative votes." But now some clubwomen were afraid that it would eclipse all other club work. And it appears that some were complaining about the use of club funds to support the cause. If the suffrage measure passed in November the "work is done for all time," if not, it would be two years before the next try.

Evans hoped to preempt additional debate. The suffrage goblin "is an imaginary one," she concluded, and not to be given serious consideration for a moment."