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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Part II of Esther Pohl Lovejoy's Speech to the Milwaukie, Oregon Grange

Here are two final, extended excerpts from Esther Lovejoy's suffrage speech on August 17, 1912. 

The first highlights Lovejoy's belief that the vote would empower women to enact legislation and policies for healthy communities:

"Women are members – mighty important members of society. They pay taxes and are amenable to the laws of the land but they have no vote regarding the dispensation of those taxes or regarding the laws under which they live. If a woman fails to pay her taxes – which are mighty high at times because of a wasteful, inefficient administration – if she fails to pay for her street improvement – which may have been put in because some powerful asphalt company needed a job, or to subsidize some suburban real estate enterprise – the government will see her home over her head to satisfy that lien against it. If a woman commits a crime against the commonwealth is she not punished? If she is compelled to drink infected water because the city in which she lives empties is sewage into the river at one point and takes its drinking water out of it at another is she not just as apt to die from Typhoid as the man who approves of the system? If she is too poor to pay the water rate fixed by the city government the water is promptly turned off though she may have a half dozen thirsty children waiting at the faucet. Now since women pay taxes and are obliged to abide by the laws of the land why should they not have a voice in dispensing those taxes and making those laws?"

The second represents Lovejoy's frustration with opponents of suffrage who, she felt, framed the entire suffrage question as a danger to women's role as mothers. 
"And now we come to the mooted question of Woman’s Sphere. It is delightfully entertaining to listen to a gentleman anti-suffragist – especially if he happens to be a Doctor of Divinity – rhapsodize upon Woman’s Sphere. The woman that he conjures up is a poetic creation of the imagination. How she does rock the cradle! It’s a wonder her baby doesn’t die of sea-sickness! She never washes dishes or peals [sic] potatoes, or feeds the chickens, or goes to market or engages in any gross and material occupation. She just rocks the cradle from morning until night! That is her strong suit. It is her one manifestation of life! She is a woman of one instinct – one idea – one possibility – and it is easy to believe any Right Reverend Doctor of Divinity who predicts that such a creature will forsake that over-worked cradle on the first opportunity and rush to the polls with a ballot in her hand and vote and vote and vote and do nothing else for the rest of her life but vote.

"But the normal woman in her natural sphere – the home – who lets her baby sleep while she does her house-work will find time on election day to vote for the things that will influence the welfare of that home and that baby. A pure water and food supply if she lives in the city."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 17, 1912: Esther Pohl Lovejoy's Speech to the Milwaukie, Oregon Grange

On August 17, 1912 Esther Pohl Lovejoy gave a suffrage speech to the members of the Milwaukie, Oregon Grange and other suffrage supporters. The Grange represented farmers and included women as voting members within the organization. Lovejoy's speech tells us much about the nature of the suffrage movement in Oregon by August, 1912 and also something of Lovejoy's suffrage philosophy.

"Suffragists Meet at Milwaukie Saturday," Portland Evening Telegram, August 13, 1912, 10.

The gathering provides evidence of the networking and coalition building that were key factors in the suffrage victory for 1912. The Portland Evening Telegram reported four days in advance of the meeting that the "regular meeting of the Grange will be given over to a suffrage programme." Local suffragists Frances and Florence Dayton were "working with the [Portland] Women's Club Campaign Committee and other local organizations," and all were "endeavoring to make this one of hte most enthusiastic gatherings of the campaign for 'Votes for Women.'" Workers made this a very public occasion and event, and a "committee of young girl suffragists will be waiting to welcome all comers and conduct them to the Grange Hall."

A typescript of the speech is part of the Amy Khedouri materials and I'll share excerpts here and in the next few posts. 

Lovejoy was a seasoned speaker and so she began with compliments to her audience that also underscored the importance of women's equality:

“Mr. Chairman, Men and Women of the Oregon Grange – Women are members of this organization, are they not? They pay their dues, they have a vote regarding the dispensation of those dues, and regarding the constitution and by-laws and in all matters pertaining to this grange. Then why is it necessary for me or any body else to talk to this organization upon the subject of Woman Suffrage? Women enjoy all rights and responsibilities in this grange – perhaps that it why it is such a well balanced and flourishing organization.”