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Sunday, September 30, 2012

October 1912: Esther Lovejoy and Everybody's Equal Suffrage League

National American Woman Suffrage president Anna Howard Shaw's visit to Portland as part of an Oregon and Western U.S. tour was a vital part of the fall 1912 campaign. And Esther Pohl Lovejoy used the event to launch a new suffrage organization, Everybody's Equal Suffrage League. Press coverage in October 1912 lets us know how and why the new organization had such appeal.

Here's one early example. On October 11, 1912, the Oregonian, in a long article chronicling the various suffrage activities around the state, posted this about the group:

Section of "Suffrage Rally Dates are Fixed," Oregonian, October 11, 1912, 3.

The paper used a familiar negative stereotype about the difficulty women had in keeping a secret, but revealed that Lovejoy kept the new group under wraps until she could announce it, with maximum publicity power, during Anna Shaw's visit.

There were many suffrage organizations with many officers and hierarchies, and Lovejoy hoped that Everybody's would emphasize the grass-roots nature and non-hierarchical characteristics of the work for suffrage in which she believed. One "subscriber" noted that "for the expenditure of 25 cents you have the inestimable advantage of knowing that you are vice-president of at least one organization. You can forget that everybody else is also a vice-president who has put up a modest two bits. Dr. Pohl Lovejoy is the only president, for the idea began with her."

It appears that in some suffrage groups it was difficult to have one's voice and opinions heard. Everybody's members were opposed to that. "The members do not stand on ceremony nor do they believe in parliamentary law or etiquette. A meeting is held whenever two or more meet, and any one may talk or all may talk, provided they want to."