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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Carolyn Shelton's Obituary: Some Thoughts on the Absence of information About Her Role as Oregon's Acting Governor

I've been writing about Carolyn Shelton, Oregon's acting governor for several days in 1909 and private secretary to former Oregon governor and U.S. senator George Chamberlain, whom she married in 1926. Chamberlain died in 1928.

Shelton died eight years later in Salem, Oregon on February 3, 1936. Her (Salem) Oregon Statesman obituary gives some additional details about her later life. But it does not note her historic role as acting governor of the state in 1909.

"Widow of Former State Chief Dies," Oregon Statesman, February 4, 1926, 1, 5.
We learn that Shelton returned to her home in Union, Oregon, apparently in 1933 from Washington, D.C. after George's death in 1928 and that she came to Salem in 1934.

We also learn that she was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The obituary spells her first name "Caralyn" and the image of her headstone on the Arlington National Cemetery website also uses "Caralyn."
George E. Chamberlain and Caralyn Shelton Chamberlain grave marker, Grave #3502, Arlington National Cemetery
The history of women is full of erasures like the silence about Carolyn (Caralyn) Shelton Chamberlain's role as Oregon's acting governor in 1909. It is also significant that the newspaper accounts here in this thread use several variants to spell her first name. Thanks to archivists and those who digitize newspapers we have more on Shelton's life and can restore her to her place in Oregon women's history with some additional detail.