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As It Was: Oregon Grants Women the Right to Vote in 1912

In 1907, a Young People’s Christian Temperance Union meeting in Grants Pass featured speaker Dennis Stovall, who said he had solved the problem of the first sin in the Garden of Eden.

Women, Stovall lectured, are responsible for keeping men accountable, a duty bestowed by the Great Creator.

Five years later, some young women who no doubt had heard Mr. Stovall’s lecture sat in on Dr. Anna Howard Shaw’s talk on women’s suffrage.  She said to truly hold men accountable, woman needed the power of the vote. 

Shaw listed the arguments against giving women suffrage: it would cause married couples to argue about politics, cause women to neglect their household duties, and that the excited rabble hanging about the polls on election day would scare women away. 

Married couples are prone to argue about anything, she said, and to think voting would cause women to neglect their duties is rank absurdity.  She added, “And is it possible men who are pleasant and civilized at home will become on election day such raving beasts that we dare not walk the streets?”

The next month, November 1912, Oregon voters approved women’s suffrage, which garnered 52 percent of the ballots cast.

Sources: "Interesting Discourse on Subject of Purity." Rogue River Courier, 8 Nov. 1907 [Grants Pass OR], p. 1. Historical Oregon Newspapers; "Dr. Anna Howard Shaw Talks In Grants Pass of Equal Suffrage." Rogue River Courier, 11 Oct. 1912, p. 1. Historical Oregon Newspapers.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.