Chapter History

We formed, and rather quickly, because there was local interest, which grew out of a car pool..........Three of us were driving into Keizer for meetings, about 20 miles away. Now that we have a local chapter, we hope to continue to attract members from many of the small towns and communities surrounding Stayton. We currently have members who live in Aumsville, Beaverton, Corvallis, Oregon City, Stayton, Silverton, Sublimity and Turner.

Because she was a remarkable woman, born well ahead of her time, we chose to honor author, editor, entrepreneur and suffragist, Abigail Scott Duniway, by naming our chapter for her. 

Abigail Jane Scott traveled over the Oregon Trail by wagon train with her family in 1852, when she was just seventeen.  She had had little formal schooling, but was a capable writer whose assigned task during the journey was to keep the family trail diary.

After arriving in the Willamette Valley , Jenny, as the family called her, began to teach school near present day Eola. At age 18 she married, but even then was spunky enough to have the word “obey” omitted from the wedding vows. Her husband was Ben Duniway, a gentle, supportive, understanding man. The new Mrs. Duniway, ever the independent, had refused to file a donation land claim for herself, because she didn’t want anyone marrying her for property.

Those long months spent writing the trail diary had ignited something in the young woman. In spite of being swamped with household duties, farm chores, and the never-ending responsibilities of being a wife and mother of three preschoolers, she needed more. She needed to write. So, write she did. Abigail Scott Duniway, as she eventually signed her work, submitted numerous poems and articles to local newspapers. In 1857 she wrote the first novel to be commercially published in Oregon . Her fictionalized tale of a family’s journey by wagon train to Oregon showed strong awareness of the inequalities facing American women. She never deviated from including that viewpoint in her future work, either.

By 1871, Abigail established her own newspaper, the New Northwest. Its motto was “Free Speech, Free Press, Free People.” Abigail was the family breadwinner now. Ben had been disabled in an accident, but he was able to perform many household duties for her, becoming a prototype Mr. Mom. Abigail had great marketing skill. She promoted women’s rights, but was canny enough to recognize that the paper had to appeal to many people in order to keep circulation in the black, so she featured cliff-hanger serialized stories that she herself authored, along with what could be considered a forerunner of the Dear Abby advice column, something similar to Heloise’s household tips, and commentaries on current events.  To stimulate circulation, she hired people to sell subscriptions, and she rewarded them with tiered levels of prizes – something we still see today.

Women’s suffrage became her cause. She lobbied across the states of Oregon , Washington , and Idaho for the right for women to vote. She brought Susan B Anthony and other nationally known Suffragists to Oregon . She angered the Temperance movement by declaring that tying women’s suffrage to temperance would be counterproductive. Five times she lobbied the Oregon Legislature to put women’s suffrage to a vote. Four times it was defeated.  Finally, in 1912, the tide turned, and, in recognition of her efforts, Abigail Scott Duniway was given the honor of becoming the first Oregon woman registered to vote in a national election. In 1914, she cast the first ballot in such an election here. A forty-two year battle was won. Abigail Scott Duniway had changed her world for the better, not only for herself, but for all women here.

 

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Page Last Updated 10/09/2011