Abigail Scott Duniway: Pioneer Path Breaker, post 25
Posted: July 23, 2012
In about 1886, dissatisfaction was expressed by some women at the state and national levels about Abigail’s leadership. In fact, two women doctors in Oregon thought they could do better; Abigail simply left her mark and left them to it.
It was in 1887 that Abigail sold the New Northwest and went to Idaho where Ben and some of their sons were living at the time. Ben’s health was getting worse and they thought that fresh air and country life would help. Abigail spent parts of seven years living in Idaho and working for equal suffrage there. Both she and Ben were back and forth for a few years; Abigail often spent the winter in Portland, writing.
Abigail felt that nothing had happened in Oregon to further the cause during her absence. She took a job as editor of Pacific Empire, a magazine sponsored by suffragists. She didn’t have to sell subscriptions or advertisements; she could instead devote all of her time to writing and trying to further her cause.
Ben moved back to the Portland house, his health declining seriously. She had to give up the magazine when his care demanded more of her time. Idaho adopted equal suffrage in 1896, the same year that Ben passed away.
A saddened Abigail had lost a valuable helpmate. She wrote that not only had he been a devoted husband and father but he had always supported the work for equal suffrage and her part in it. Harvey wrote in his newspaper about the goodness and kindness of the man he had considered a friend.
Unsuccessful attempts were made in 1897 and 1899 to get the Oregon Legislature to act.
In 1899 Abigail was honored speaker at a national women’s meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and in Washington, D. C., in 1900.
The second vote on Woman Suffrage was in 1900. It lost again, by fewer votes. The Oregonian had campaigned strongly against it. However, women had been allowed to practice law from 1885 onward.
The temperance movement had gained followers in Oregon and some national suffrage leaders wanted to combine their efforts with those of the. The WCTU worked to educate people on the dangers of alcoholic beverages and tried to close saloons. They worked toward Prohibition which is the outlawing of selling and drinking liquor.
Abigail believed in temperance, not prohibition; that was how her parents had raised her. She felt a person should make his own decision to drink or not to drink (better not to do so) rather than have a law tell him he could not drink. For a time, she tried to give suffrage speeches at temperance meetings. This was not effective and she eventually stopped trying to work with the temperance supporters.
In 1902, the men of Oregon voted in favor of the Initiative and Referendum. This meant that any citizen or group could get a measure put on the ballot if enough registered voters signed a petition. The initiative came from the people; a referendum meant that voters had a chance to vote on an issue that had been discussed in the Legislature.
Abigail and her helpers tried to get enough signatures to put suffrage on the ballot in the 1904 election. Unfortunately, they failed to get enough signatures certified in time.
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