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Local Brownies campaign to name the bridge

Voting continues to name Portland's new TriMet bridge


It may seem like Girl Scouts are everywhere these days. Cookie season is in full swing, and girls clad in blue, brown or green uniforms seem to be hawking the sweet treats everywhere you turn.

The second- and third-graders in Brownie Troop 45652 have much more than cookies on their minds, though. They’ve thrown their weight behind the campaign to name Portland’s newest bridge after Abigail Scott Duniway.by: TIDINGS PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Girl Scouts like Beatrice Gilroy, left, and Molly Ruff arent just selling cookies. They want you to vote to name the new TriMet bridge after Abigail Scott Duniway.

When TriMet asked the public to submit suggestions for the name of the new transit bridge across the Willamette River, the transit agency received nearly 9,500 submissions. The goal, according to TriMet’s website, was to find a name that would connect and inspire Oregonians and to reflect the region’s history and culture.

From the plethora of suggested names, the bridge naming committee narrowed it down to four finalists, including “Abigail,” as she’s known to Troop 45652. More than 125 versions of her name were submitted, according to a Facebook group supporting Duniway.

“She’s the girl who got women to vote,” second-grader Beatrice Gilroy said. “It was the same year (1912) the Girl Scouts started.”

“Abigail Scott Duniway was an important Oregonian in history and she also helped Washington and Idaho for women to get the right to vote and own property. It took her 41 years,” third-grader Molly Ruff said. “Men voted against her five times, even her brother.”

Abigail didn’t let brotherly opposition stand in her way. She continued her efforts and, eventually, won her fight to gain voting rights for women.

“She tried her best and she succeeded. That, to me, means if I try my best I’ll probably succeed.” Molly said. “I think girls can do whatever they want to do.”

Erin Ruff, the troop’s leader and Molly’s mother, was the one who originally introduced the girls to Abigail.

“I heard through Oregon Women Lawyers about the naming,” she said. So she picked a couple of interesting women from Oregon history, Duniway and public health pioneer Esther Polh Lovejoy, and brought information about them to a troop meeting.

It was good timing. The troop was working on a badge celebrating community, and the girls already had been studying local history. The troop participated in the Willamette Living History Tour, learned about flag ceremonies from a volunteer with Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), studied community symbols and took part in Willamette Living History events.

The Brownies spent time during a meeting reading some age-appropriate material about both Lovejoy and Duniwway. Ruff explained about the bridge-naming project and asked the girls if they’d like to get involved.

“There are no bridges named after women,” Ruff said. “I asked the girls if they wanted to support one.” The Brownies voted unanimously in favor of Duniway and got to work. They made a couple of YouTube videos to explain why they wanted the bridge named after Duniway. They attended a rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square. And they kept talking about the project.

“We’ve done most of the work,” Molly said. “Moms helped us when we needed to learn about her. They’ve also been the people behind the camera.”

Asked to sum up the reasons others should vote for Duniway, Molly had a simple answer.

“They should do it for Abigail,” she said. “Women don’t get as much attention. I don’t know why. I think it would be fair to Abigail. I think she would be proud of herself, proud that we helped name the bridge.”

Molly’s mom had one more reason people should vote for one of the finalists in TriMet’s bridge naming contest. Although she’d like you to vote for Abigail, she said just the act of voting is important.

“It’s interesting that TriMet wanted to have this as a public process and get opinions, because Abigail wanted people to vote,” she said. “If you vote for anyone, it honors Abigail, because she worked for community involvement.”

To read about the finalists in the contest and to vote for your favorite, visit trimet.org/namethebridge/index.htm. The deadline for voting is March 1.

View Troop 45652’s persuasive videos online at youtube.com/watch?v=iqkSXz6D_pM and youtube.com/watch?v=H6mmdA7f3KE.


By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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