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The December 1912 poling place in Bend resembled an 'afternoon tea' instead of standard voting scene

PHOTO COURTESY OF BOWMAN MUSEUM
 - A women's suffrage vote takes place in Bend in 1912.

Oregon was one of the last states to adopt legislation that allowed women to vote. As early as 1884, Abigail Scott Duniway had begun introducing referendums to allow women to vote in Oregon.

The male voters of Oregon were resistant to women's political participation and rejected the referendums on five occasions from 1884 to 1910. Duniway had propelled the woman suffrage movement to campaign victories in Idaho in 1896 and Washington in 1910.

The long fight for equal suffrage finally was successful when voters approved the vote for women on Nov. 5, 1912, and the governor made it law by proclamation on Nov. 30, 1912. The women's suffrage initiative measure had passed by a vote of 58,852 to 55,036, and in Bend the vote had carried 818 to 728.

It was the end of a bitter fight by a small but determined group of militant women in Oregon. Bend women were among the first in the state to have the opportunity of voting after the law was proclaimed when a general election was held in December 1912 for mayor and city councilmen. The Bend Bulletin reported that the "polling place resembled an afternoon tea more than anything else." The fair sex was highly visible not only as voters but as officials also. A new era had dawned. Gone forever was an exclusive privilege long held sacred by Oregonian men.

Candidates and voters set an example early in the day by bringing gifts to the lady officials. These included such things as candy, nuts, apples and other delicacies. With these goodies piled over work tables, there was no place left for the cigar butts of the past.

The Bulletin further stated that the women graciously informed the men that they did not object to smoking and the "lengthy vestiges" of the men suddenly turned to smiles. The ladies further informed the men that they had no intention of turning things upside down just because they had entered politics.

Interestingly, just a few days before the mayoral election, women also participated in another previously male "exclusive" by serving on a jury. The male members of the jury had selected Mrs. Hattie Corkett as foreman. Half the businesses in Bend closed so they could attend the new departure in judicial proceedings.

This change in the status of a woman's place in society appears to have come without a great deal of agitation on the part of local women but was the culmination of a long and hard-fought campaign at the state level.


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