CORVALLIS - Abigail Scott Duniway, one of the leading voices in the woman suffrage movement, launched a radical newspaper in 1871 called "The New Northwest" that for 16 years devoted its pages to the advancement of women and other social reform.
Selected writings from that newspaper have been compiled into a new book published by the Oregon State University Press called, "Yours for Liberty."
Edited by Jean M. Ward and Elaine A. Maveety, "Yours for Liberty" provides a vivid portrait of Duniway through collected essays, news reports, editorials and travel correspondence. What emerges from the selections - nearly 300 in all - is a fascinating perspective of a turbulent era, when traditional social attitudes and institutions were being challenged.
"There is a revival of interest in Abigail Scott Duniway," said Tom Booth, marketing manager for the OSU Press. "A recent panel of historians selected her as the second most important Oregonian of the century. She had a remarkable career as an editor, a writer, and a suffragist."
Born in 1834, Duniway was one of the few women newspaper editors and publishers of her era. Though her primary purpose was to secure the ballot for women, her newspaper promoted other goals. The masthead of the first issue read: "A Journal for the People. Devoted to the Interests of Humanity.
Independent in Politics and Religion. Alive to all Live Issues, and Thoroughly Radical in Opposing and Exposing the Wrongs of the Masses."
Duniway's tireless fight for reform brought her national recognition and made her the best-known voice for woman suffrage in the Pacific Northwest. Her writing, often were controversial, pulled few punches.
In a column written in March of 1876, titled "No Canada for Fugitive Wives," she describes how some married women of the era needed the equivalent of an underground railroad to escape abusive husbands and the laws that protected them. At particular risk, she says, are the children.
Wrote Duniway: "Had business in Salem on Thursday of last week with a dear, intelligent, but broken-down example of protected and supported womanhood, who at the age of fifty had fled from the protecting gentleness of a husband for whom she had toiled without recompense for a third of a century. Had much difficulty in finding her, for she was hiding with her children from her lawful head and was in mortal terror lest she should be discovered and robbed of her little ones..."
Some of Duniway's writings were more light-hearted, but pointed nonetheless. In 1872, she answered a letter from someone signed "A vexed housekeeper," who had complained about the burden of caring for the children and waiting on a husband.
"We haven't our cooking harness on," Duniway wrote, "but we distinctly remember our own vexation when 'batter cakes would stick to the griddle and men were waiting and the baby cross.' In such a case, if we had our young life to live over with our present experience, instead of fretting at the cook stove till we spoiled the baby's food, we should bathe our heated face, take the baby and sit down, and direct the 'waiting men' to scour the griddles with salt and bake their own batter cakes."
Duniway's "The New Northwest" was one of the few newspapers in the nation devoted to the advancement of women. But her newspaper wasn't entirely one-dimensional. It served as a forum for discussing the issues of the day, including poor treatment of the Chinese, policies relating to American Indians, temperance and Prohibition, and religion.
Though many of the topics were serious, and the tales poignant, Duniway also wrote with humor, say the editors of "Yours for Liberty."
"'The New Northwest' never failed to entertain," they write. "Duniway's wit and love of adventure are evident in lively tales of attending séances, falling off stagecoaches, being egged and hung in effigy, and barnstorming the Pacific Northwest in the company of Susan B. Anthony."
The editors both have ties to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, whereWard is a professor of communication and Maveety is the coordinator of the gender studies symposium and program.
"The New Northwest" is available in book stores and libraries, or may be ordered by calling 1-800-426-3797.
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Tom Booth, 503-282-9801