Women that Changed Oregon History

A while back I found myself wondering about the women that changed Oregon history. The ones that blazed trails and stood up for womens rights and equality. I put together a little list of some of the women I found to be monumental in womens rights throughout Oregon history. Although there are so many more, here are a few. I wanted to put this list together because thanks to them, I have the freedoms and opportunity to start a business and blaze my own trail.

Info Via 1859 Magazine, the National Women's History Museum,
Century of Action, and The Oregon Encyclopedia

Abigail Scott Duniway was an Oregon pioneer in more ways than one. She came to the state on the Oregon Trail in 1852 and started a family on a Willamette Valley farm. In 1871 she moved to Portland to start a feminist newspaper called The New Northwest. She worked tirelessly for decades to give Oregon women the right to vote, and in 1912, Oregon became the seventh state to pass women’s suffrage.

Marie Dorion was a Native American woman remembered for her bravery and endurance in leading white men to the Oregon Territory when she was likely in her early twenties and pregnant. Her journey followed that of famed Sacajawea by six years, but Dorion’s 3,500-mile trek was both longer and much more difficult.  Her epic story shows the strength and perseverance needed to survive alone and against all odds.

Hazel Ying Lee was born in Portland in 1912 and was the first Chinese American woman to fly for the U.S. military, and one of two Chinese Americans in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

Barbara Roberts became the first female governor of Oregon in 1991. Some of her many achievements included success in areas of affordable housing, welfare-to-workplace programs and Head Start. Her term as governor succeeded her other firsts as the first woman to serve as the majority leader of the Oregon House of Representatives and the first democrat to be elected as Oregon Secretary of State in more than 100 years.

Lola Baldwin was sworn in to the Portland Police Department on April 1, 1908, making her the first female police officer in the United States. Detective Baldwin supervised the women’s protection division, which she had helped create, until 1922. She had been a committed suffragist throughout her life, volunteering for organizations that looked after the welfare of women and children.

Marie Equi was born in 1872 and became a medical doctor devoted to providing care to working-class and poor patients. She regularly provided birth control information and abortions at a time when both were illegal. She was a political activist and advocated civic and economic reforms. Equi was a lesbian who maintained a primary relationship with Harriet Speckart for more than a decade. The two women adopted an infant and raised the child in an early example of a same-sex alternative family. In 1918, Equi was convicted under the Sedition Act for speaking against U.S. involvement in WWI. She was sentenced to a three years at San Quentin State Prison.

Harriet “Hattie” Redmond was a leader in the long struggle for Oregon women suffrage, and her work for voting rights helped lay the groundwork for the Black Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. She was president of the Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage Association and organized meetings and educational lectures on woman suffrage.

Lizzie Weeks was an African American activist in Portland in the years after women in Oregon had achieved the right to vote in 1912. She organized black women to empower them to be successful voters and was an early candidate for local party office. Weeks was the first female African American social worker to be employed by Multnomah County.

Sandra Mims Rowe moved to Oregon in 1993 when she became the editor of The Oregonian. In her sixteen-year tenure there, she led the newspaper to become one of the most widely circulated and respected newspapers in the region. The paper earned five Pulitzer Prizes under her leadership, and Rowe was honored as “editor of the year” twice. She retired from The Oregonian at the end of 2009, leaving behind a strong legacy of inspired journalism and storytelling in Oregon.

Stacy Allison became the first American woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in 1988. She published a memoir about her experience in 1994 called Beyond the Limits. Allison was raised in Woodburn and found her passion for climbing and mountaineering while she was a student at Oregon State University. She reached the summit of Everest at only 29 years old, joining the prestigious list of (mostly men) who had also taken on the journey. Allison’s strength and adventurous spirit is inspiring to women of the outdoors everywhere.

Beverly Cleary brought us the iconic characters of Beezus and Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins. Cleary grew up on a farm in McMinnville and moved to Portland, where much of her work is located. Since she started writing children’s and young adult literature in the mid-twentieth century, she has sold ninety-one-million copies of her books and received numerous awards, including The National Book Award, the Newbery Medal and the National Medal of the Arts. 

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