Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pioneering Women of the East

From Outlook Online:
"Some think that women’s rights were recognized first in western states because of those rugged women who walked the Oregon Trail, gave birth in wagon beds, grubbed farms from raw land and wrestled a few wildcats when necessary. Having proved equal to the West, how could you deny them a ballot?

Wyoming, Utah and Idaho were front-runners. The state of Washington was the fifth state in the nation to give women the right to vote in 1910. In 1912, Oregon and Arizona fell in line.

Women in East Multnomah County were quick to grab up those rights and put them to use. Corbett school histories note that Lizzie Latourell served on the school board of Latourell and Mountain schools as early as 1901.

In rural communities where the talent pool was smaller and the gender gap not as wide, it was easier to elect a woman whom all voters, men and women, knew to be capable.

That happened to Troutdale’s Clara Latourell Larsson, one of a handful of first female mayors in Oregon. Like her relative Lizzie Latourell, she made an easy transition from the ballot to the gavel. Elected mayor of Troutdale in 1913, a year after women got the vote in Oregon, she served in city government in one capacity or another until shortly before her death in 1939.

Her good friend, Laura Bullock Harlow, became Troutdale’s second woman mayor in 1925. She was, said the newspapers, “of the Republican faith.” She lived in the house that is now the city’s Harlow House Museum and was mayor when Troutdale built its new school in 1926.

Lena St. Clair, sitting at a high bookkeeper’s desk in the front office, worked side by side with her husband to found The Gresham Outlook in 1911. She wrote about city government before she could vote for those who governed.

Margaret Weil became Gresham’s first woman mayor in 1983, resigning in 1987. In 1988 Norma Jean (Gussie) McRobert was elected and served the city for 10 years.

Beyond the political arena, Gresham can claim community builders such as the late Betty Schedeen, business women such as the late Mildred Fancher Hodges, who kept Fancher Auto Parts thriving after the death of her husband in a plane crash, and Dr. Corinne Trullinger Chamberlain, Gresham’s first female doctor who brought 5,000 children into the world.

All but McRobert and Weil were born to women who did not have full voting rights until the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920. "

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