Suffragist of the Month – October, 2015

Abigail Scott Duniway, 1834 – 1915

We sometimes forget that the struggle for woman suffrage was nation-wide. Some western states extended suffrage to women in the mid-19th century, (Wyoming in 1869, Colorado in 1893, Utah in 1896) but others dragged their feet for years, thus necessitating an active movement throughout the west as well.

Abigail Scott Duniway is best remembered as being an outspoken advocate for woman suffrage, particularly in Oregon and Washington. She was one of the first women to publish her own human-rights newspaper, The New Northwest, which for over sixteen years was dedicated to the improvement of “woman’s condition;” one of the most important tenets of this improvement was granting women the right to vote.

Abigail Scott was born October 22, 1834, to John Tucker and Ann Roelofson Scott, in Tazewell County, Illinois, the third of twelve children. In 1852, the Scotts traveled to Oregon Territory with their nine surviving children, and seventeen-year-old Abigail was assigned the task of keeping a daily journal. The journey was a sad one – both her mother and her brother died en route – but her journal writing would engender in her a life-long love of writing and literature, and would provide a priceless glimpse into the arduous journey undertaken by so many other western-bound pioneers.

In 1853 Abigail married Benjamin Duniway; the family eventually settled in Portland Oregon. When Benjamin was injured in an accident Abigail became the principle family breadwinner, taking in boarders, running a millinery shop, and supporting a family, which would eventually grow to include a daughter and five sons.

She became interested in the suffrage movement about 1870, and in 1871 managed the western tour of Susan B. Anthony, who would later become her mentor. Anthony encouraged her to travel and speak about suffrage, and in 1872 the two made a 2,400 mile journey through the western territories and states. Slowly the movement saw some success: California finally granted women the vote in 1911, and, after many setbacks, Oregon finally passed woman suffrage in 1912.

Abigail continued to write and lecture throughout her life, publishing 22 novels, her newspaper, and non-fiction, including music. Her autobiography Pathbreaking, published in 1914, tells of her 40-year struggle for women’s rights. Although she saw women in own state get the vote, she, like her mentor Anthony, did not live to see the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She died on October 11, 1915, and is buried in River View Cemetery in Portland. She is remembered for being a vocal, passionate and persuasive advocate for equal rights for all.

Happy Birthday, Abigail Scott Duniway!

Digitized images of Abigail’s overland diary can be found at

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