Suffragist of the Month, October, 2016

62007-004-990e50e1Abigail Jane Scott Duniway, 1834 – 1915

Abigail Jane Scott was born October 22, 1834 in Groveland, Illinois into a large, poor farm family; as a child she received little schooling. In 1852 her parents moved the family by wagon train to Oregon, a trip that sadly proved fatal for her mother and younger brother. Once settled in Oregon, Abigail helped her father work the new farm, and, despite her poor education, found a job teaching school. In 1853 she married a neighboring farmer, Benjamin Duniway.

Abigail’s life was fraught with difficulties. Without her knowledge or consent, her husband entered a faulty business deal that led to the loss of their farm, and his subsequent disability forced Abigail to assume responsibility for the support of the family. This lack of power or control over her own life frustrated her, and led her to develop an interest in women’s rights, specifically woman suffrage.

In 1873 she helped organize the Oregon Equal Suffrage Association, and was chosen its President soon after. She was a good friend to Susan B. Anthony, whose Northwest speaking tour she managed. She traveled extensively throughout the Northwest, helping to form other suffrage groups, lobbying the Oregon State legislature for the passage of an amendment to the state’s constitution favoring suffrage, while still finding time to write poetry and publish newspapers.

But she faced constant frustration. Time and again the Oregon state legislature failed to support votes for women, and it wasn’t until 1912, when she was ill and confined to a wheelchair, that Oregon finally passed the suffrage measure. She was given the honor of signing the proclamation with the governor, and became the first woman in her state to register to vote.

Abigail Duniway spent her much of her life devoted to the suffrage cause, and never waivered in her efforts. In1914 she published Path Breaking: An Autobiographical History of the Equal Suffrage Movement in Pacific Coast States. She died October 11, 1915.

Happy Birthday, Abigail Jane Scott Duniway!




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