Beyond the ballot : the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the politics of Oregon Women, 1880-1900 Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/qf85ng39h

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  • Between 1880 and 1900, the Oregon Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) significantly impacted the lives of Oregon women. Not simply an organization of middle class white women, the Oregon WCTU enlisted Native American and African American women, and persistently advocated for improved conditions for working women. The WCTU aspired to be more than a simple temperance union, taking on a broad social agenda which had as its goal the social emancipation of women. It successfully secured positive changes for women in the areas of sexuality, labor, personal safety, education, and prison life in addition to successfully advocating several temperance issues on the state and national level. The union also served to solidify the bond between women, mobilizing them into a social class. Despite their commitment to improving the lives of women, not all WCTU members were supportive of the suffrage movement. Open conflict between the WCTU and the state suffrage association, led by Abigail Scott Duniway, highlights the complexity of women's politics in Oregon at the end of the nineteenth century. Divisions between women on the issues of suffrage and temperance reveal early disagreements as to the best route to increased freedom for women. Such division led to a delay in achieving equal suffrage in the state of Oregon. Despite their disenfranchisement, women's work in the public arena shaped the development of communities and the state of Oregon. Through petition circulation, public speaking, industrial schools, labor union organization, and political lobbying, Oregon women influenced the decisions made by voting men. The activities of Oregon women at the end of the nineteenth century suggest that women wielded political power long before they gained the right to vote.
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