Oregon Focus: People to Know: Abigail Scott Duniway

About Abigail Scott Duniway

photograph of Abigail sitting at table as she signs the Equal Suffrage Proclamation in front of the governor
Abigail Scott Duniway signs Oregon's Equal Suffrage Proclamation on Nov. 30, 1912 as Governor Oswald West and Viola M. Coe watch. (Image courtesy Library of Congress)
Abigail Scott Duniway was born in Illinois in 1834. On the way to Oregon in 1852, her mother died, but her father and eight brothers and sisters continued on west. They settled in Lafayette, Oregon. When she was 18 years old, she taught school in Cincinnati, Oregon (now called Eola) and the following year married Benjamin C. Duniway. He was crippled in 1862 so Abigail went back to teaching school to support herself and her four children. At Albany she started a millinery (women's hats and related items) business.
In 1872 she became publisher and editor of the paper, The New Northwest. Her work took her to Portland. The paper was a pioneer in the movement for women's suffrage and equal rights.
Interestingly, Harvey Scott, Duniway's brother and then editor of The Oregonian newspaper, was one of the most outspoken critics and opponents regarding women's suffrage in Oregon.
Also see Notable Oregonian descriptions for Duniway and Scott.

Suggestions for Teachers

Ask students to:
Invite a woman from the local community who was active in the "Women's Liberation" movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Compare and contrast her experiences with Duniway's.
drawing of Abigail Scott Duniway
Abigail Scott Duniway.
Dramatize part of Duniway's life. Show how people felt about what she advocated.
Discuss why Duniway got involved in promoting women's suffrage. Did being a widow raising a family make a difference?
Have a librarian find some of Duniway's books of stories and poems for the students to read or hear.
Ask someone from the county clerk's office to talk about current and past voting practices. What is the ratio of male to female voters now? Has it changed over the decades since 1912?
Discuss the influence that Harvey Scott and other newspaper editors have had in Oregon history.
Produce a class newspaper. Choose an editor. Have each student contribute news.
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