Pioneers in Lawmaking: Women in the Oregon Legislative Assembly, 1915-1921

by Emily Langston

From the beginning of Oregon’s history, women held a very different type of citizenship than men. Through a practice called coverture, white married women had no right to their own property, earnings, or children, and were considered “covered” by their husbands in all other legal matters. They essentially became extensions of their husbands, who would represent them in political and legal contexts. Single white women had slightly more economic rights as they had ownership of their own wages, however, they had little opportunity available to them and were still not allowed to vote, thus having no political representation. When the Oregon Constitution was being written and debated in August and September of 1857, the right to vote was included for “white male citizens.” “In the first recorded advance for woman suffrage in Oregon, on September 10, 1857, David Logan of Multnomah County moved ‘to strike out male before citizen.’ His motion lost, apparently without any comment or debate.” It would therefore be adopted in the Oregon Constitution that neither women, nor men of color would be allowed to vote in the state. In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment expanded the definition of citizenship as “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” Advocates for women’s suffrage argued that women, as citizens, should be able to exercise all of the rights of citizenship, including voting. However, in the 1875 Minor v. Happersett decision, the Supreme Court declared that voting was not a right conferred on all citizens. Women in Oregon and around the country continued the fight for the right to vote, changing their strategy whenever they hit a new roadblock, like that of the Minor v. Happersett decision.Read More »

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Oregon Legislative Ethics, the Law and the OGEC

by Jonathan Cote-Schiff

“The mind of man knows no employment more worthy of its powers than the quest of righteousness in human affairs.” Inscribed prominently on the proud marble façade of the Oregon State Capitol, the eloquent and directional maxim written by renowned American philosopher, poet, doctor, and scholar Hartley Burr Alexander conveys the importance of aspiration and rectitude for humankind. The centrality and consequence which emanates from the confluence of the need for individual integrity and just governance quite literally looms large over all who enter the Oregon Capitol, a direct, and yet subtle instruction to do the right thing.Read More »

Oregon Legislative Professionalism: The Impact of Political Culture

by Brandon Sheldon

Reformers began advocating for the initiative and referendum in the 1880’s, for reasons that to them were as plain as day. In 1883 the Oregon Vidette and Antimonopolist, a newspaper for the “producing and industrial classes,” proposed legislation that would “defend a citizen’s rights against injustice by powerful corporations.”[i] The authors believed, with ample reason, that Oregon politics were controlled by implacable monied interests who bribed and otherwise influenced state legislators. This secret and corrupt form of governance made Oregon politics well nigh impervious to the popular will. Direct democracy, reformers believed, would change all that once “the lawmaking power” was in “the hands of the people,” asserted William U’Rhen, its most devoted advocate “we could get anything we wanted.”[ii] [iii] The initiative and referendum system is a clear example of how Oregon’s political culture has shaped the professionalization of the legislature. We as Oregonians don’t want “monied interests” controlling the way our politics should be handled and the initiative and referendum system ensures that all voters are involved in many legislative decisions. The ideas of political actors in other states also dictate how their legislature can respond to issues and how capably they can legislate.Read More »

The Oregon Legislature: The Modern History from the 1950’s to Present

by James Gomez

Oregon acquired statehood on February 14th, 1859, and the state’s first legislative session was held just three months later. Although there is a rich history of Oregon’s legislature throughout the entirety of its existence, many exciting events occurred between 1950 and 2015. For example, during this time the Oregon Legislature focused on my landmark issues and solved many problems via bills and measure. Furthermore, the 1950’s and 1960’s were a time of legislative reform that greatly impacted the efficiency and effectiveness of the legislators. Read More »

The Oregon State Legislature: History, Territorial Composition, and Operation

by Curtis Coleman

Three of the most determinant factors of a political institutions identity include its historical origin, its physical composition, and the way it operates on an ongoing basis. Of all the states that comprise the United States of America, Oregon is an example of one of the finest traditions in American Government. From humble origins as part of a west coast trading colony the state has evolved from an informal provisional legislature, to an official territorial legislature, to the state we know today with a well-defined county system that includes complimentary legislative districts for both the Oregon Senate (30 members) and Oregon House of Representatives. (60 members.) On an operating basis the State of Oregon legislature is a well-coordinated body politic that deals with a broad spectrum of regional, state, national and international issues on the world stage.Read More »