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 »

Leadership Roles in the Oregon Legislative Assembly

by Emily Langston

Members of the Oregon Legislative Assembly are important decision-makers and leaders in state politics.  They represent the interests of the people who elect them, and make laws which will touch the day-to-day lives of Oregonians all over the state.  While all senators and representatives are highly influential, the people they elect to lead them in the Senate and House are especially powerful.  Some leadership roles will be more political, or more partisan than others, but all leaders must grapple with performing their essential duties in a highly charged political environment.  Legislative leaders must strike a balance between advancing their own priorities and the agenda of their party, while carrying out their essential duties as leaders and representatives. Read More »