Oregon Focus: People to Know: Abigail Scott Duniway
About Abigail Scott Duniway
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.
Duniway lectured extensively during her publishing career, which extended from 1871 to 1887. That year she moved to Idaho to aide the women's suffrage movement there. When the women's vote was adopted in Idaho in 1896, she returned to Oregon and worked for it until the adoption of this state's suffrage amendment in 1912.
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.
Suggestions for teachers
Ask students to:
Look at the 1912-2012 Woman Suffrage Centennial Web Exhibit.
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.
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.