Path Breaking: An Autobiographical History of the Equal Suffrage Movement in the Pacific Coast States

The copy I read was luckily sourced from the library of the University of Nevada, Reno, a first edition printed in 1914. (UN-Reno seem to have no qualms about letting these gems travel to San Francisco as part of the Link+ library exchange– I’ve had a couple old and cherished first editions delivered from them.) To hold a 100 year old artifact in my hand, marveling at the quality (and at the fact that national suffrage was still 5 years out from publication date), was inspiring. I was tipped off to Duniway’s works by Shulamith Firestone, herself enough of a badass to make the recommendation urgent. Duniway was a prolific writer, wielding her pen for a few dozen books between 1859 and 1914, along with starting her own newspaper, the New Northwest. The writing is readable to the modern eye and chock full of great stories from this formidable pioneer.
She begins with an admission of coming late to the game:

I was not an easy convert to Equal Suffrage. I had been led from childhood to believe that women who demanded “rights” were man-haters, of whom I certainly was not one. But a long train of varied pioneer experiences led me at last into the light, which, when it burst upon me, found me willing to take up the burden of efforts, through which, as I look backward over the receded years, I can recall so much that is worthy of record, that the trouble is what to omit rather than what to transcribe.

Duniway then launches into the tale of migration from Illinois to Oregon where she taught school until marrying a young rancher and becoming his unpaid servant:

… I, if not washing, scrubbing, churning, or nursing the baby, was preparing their meals in our lean-to kitchen. To bear two children in two and a half years from my marriage day, to make thousands of pounds of butter every year for market, not including what was used in our free hotel at home; to sew and cook, and wash and iron; to bake and clean and stew and fry; to be, in short, a general pioneer drudge, with never a penny of my own, was not pleasant business for an erstwhile school teacher, who had earned a salary that had not gone before marriage, as did her butter and eggs and chickens afterwards, for groceries, and to pay taxes or keep up the wear and tear of horseshoeing, plow-sharpening and harness-mending.

She created a school for girls and then became a trader, and from that day never experienced extreme poverty again. She earned and spent over $42,000 in the struggle for Equal Rights, which she casually mentions would have made her a millionaire several times over if invested in trade or real estate. In 1871, she moved to Portland, then a village of 8,000 pioneers living in “primitive houses, among fallen trees and blackened stumps,” in order to start her weekly newspaper dedicated to Equal Rights for women. She becomes adept at public speaking and befriends the leaders in the east, Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt. For the next many decades, she travels by stagecoach to the far-reaches of Idaho, Washington, California, to promote the cause. Churches are not open to women speakers (I’m assuming due to the ridiculous Corinthians 14:34) so money must be spent to secure halls where people can gather to listen.
Apparently the vote was easier to achieve in the West since land ownership laws allowed women to own. And once they owned land, they paid taxes. And taxation without representation… well, yeah.
Very interesting to note her position on temperance – I’d no idea that the threat of prohibition derailed the equal suffrage cause; men didn’t want women to vote because they assumed women would vote for prohibition. Duniway explains that prohibition isn’t necessary – give women the vote and they’ll kick their drunkard husbands and sons to the curb. Suffrage is about expansion, prohibition is about restriction. Duniway quotes a letter from Susan B. Anthony, writing from San Francisco in 1896, “My personal belief as to prohibition, pro or con, is nobody’s business but my own, but I have done all I could to keep the two questions (Woman Suffrage and Prohibition) separate in the California Woman’s Suffrage Campaign. The two movements cannot successfully unite to win for either cause. But I am glad to see women awakened from their apathy through any movement that is backed by the churches, since so many of them cannot be aroused in any other way.”
On the insane passion of prohibitionists:

Everything in human experience emphasizes the fact, that when any particular craze takes possession of the minds of any considerable portion of the people, the men and women who are its chief promoters become incapable of coherent reasoning, and many of their followers, unconsciously to themselves, become the victims of hallucinations that overstep rational bounds.

She lives to see Oregon pass the amendment allowing women to vote and is the first to register as a woman voter in Portland. The book closes out with clippings from Alice Stone Blackwell’s newspaper, “The Woman’s Journal,” of Boston in April 1914, including these bits:

Today the girl who seeks higher education finds the doors of many colleges open to her. After graduation she has her choice among many occupations. Few young women realize how new these opportunities are. They may find both amusement and profit in a brief account of the experiences of three pioneer college girls (Lucy Stone, Antoinette Brown, and Elizabeth Blackwell)… little Lucy early made up her mind that these laws and customs (married woman’s property belongs to husband, professions closed to women, women not allowed to speak in public or write for publication) must be changed. But one day, in the family Bible, she came upon the text, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” At first she wanted to die. Then she determined to go to college and learn Greek and Hebrew, and satisfy herself whether such texts were rightly translated.