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Oregon marks centennial of women's right to vote

By Joe Burns
Published On: Nov 05 2012 09:51:14 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 06 2012 03:10:57 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Joe Burns reports on Oregon celebrating 100 years since women gained the right to vote in the state.

BEND, Ore. -

It was 100 years ago, Nov. 5, 1912 when Oregon voters approved women suffrage by a narrow 52 percent of the men who voted.

Since that day, women have made great strides in national, state and local politics.

Oregon was the ninth state in the nation to allow women to vote. It had been voted down five times previously - more than any other state.

A statewide exhibition organized by the Oregon Historical Society called the "Century of Action Initiative" honors the centennial of women voting in Oregon.

"Looking back, Bend was one of the prominent early story of voting for women," said Nate Pedersen, a librarian for the Deschutes Public Library.

Mementos of the struggle and achievement are on display at the Deschutes Public Library's downtown branch.

One thing unique to Bend's exhibit: a photo of women sitting around Drake Lodge, which sat at what's now Drake Park.

In the photo: Sarah Ehrgott, a national advocate for women's suffrage.

"She paid a visit to Ben,. and that group of people around here were local Bend citizens that were pro-women suffragists," Pedersen said.

The group's meeting with Ehrgott helped fuel Bend's role in the the women's suffrage movement.

"As a woman, I think it's pretty phenomenal," said Judy Stiegler, who served as state representative for Bend.

It took the nation eight more years to ratify the 19th Amendment, which gave women nationally the right to vote.

Stiegler says her mother didn't vote until late in her life.

"My mom amazingly was 50 years old before she voted -- she didn't understand," Stiegler said. "I voted long before she ever voted."

One group of women (and a few men) helping to inform the public is the League of Women Voters.

"They have been a stalwart of making sure that democracy works," Stiegler said.

From county commissioners to city council members and judges, women have been involved a in a variety of political positions.

Also, Stiegler said, women have "shown a greater propensity to get out there and exercise our right to vote."

Stiegler points out that women have turned out in greater numbers to the polls (or in Oregon's case, filled out their mail ballots) than men over the last couple of decades.

"Every U.S. citizen has the right to vote, and that's a remarkable, wonderful thing," Stiegler said.

The first woman in Bend to cast a ballot was 75-year-old S.M. Whitted. There were reports she might even have been the first Oregon woman to do so.

The exhibit will be on display until the end of the year.

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