Oregon’s first constitution, from the late 1850s, banned slavery but also made it illegal for free African Americans to live in the state. Not long after, in 1872, Mary Beatty, an African American Oregonian, joined Abigail Scott Duniway, Maria Hendee, and Mrs. M.A. Lambert in their attempt to vote. Along with activists across the country (including Susan B. Anthony), these four women brought attention to the campaign for women’s voting rights—known as “woman suffrage.”
Almost 150 years after this historic moment, the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) commemorates this complicated history and the brave activists who fought for woman suffrage in an original exhibition, Nevertheless, They Persisted: Women’s Voting Rights and the 19th Amendment. On view now through December 5, 2021, this exhibit shows the many ways Oregon history connects to the national history of woman suffrage and to the complex history of American democracy.
Oregon women gained the right to vote in 1912, the initiative passing with a 52% majority after five prior failed attempts spanning nearly 30 years. It was not until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, however, that women across the country gained the right to vote in local and national elections. Even then, these rights did not extend to all women—many Native Americans and Asian Americans were not granted citizenship until later, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act was necessary to ensure voting rights for Black Americans in particular.
With over 120 unique artifacts and documents, Nevertheless, They Persisted invites visitors to grapple with how and why political leaders have denied women the vote, how women have fought for equal rights, and how teamwork and fights across race, class, and organizing tactics have shaped this history. Through storytelling, visitors will connect to the past and feel the struggles and triumphs of the women and men who demanded the vote and used their rights to shape our nation and our world.
Take a look behind-the-scenes of the exhibit in this brief overview narrated by curator Lori Erickson. In this three-and-a-half-minute video, Erickson explains key moments from the woman suffrage movement and highlights some of the artifacts and more than 80 compelling images on display.
Plan your visit
Current Hours: The Oregon Historical Society is eager to welcome visitors back to its museum following a four-month closure. Until further notice, museum and store hours are Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The museum will also have special hours during the week of Oregon’s spring break, opening from Tuesday, March 23, through Sunday, March 28, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. As hours are subject to change, please visit ohs.org/reopening before your visit.
Location: 1200 SW Park Avenue, Portland, OR 97205
Admission: $10; discounts are available for students, seniors, teachers, and youth. Admission is free every day for OHS members and Multnomah County residents.
Health & Safety Protocols: Following the guidance and requirements of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for indoor entertainment establishments, the Oregon Historical Society has implemented important safety protocols for the health of staff and visitors, which include mask requirements, social distancing, and building capacity limits. Please visit ohs.org/reopening for the most up-to-date information around current safety protocols.