Saturday, July 29, 2017

Newspaperwoman and Women’s Suffrage Advocate Abigail (Scott) Duniway [otd 07/29]

On July 29, 1852, Oregon Pioneer Abigail Jane Scott wrote in her party's journal, "Three miles brought us to Goose Creek; There is grass enough here for a small party of cattle; The water is not very good, being warm and muddy."
“Emigrants Crossing the Plains,” Henry Bryan Hall engraving.
Library of Congress.

Goose Creek was an important watering place on the Oregon Trail, located near where Burley is today. Abigail's father, John Tucker Scott, had assigned her primary responsibility for keeping a daily journal of the trip. She was 18 years old.
Their story supports the point that, by and large, poor families did not emigrate to the western Territories. They either had to already own much of the outfit – wagons, draft animals, and other equipment – or purchase it. The cost of provisions for the long journey added to their initial outlay.

The Scott train reached Idaho in mid-July. Her first impressions were mixed: "We encamped near the Bear River and find good grass; The mosquitoes are troublesome in the extreme; passed four graves."

At "The Cedars," future site of Milner Dam, the Snake River constricts into a cleft half as wide and twice as deep as before. Abigail wrote, "The river here runs through a rocky kanyon. The current is remarkably swift and the water tumbles over the rocks with a roaring noise; ... Huge piles of rock rise up in bold array around me with often a cedar nodding at their tops."

Here, the party experienced a tragedy when the men drove their small band of cattle down to the river for a vital drink. The herd bolted across the river and, sadly, a "worthy young man" drowned in the process of recovering them.

In fact, death was a constant companion of the Oregon Trail pioneers. Just after the train left Idaho, Abigail wrote, "There are two graves near our camp, of a recent date; We have seen several graves every day for the past week but I have beene rather negligent, and consequently took no note of them; Some of our folks are yet quite sick."

Abigail Scott Duniway.
Library of Congress.
In Oregon, Abigail taught school briefly before marrying Benjamin C. Duniway in 1853. When an accident restricted Ben to light work, Abigail supported the family in various ways. Mainly she worked as a writer, lecturer, and editor of the New Northwest newspaper, which she started in 1871. She made the paper a vehicle for advocating women's rights.

Duniway lectured all over the Northwest, including many appearances in Idaho. Also, from about 1886 until 1894, Abigail helped run a livestock ranch in Idaho's Pahsimeroi Valley. Although she deferred to Idaho leaders, she always took a proactive approach in her advocacy of women's rights.

She visited Boise two months after the legislature overwhelmingly passed a resolution to put a women's suffrage amendment on the ballot in 1896. In a public lecture, she praised the men who had passed the measure and asked, “Will you, women of Idaho, sit supinely by, and let your proffered opportunity go by default because of your own apathy, or will you help those men, by becoming your own standard bearers … ?”

Her message helped energize support groups to push the amendment all over Idaho. The measure passed easily that fall [blog, Nov 3].

Duniway was less successful in Oregon, where she lived after 1894. That state finally did grant women the right to vote in 1912. Abigail died in 1915, too early to celebrate passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
References: [French]
Ellen Druckenbrod, Abigail Scott Duniway & Idaho's Woman Suffrage Movement, Boise Public Library, Boise, Idaho (2005).
Abigail Scott Duniway, Path Breaking, James, Kerns & Abbott Co., Portland, Oregon (1914).
Abigail Jane Scott, "Journal of a Trip to Oregon," Covered Wagon Women, Vol. 5, Kenneth L. Homes, David C. Duniway (eds.), University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1997).

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