The Souvenir of Western Women/Susan B. Anthony's Visits to Oregon

Susan B. Anthony's Visit to Oregon


ELIZABETH CADY STANTON and Susan B. Anthony visited San Francisco in the summer of 1871, and while the newspapers of that city were giving glowing accounts of the lectures and personnel of Mrs. Stanton, coupled with harsh and cruel criticisms of Miss Anthony, I called upon well-known attorneys of Portland, and through their assistance secured transportation from Ben Holladay for bringing the ladies by steamer to Portland. The steamer arrived in the night time, bringing Miss Anthony alone, as Mrs. Stanton was unable to accompany her.

Early the next morning I called upon Miss Anthony at the St. Charles hotel, where, instead of the "cranky old maid" the reporters of that period had been caricaturing, I was met by a softly spoken, motherly looking, modestly attired woman, to whom my heart warmed instantly. After some difficulty I succeeded in engaging the Oro Fino Theater for Miss Anthony's three lectures. Her audiences were large and good natured; but the daily papers were cold and critical, and but for my New Northwest, which had found a place in almost every household, I fear that our distinguished visitor would have gone from us with no very exalted opinion of our press or people. Her lectures over in Portland, we together visited a number of Willamette Valley towns, where our mission was well sustained and encouraged.

We visited the Oregon State Fair in September, and there being no public hall on the grounds for meetings, we spoke in an open space in the shade of the pavilion, where we were compelled to raise our voices to a screech in order to be heard above the commingled din of brass bands, steam whistles and the cries of competing showmen. On this occasion a certain military gentleman, a colonel and a bachelor, was espied in the audience whom Miss Anthony recognized as one who had characterized her in an article for a Kansas newspaper as a "slab-sided old maid." The good natured excoriation he received before he could get away was exceedingly amusing to everybody but himself; and I have never heard of his repeating the offense.

Returning from the Willamette Valley towns, we proceeded to Walla Walla, traveling up the Columbia as the invited guests of the late lamented Captain J. C. Ainsworth on one of the old O. R. & N. Company's palatial river steamers to Wallula, where we took stage for Walla Walla, thirty miles distant. The dust was a foot deep in many places, and the road abounded in hidden chuck-holes. But Miss Anthony rode fearlessly on the boot of a lumbering old stage coach, beside an obliging driver, who regaled her with the trite story of Horace Greeley's famous ride in Nevada, frequently exclaiming, as he flourished his whip, "Keep your seat, Miss Anthony; I'll get you there on time."

Annie Pixley. who was then starring in the Pacific Northwest, had possession of the only hall Walla Walla afforded; and no church being open to any woman speaker at any price, we secured a little hall at the rear end of a saloon, where we had a fine audience, but were solemnly censured for accepting the only place open to us by every preacher who had shut the door of his church in our faces.

From Walla Walla we journeyed by river and stage coach to Olympia, where we addressed a joint session of the territorial legislature. Miss Anthony remarking at the beginning of her speech that, although women had before addressed similar assemblies, this was the first time to her knowledge that they had done so by official invitation.

We then went to Seattle, Port Townsend and other Puget Sound hamlets, after which we visited Victoria, making many friends for equal rights in British Columbia as well as in Oregon and Washington. Our return trip by stage from Olympia to Cowlitz Landing was peculiarly trying. The November rains had come, the roads were horrible, and the night was pitch dark. But the driver was wise, the horses were intelligent and we reached the Columbia River without other mishaps than bumps and bruises. From Albany, Oregon, Miss Anthony took stage for Sacramento, lecturing often en route and everywhere making converts.

A quarter of a century later she returned to Portland, crowned with age and riches and fame. She was the bright particular star at the first Oregon congress of women in 1896, and was the honored guest of all sorts of public and private functions and organizations of women. Society opened its doors to her and her co-workers, and open-handed hospitality greeted them at every turn. The stage coach had given way to four transcontinental railroads, and the Star Spangled Banner was floating over the islands of the sea.

"The hour of woman's full and complete enfranchisement is not yet come," said our distinguished guest, "but it is coming. We have but to work and wait for it yet a little longer."

Years after the close of the Nez Perce mission the outward forms of religion were observed by the Indians. Prayers and singing were heard in nearly every lodge. At the council at Walla Walla in 1855 it was found that three lodges of the Cayuses and about one thousand of the Nez Perce Indians kept up regular family worship. They sang from the Nez Perce hymn book and read in their own language the gospel of St. Matthew, prepared for them by Mr. Spalding while at Lapwai. They showed surprising endurance of piety. Many kept up their knowledge of reading and writing so well indeed that they took notes and also made copies of the treaties and the speeches at this council at Walla Walla eight years after the close of the mission. In 1843, under Dr. White, these Indians organized a simple form of government, elected chiefs and adopted a few laws.