Open main menu

The Souvenir of Western Women/Women on Public Boards

< The Souvenir of Western Women

Women on Public Boards

By MAE H. CARDWELL, M. D.

SINCE the day when Dolly Madison, 'midst fire and smoke, preserved the credentials of the American Nation, women have steadily proven their ability to meet responsibilities in the varying conditions of life; yet only in the last quarter of a century have they been admitted to places among the governing councils of the country.

The best example of woman's work on boards of public service is that of Clara Barton, to whose judgment and forethought the success of the American branch of the Red Cross Society is largely due. But in a smaller way it has of late fallen to the lot of women to serve on public boards. That this is an innovation may be noted by referring to the California State Board of Charities, created not many years ago and to the experience of Dr. Charlotte B. Brown, who in great measure was instrumental in its organization. This busy physician, had she been a man, would naturally have held an appointment on a board in which she had shown such deep interest, but prejudice ruled and the position was not accorded her.

The gradual waning of this prejudice was apparent when a few years later Dr. Sarah B. Shuey was appointed to the health board of Oakland, Cal.. and, though not without opposition, to the position of its chairmanship. Her service was beyond criticism. The false idea has died away and the Governor of California last summer commissioned Dr. Annie Lyle to represent California at the Anti-Tuberculosis Congress in St. Louis.

In the Northwest the service of women on public boards was recognized as early as 1880 in Portland, when, at the taxpayers' annual school meeting, resolutions were adopted asking for a committee to investigate the condition of the public schools, and, with six gentlemen, Mrs. Mary A. Holbrook and Mrs. Rosa F. Burrell were elected to serve on that board.

Oregon was honored by the appointment of one of her citizens, Mrs. J. B. Montgomery, by the United States Government to serve on the Board of Lady Managers at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, where she served with distinction.

The board of managers of the Lewis and Clark Exposition have taken another step forward—recognize no distinction through appointments, but place genius and labor on merit alone.

In Oregon public sentiment has so far advanced that women are chosen school directors. The chairman of the Board of Education in Portland is Mrs. C. E. Sitton, an eminently satisfactory official.

In municipal sanitation women have been brought forward, and Portland's Mayor has lately reappointed Dr. Mae H. Cardwell to the health board of the city.

Oregon's State Board of Charities, organized two years ago, has women oil its executive board, who are active and indefatigable in the work.