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8. WOMEN IN EDUCATION. One of the first and most frequently expressed aspirations of the builders of the State of Oregon was that their children might enjoy the privileges of a good education. “Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged”, proclaimed the First Organic Law of the Provisional Government,231 taking the words of the Ordinance of 1787. The Act of Congress creating the Oregon Territory generously provided that sections 16 and 36 in each township of the Territory were to be withheld from settlement that they might later be used for schools232 and again in the Don 'tion Land Law of 1850, Congress granted to Oregon the “quantity of two to wnships of land

west of the Cascade Mountains, and to be selected

by the legislative assembly

to aid in the establishment of a university in the territory of Oregon”. Charles H. Carey remarks233 that Oregon was the first American commonwealth to receive this double grant. The constitution of the state in the article on Education and School Lands required that the “legislative assembly shall provide by law for the establishment of a uniform and general system of common schools” and “for the distribution of the income of the common school fund among the several counties of the state, in proportion to the number of children resident therein between the ages of four and twenty years'' 234

There seems to have been no inclination to exclude girls from the privileges of the schools, elementary or advanced. The first school west of the Rocky Mountains was that started in 1832 by Dr. John McLoughlin, with John Ball as teacher, for the boys of Fort Vancouver.235 With the coming of the Protestant Missionaries in 1833 and the following years,236 and the Catholic Missionaries in 1838,237 schools came into existence at Mission Centers as part of the evangelizing work. Jason Lee had established one near Champoeg by 1835 with Philip Edwards in charge 238 Dr. and Mrs. Marcus Whitman had another near Walla Walla where Indian boys and girls were accepted.239 Though the first school of the Catholic missionaries, St. Joseph's, at Willamette (St. Paul) in 1842 enrolled boys only,240 as soon as religious women could be obtained, St. Paul's Mission Seminary for girls was opened in 1844 by six Notre Dame Sisters from Namur, Belgium ;241 when these Sisters left Oregon in 1853, their work was taken up in 1859 by Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who came from Montreal for that purpose. 242

An active zeal for incorporating seminaries or academies, "institutions of learning in science and literature", took possession of the Oregon residents as soon as the territory was created. In the years between 1849 and 1858 at least twenty-five such institutions were incorporated by the territorial assembly.243 Several were chartered as Female Seminaries, but in most instances no reference was made to discrimination of sex in students, while in others the title of the act expressly declared that the school was to be an institution of learning for the instruction of persons of both sexes. Nearly all of these were denominational and private schools. As a matter of fact, schools supported solely by general taxes were not in favor with Oregon pioneers and their followers, who thought “that every man should educate his own children and not tax others to do it' 244

The proclamation of the organization of Oregon Territory was issued by Governor Lane on March 3, 1849. Between that date and the following July 17 when the territorial legislature assembled, a public meeting was called at Oregon City to discuss matters of importance. One question debated was "Shall we organize a system of free schools 9" 1245 The vote stood thirty-seven in favor and six against. In response to a message from the Governor 246 the legislature on September 5, 1849, passed an act establishing a System of Common Schools.247 The provisions in it which were of particular interest to women were three. (1) All children or youth between the ages of four and twenty-one were to be embraced by the system.248 (2) All persons who wished to become teachers might take the teacher's examination.249 Either male or female teachers might be employed.260 (3) The voters of the School District meetings were to be “the taxpaying inhabitants” of the District.251

The code of 1855 enlarged the provisions of the first act; but we are interested chiefly in one which said that a county superintendent should be elected by the legal voters" of each county; these were described as “every inhabitant over the age of twenty-one years who shall have resided in any school district for one month, immediately preceding any district meeting, and who shall have paid, or be liable to pay any tax except road tax in said district, shall be a legal voter at any school meeting and no other person shall be allowed to vote" 252 But through the Donation Land law of 1850, many women were holding property in their own names, were tax payers, and should have had the right to vote at school meetings. The law of 1862 repealed all school laws passed previously. It required only as a qualification for the county superintendent's office that the candidate be elected by the legal voters of the county at a biennial election.253 Voters at school meetings were described as in the 1855 code but the following explanation was added: “Women who are widows, and have children and taxable property in the district, may vote, by written proxy or in person at such meetings, if they choose.” Schools were to be free to all persons from four to twenty years. The code of 1872 added thirty days residence in the district to the voting qualifications for women who were widows and removed permission to vote by written proxy.

254 In 1878, the year which saw the passage of several of the statutes relating to married women's separate property, a law255 was passed which gave any citi. zen of the state "who is twenty-one years of age and has resided in the district thirty days immediately preceding the meeting and who has property in the district upon which he or she pays a tax” the right to vote at a school meeting. In 1889 this was amended by including with the taxpayers “any person who has children of school age to educate 1256 in districts having less than 1000 inhabitants. But in 1891 the original regulation of allowing only taxpayers was restored in a district of the first class, at that time one having a school population


of 1000 or more.257 In 1901 an act to "further provide for the establishment of a uniform and general system of public schools”, repealed some and amended other acts of former years.

.258 The qualifications of legal voters determined then are the law today. These are that a voter must be a citizen of the state, must have attained age

of twenty-one years, have resided in the district thirty days immediately preceding the meeting or election, and have taxable property in the district, (which may be taxable stock, shares or ownership in any corporation, firm or partnership in the district) but the property qualification is not necessary to vote for school directors and clerks. Furthermore in districts of the third class (having a school population of 200 or less) any head of a family having children of school age may vote, without property qualifications.250


Though women had school suffrage in Oregon while it was still a Territory, the fact seems not to have been realized by them. For as late as 1885, the Superintendent of Public Instruction in his Biennial Report to the Legislature went into detail in his “School Department Decisions” to explain who might vote at a school meeting.260 His explanation is interesting on account of his extraordinary care to make the matter clear. The deci- . sion follows: “Voters at school meetings of a district are all taxpayers, male and female. Taxpayers are those who are liable to pay taxes upon property. Any voter at a school meeting is eligible to the office of Director.

(1) Sex is neither a qualification nor a disqualification for voting at a school meeting and is wholly immaterial.

(2) No person, male or female, can legally vote who does not possess the requisite qualifications of age, residence, property and citizenship and all who possess these four qualifications can legally vote.

(3) Both husband and wife may be legal voters at a school meeting.

(4) A man who has no property in his own name is not a legal voter.

(5) A woman who has no property in her own name is not a legal voter, though her husband may be.

(6) A man who has no property in his own name is not a legal voter, though his wife may be.”

But his efforts to instruct the public seem to have been spent in vain; for almost twenty years later when Laura A. Harris attempted to vote for a director at a school election, her vote was refused by the judges; thereupon she brought suit and received a judgment from the Circuit Court for $50 damages. In the appeal, the attorney for the defendant election judges reminded the Supreme Court Justice that “in the early history of our state none but manhood suffrage was even talked about or thought of. The 'new woman' had not then appeared. All honor to the 'old woman'”, he apostro

" phized, “may her tribe never grow less”. In spite of this assertion as to the modernity of some of woman's ideas, the judge in his decision quoted a Massachusetts opinion to the effect that “the common law of England which was our law upon the subject, permitted a woman to fill any local office of an administrative character, the duties attached to which were such that a woman was competent to perform them”. The Oregon law permitting women taxpayers to vote at school elections was declared constitutional and the judgment of the lower court for $50.00 damages to the plaintiff was affirmed.261

There is nothing in the statutes regarding the county superintendent and his qualifications which directly excluded women from the office, except the implication in the pronoun “his”, in the clause “who shall hold his office". But the constitution had required that “no per

' son shall be elected or appointed to a county office who262 shall not be an elector of the county"; and the electors were to be the white male citizens of the United States. Therefore, the exclusion of women from the office of County Superintendent of Schools seemed inevitable.

In 1893 a statute designed to insure woman's eligibility to educational offices was passed which made

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