Spring 2020

Issue 121:1

In this issue, authors explore the 1905–1906 woman suffrage campaign in Oregon, one woman’s experience with police violence against Black women in Portland, Oregon, during the 1960s and 1970s, and a photo essay documenting the OHS Research Library’s Portland General Electric collections.

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In this Issue

Clara Bewick Colby and the Oregon Woman Suffrage Campaign of 1905–1906                 

by Kristin Mapel Bloomberg

Clara Bewick Colby arrived in Oregon in 1904 and became a key figure and among one of Oregon’s primary fieldworkers during the state’s 1905 to 1906 woman suffrage campaign. In this research article, Kristin Mapel Bloomberg analyzes Colby’s detailed campaign fieldwork records to reveal how “activists conducted their work, building on prior movement strategies by systematizing a professional class of suffrage workers into a centrally organized campaign.” Colby spent her early years as a footsoldier of the movement in Beatrice, Nebraska, where she “wielded her political acumen on the speaker’s platform and as publisher of the influential The Woman’s Tribune (1883–1909), the second-longest-running woman’s rights journal in the United States.” By the time she arrived in Oregon in 1904, she had “ascended to and fallen from the heights of suffrage influence,” but as Bloomberg describes, Oregon held promise and Colby worked tirelessly to collect signatures to put a state constitutional change on the ballot. While the 1905–1906 campaign was imperfect and ultimately failed, it helped establish strategies that would be used successfully in future campaigns.

The Case of Cheryl D. James and Police Violence Against Black Women in Portland, Oregon (1968–1974)

by Jane Cigarran

On January 4, 1971, two plain-clothed FBI agents who did not identify themselves entered the James family home in North Portland, Oregon, to arrest Charles James, Jr., who had been declared AWOL from the Navy. Cheryl D. James, then seventeen years old, witnessed one of the agents putting her younger brother in a chokehold and he was unable to breathe. Cheryl hit the agent over the head with a rolling pin and was violently arrested later that day in her home by about a dozen armed agents. Cheryl, a minor, was convicted of assault, resisting arrest, and opposing FBI agents with a dangerous weapon (a rolling pin) in April 1971 and sentenced to eighteen months at Terminal Island prison in San Pedro, California. In this research article, Jane Cigarran documents the case of Cheryl D. James “as a microcosm of what was happening across the country at the time,” and how it revealed the racial politics in Portland during the 1960s and 1970s. Her case, Cigarran argues, “offers a glimpse into how a system of “law and order” that is supposed to protect and serve proved fundamentally set up to fail Black women in Portland.”

Harnessing the Power of Photography: Selections from the OHS Portland General Electric Collections, 1895–1979

by Lindsey Benjamin

In this Photo Essay, Oregon Historical Society (OHS) Project Archivist Lindsey Benjamin, provides readers a glimpse into the OHS Research Library’s Portland General Electric collections, which contain over 7,000 images used to promote PGE’s business for over seventy-five years. According to Benjamin, the collection reveals “a deep and fascinating history of electricity and its impact on every aspect of life in Portland and the Willamette Valley. From large scale dam building projects that changed the faces of mountains and rivers to the introduction of electricity in homes and on the streets of Portland, the photographs demonstrate the power of archival collections address a broad history.” Readers interested in seeing more of this collection can visit the OHS Digital Collections site where approximately 950 photographs are available to view online.

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