Sometimes you have to give it your all. So here I am in the Collins Gallery of Portland’s Central Library, after a photo shoot for an article on the centennial of woman suffrage in Oregon and the launch of Blue Thread. I’m decked out in my 1912 costume, from outrageous hat to button-sided boots, and I’m sitting a few feet away from the suffrage exhibit. I’m also a few days away from my Petticoat Postcards! presentation with artist Addie Boswell in this very room. I want inspiration. I want Birdie!
Birdie Wise graduated from the University of Oregon in June 1912. She won first prize and $150 (big bucks in those days) for her “Dawn of Tomorrow” oration at the graduation exercises. Birdie argued that suffrage was a natural for women. Here’s why (to quote The Oregonian quoting Birdie):
The home is not a mere house bounded by four artificial walls. The home is a condition…. In the olden days, the common necessities of life, the water and food supplies, the educational exercises and the hospital care were provided in the home. But now we have the factories, the city water and dairy systems, the public schools and hospitals, where the vital things in life are managed in a different way…. A woman cannot control these matters in the home; she must have the ballot, the principal tool of civil rights….
In 1912 Birdie helped to found the state’s College Equal Suffrage League. She was a charter member and corresponding secretary for the Astoria-based Equal Suffrage Society. She organized rallies, gave speeches, marched in parades, and seemed to be everywhere doing everything she could to promote woman suffrage. Go, Birdie!
I don’t know much about Birdie’s life after that. The newspaper announced that she’d be filling the “chair in mathematics” in a high school in Astoria, Oregon, her hometown. Did she teach? For how long? What else did she do? If you know, please leave a comment.
There’s a picture of Birdie at the suffrage exhibit (through May 20) at the Oregon Jewish Museum (yes, Birdie was Jewish). The larger suffrage exhibit at Central Library is up only through March 6. Get there while the getting’s good.