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Oregon in the late 19th early 20th century


William S. U’Ren
William S. U’Ren

Before Oregon became a state, the Democratic Party, which represented the political views of the majority of Oregonians, was controlled by the people from Salem. The Republican Party, which came into power during the Civil War years, was soon dominated by Portland attorneys who were closely affiliated with railroad magnates.

The women’s movement became an important issue in Oregon politics in the 1870s. Feminist Abigail Scott Duniway campaigned for women’s rights to own property and to vote. In 1884 an amendment granting women the right to vote was defeated. Women in Oregon were eventually given the right to vote in 1912.

At the end of the 19th century, farmers became politically active. The Farmers Clubs, originally established in Illinois to fight against high shipping costs, opened a branch in Oregon in 1873. Agrarians formed an independent party, which was remarkably successful in the 1874 legislative elections. The Populist Party, led by Sylvester Pennoyer, also benefited from farmers’ activism. In 1886 Pennoyer was elected governor, running on the Democratic ticket. In 1890 he was reelected as a Populist, demanding that Congress allocate funds to improve the transportation network in Oregon in order to reduce transportation fees for farmers. The Populist platform also advocated reforms in education and labor laws.

In the late 19th century, charges of corruption among government officials and of election fraud led to a demand for reform.

A well-organized campaign planned by William S. U’Ren passed an amendment to the state constitution establishing the initiative and referendum. This amendment, adopted in 1902, began Oregon’s experiment in progressive democracy. The initiative allows voters to propose legislation; the referendum allows them to vote on proposed legislation. These measures resulted in a number of reforms, including direct primaries in 1904, recall of public officials in 1908, and presidential preference primaries in 1910. The Oregon System, as these direct legislative measures were called, placed great responsibility on the voters. Between 1904 and 1918 Oregon voters adopted 13 constitutional amendments and passed 35 statutory laws. These laws provided for employer’s liability, worker’s compensation, abolition of the death penalty (which was restored in 1920, abolished again in 1964, and reenacted in 1984), and the eight-hour day for workers on state projects and for gainfully employed women. Oregon became one of the pioneer states in the Progressive movement of the early 1900s. After World War I (1914-1918), the Oregon economy declined slightly, and some farmers were forced to reduce their production.

Like the rest of the nation, Oregonians were concerned about the rise of socialism. and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. In 1923 a measure was passed that abolished parochial and private schools. This act was driven in part by anti-Catholic sentiment. In 1925 the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the law as unconstitutional. In addition, legislation was passed preventing Asian nationals from owning property in Oregon. "Oregon" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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