Women’s voices crucial to defining our democracy

It was 100 years ago this past Tuesday, Jan. 14, that Oregon ratified the 19th Amendment in 1920, joining 35 other states in ensuring that the right to vote could not be denied based on gender.

It’s important to note that this came some eight years after Oregon had already begun permitting women to vote in state elections in 1912.

Ironically, this was the result of a narrow approval of 52-percent of voters — all of them cast by men — to guarantee the right as part of Oregon’s state constitution.

Today, it’s hard to imagine our democracy without the crucial representation of women’s voices in a nation where, according to the last census, women outnumbered men 161 million to 156.1 million — for a nearly 1-to-1 ratio.

In fact, there are only nine states where males make up more than 50 percent of the population: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

In all the rest, including here in Oregon, women represent the majority of individual voices and perspectives that make up our decisions as a state — and ultimately as a nation.

However, even in Oregon, which was among the first to provide that right, it took six ballot attempts — in 1884, 1900, 1906, 1908, 1910 and finally 1912 (more times than in any other state) — before women’s voices became part of the discussion in state decisionmaking.

It was a campaign that began as early as 1870 as part of the Oregon suffrage movement led by Abigail Scott Duniway, who utilized her Portland-based suffragist newspaper The New Northwest to fuel the debate in favor of securing women the right to vote.

In a not-so-subtle twist of irony, it was her brother, Harvey Scott, who was her biggest detractor, thundering his opposition in the pages of The Oregonian, where he was editor from 1866 to 1872.

Simply looking at the importance of women’s perspectives on a personal level, there is no question that the wisdom and insight they offer each day as part of my own life has a profound impact that could never be duplicated by a men-only mentality.

Ask any of the male reporters in my newsroom at the Siuslaw News in Florence, and they will openly admit that the cumulative IQ seems to drop considerably without the influence of our features editor, Chantelle Meyer, around.

On the homefront, my wife Alicia, as well our daughters Elyse and Elizabeth, provide valuable perspective in family discussions and decisionmaking that assure that we don’t devolve into an old episode of “King of the Hill.”

I say all of this to illustrate how, on just an individual level, the value and importance of women’s perspectives impacts my own life every single day — and why I can’t imagine not having those influences and perspectives as part of our national discussion.

What an incredible loss it would have been if not for the determination of those like Abigail Scott Duniway to assure that we as a state — and eventually a nation — benefit from the voices of women in the discussions that define our democracy.