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133 Chapter 7 Oregon During World War One, 1914-20 The Great War, known today as World War One, broke out in central Europe in August 1914. President Wilson immediately issued a proclamation of American neutrality. As the war dragged on, a reluctant United States was drawn into the fray. By early 1916 the war had become the country’s leading political issue. Governor James Withycombe In 1914, Republicans were elected to all of Oregon’s top political offices; James Withycombe (the first Republican to hold office since 1903) was elected governor by a margin of 27,000 votes and Ben Olcott was elected secretary of state. The legislature remained lopsidedly Republican. The 1910 Census had given Oregon a third U.S. House seat in 1912 and Republicans won all three congressional seats in 1914. The only major office won by a Democrat was George Chamberlain’s Senate seat; he defeated Republican R. A. Booth by 23,500 votes, and was Oregon’s first senator to be elected by a direct vote of the people. The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in early 1913, removed state legislatures from the Senate-election process. Third-party candidates Progressive William Hanley, Prohibitionist H. S. Stine, and socialist Floyd B. Ramp took over 18% of the Oregon Senate vote.1 James Withycombe’s election as governor in 1914 came on the heels of 10 years of political activism and reform in Oregon. Beginning with the Oregon System, Oregon had been on a roller-coaster ride, adopting and implementing many important reforms. Withycombe, an honest man and able administrator, was elected governor partly because voters wanted a rest after a decade of feverish political and social change; he had proposed no significant changes. It seemed to be a campaign fought without issues.2 During the 1914 campaigns the Oregonian warned readers that “Oregon must avoid getting a radical reputation .” There was worry that 20 years of reformist agitation was giving the state a reputation for innovation and radicalism that indicated political and 134 chapter 7 economic instability to some. That instability might discourage future investment in Oregon. “If cautious conservatism was what Oregon needed and wanted, then Withycombe was the correct choice [for governor].” Two veteran political observers, conservatives Henry M. Hanzen and C.C. Chapman, agreed with the Oregonian: Withycombe’s tenure as governor was “four of the most uneventful years Oregon ever had.”3 Oregon’s First Women Legislators The opportunity for women to run for the legislature finally came after Oregon men approved the woman’s suffrage amendment in 1912. Marian Towne, a Jackson County Democrat, won a seat in Oregon’s House of Representatives in the 1914 election, the first woman elected and the first to serve in the Oregon Legislature. Towne was one of only four Democrats in the House. One newspaper described her as a “very womanly woman, with not the least hint of manishness, which she couldn’t have with her barely five feet of stature and fascinating smile. She possesses a bright mind. Miss Towne went to the University of Michigan and studied law, the only woman in the law school. She is admitted to the bar in Oregon and expects to engage in the practice of law.” A Represenative Scheubel “announced himself hostile to the idea of women’s service on juries. He declared women are to blame for the double standard of morality that now prevails.”4 Midway into the 1915 session, Kathryn Clark of Glendale defeated two men for a vacant Senate seat to become Oregon’s first woman state senator. She joined the other 27 Republicans and two Democrats in the senate. She was known for “reading her remarks as to pending bills and crocheting during sessions.”5 In December 1916, Umatilla, Oregon, situated on the Columbia River northwest of Pendleton, made election history. Forty townspeople cast ballots for mayor, city council, recorder, and treasurer. All positions were won by women. Umatilla elected a “Petticoat Government.” It was the first all-female government elected in Oregon. Until January 21, 1921, the mayor’s office and a majority of city council seats were held by women. The Election of 1916 Woodrow Wilson stood for reelection in 1916 with the campaign slogan “He kept us out of war.” Supreme Court Justice (and former Republican governor of New York) Charles Evans Hughes opposed Wilson. Oregon was breaking in one of its recent political innovations: the presidential preference primary. Under this plan Oregon’s...


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