In April 1852, a wagon train left Groveland, Illinois, and joined thousands of other pioneers headed for the greener pastures of Oregon. Among the twenty-seven people in the wagon train was a teenaged girl called Jenny. As it was for many settlers heading west in the nineteenth century, the arduous overland journey was devastating for Jenny. She lost her mother, a little brother, and her sweetheart; and her family’s cache of money disappeared. The wagon train nevertheless persisted and, six months after their departure, Jenny and her remaining family and companions arrived in the Willamette Valley. The long journey to Oregon was complete.1 Jenny married, supported a growing family, opened a millinery business, and became increasingly concerned about the lack of political, social, and economic rights for women. In 1870, Jenny, now known as Abigail Jane Scott Duniway, concluded that women’s suffrage was the key to improving rights for women. Determined and resourceful, she embarked on a path toward women’s suffrage in Oregon—a struggle that would consume the next forty-two years of her life.
Abigail Scott Duniway played a large role in the fight for women’s suffrage in Oregon and other western states. Her fight and the essential work of others to achieve this goal is displayed on the NJCHS’s most recent travelling exhibit, detailing the West’s leading role in bringing the right to vote to women.