Abigail Scott Duniway

Abigail Scott Duniway bigraphy, stories - Suffragist, writer, journalist, pioneer

Abigail Scott Duniway : biography

October 22, 1834 – October 11, 1915, at age 80

Abigail Scott Duniway (October 22, 1834 – October 11, 1915) was an American women’s rights advocate, newspaper editor and writer, whose efforts were instrumental in gaining voting rights for women.


Duniway (seated) with Governor [[Oswald West, signing the women’s suffrage amendment]] Duniway was born Abigail Jane Scott near Groveland, Illinois, to John Tucker Scott and Anne Roelofson Scott. Of the nine children in her family who survived infancy, she was the second. She grew up on the family farm and attended a local school intermittently. In March 1852, against the wishes of Anne, who had concerns about her health, John organized a party of 30 people and 5 ox-drawn wagons to emigrate to Oregon, away by trail. Anne died of cholera near Fort Laramie, on the Oregon Trail, in June, and Willie, age 3, the youngest child in the family, died in August along the Burnt River in Oregon. In October, the emigrants reached their destination, Lafayette, in the Willamette Valley. After teaching school in Eola in early 1853, Abigail married Benjamin Charles Duniway, a farmer from Illinois, on August 1. They had six children: Clara Belle (b. 1854), Willis Scott (1856), Hubert (1859), Wilkie Collins (1861), Clyde Augustus (1866), and Ralph Roelofson (1869).Johnson, p. 531–33

The Duniways farmed in Clackamas County until 1857, when they moved to a farm near Lafayette. They lost this second farm after Benjamin endorsed notes signed by a friend who defaulted. Soon afterward, Benjamin was permanently disabled in an accident involving a runaway team, and Abigail had to support the family. At first, she opened and ran a small boarding school in Lafayette. In 1866, she moved to Albany where she taught in a private school for a year, then opened a millinery and notions shop, which she ran five years. Angered by stories of injustice and mistreatment relayed to her by married patrons of her shop, and encouraged by Benjamin, she moved to Portland in 1871 to found The New Northwest, a weekly newspaper devoted to women’s rights, including suffrage. She published the first issue on May 5, 1871, and continued The New Northwest for 16 years.

Duniway encountered personal setbacks such as poor health, money problems, and opposition from her brother Harvey W. Scott, who also edited a Portland paper, The Oregonian. She persisted despite political opposition in the form of local resistance, the consistent failure of women’s suffrage referendums on state ballots, and divisions with Eastern suffrage organizations. She and her newspaper actively supported the Sole Trader Bill and the Married Women’s Property Act which, when passed, gave Oregon women the right to own and control property.

Her persistence paid off in 1912 when Oregon became the seventh state in the U.S. to pass a women’s suffrage amendment.Moynihan, p. xiv Governor Oswald West asked her to write and sign the equal suffrage proclamation.Moynihan, p. 216 She was the first woman to register to vote in Multnomah County.

Duniway is buried at River View Cemetery in Portland.

Works cited

  • Johnson, L.C.; James, Edward T., ed; (1971). "Duniway, Abigail Jane Scott" in Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 1, A–F. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-62734-2.
  • Moynihan, Ruth Barnes (1983). Rebel for Rights: Abigail Scott Duniway. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-03478-4.
  • Shein, Debra (2002). Abigail Scott Duniway (Western Writers Series No. 151). Boise, Idaho: Boise State University. ISBN 0-88430-151-6.


Duniway’s Captain Gray’s Company; or, Crossing the Plains and Living in Oregon (1859), was the first novel to be commercially published in Oregon.Shein, pp. 11–12 This and others that she wrote drew repeatedly on her experiences as a young woman on the Oregon Trail. Her last novel to tell the story was From the West to the West: Across the Plains to Oregon (1905).Shein, pp. 11–12 She wrote a booklet called My Musings after attending a convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1872. Her last publication was Path Breaking: An Autobiographical History of the Equal Suffrage Movement in Pacific Coast States, in 1914. Works written by Duniway and published by others:Moynihan, pp. 257–58