History of Oregon by Oregon Historical Society
homeSection 7Subtopic: Women in Oregon...
Subtopic : People, Politics, and the Environment Since 1945: Women in Oregon Politics

Themes: Politics and Government

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Secretary of State Norma Paulus (right)
Oversees Antelope Elections, 1982
Max Gutierrez Photograph
OrHi 98345

During the last half-century, women and minorities have made modest gains in Oregon’s elective politics. Nan Wood Honeyman, a Democrat and the daughter of writer C.E.S. Wood, was Oregon’s first congresswoman, representing the state’s Third District for one term during the late 1930s. Edith Green, a liberal Democrat who represented the Third District from 1955 to 1975, became a powerful force in the U.S. House education committee. Only two other women have been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Liberal Democrat Elizabeth Furse represented the First District between 1993 and 1999 and survived three very close election campaigns. Democrat Darlene Hooley, elected to the Fifth District seat in 1996, has served three terms.

In the U.S. Senate, Maurine Neuberger was appointed to Richard Neuberger’s U.S. Senate seat when he died in 1960. She was elected in her own right later that year and served one full term. Neuberger decided against re-election in 1966 when the Oregonian and other newspapers in the state accused her of being an absentee senator and neglecting the state’s business.

Women candidates have also made some strides in their attempts to seek statewide elective office. Republican Norma Paulus, the first woman elected secretary of state, served two terms (1977-1985) and then ran for governor, losing to Democrat Neil Goldschmidt in the 1986 election. She later was elected to two terms as superintendent of public instruction (1991-1999), a period of considerable ferment in public education. Barbara Roberts, a Democrat who served as secretary of state from 1985 to 1991, was elected Oregon’s first woman governor in 1990. She served one term, deciding against another campaign when John Kitzhaber challenged her in the primary.

Democrat Jim Hill, the first African American elected to statewide office, served two terms as State Treasurer between 1993 and 2001. Mary Wendy Roberts, the daughter of Senator Frank Roberts (and Barbara Roberts step-daughter),was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1972 and the Senate in 1974 before her lengthy service in statewide office as Commissioner of Labor and Industries from 1979 to 1995.

A good case can be made that women have been most influential in the Oregon House of Representatives where Democrat Vera Katz (1972-1991), Republican Bev Clarno (1995-1997), and Republican Lynn Snodgrass (1999-2001) have all served as speaker of that legislative body.

©  William G. Robbins, 2002

Themes: Politics and Government

Regions: Oregon

Date: 1970-2003

Author: William G. Robbins

Women have made modest gains in Oregon’s elective politics in the past half-century.

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