Freedom Requires Vigilance, Courage, and Action–Lessons from Pioneer Ladies

         Watching the political happenings lately, I was drawn back to some very courageous pioneer ladies who lived in Yoncalla, Oregon.

          In 1920, the gentlemen of Yoncalla had a “gentlemen’s agreement” tnat the incumbents would not hold an election for any of the town offices. They would just skip the formality of an election.

         The women of the town decided, “No, No.” They took matters into their own hands and produced a an all-female slate for all the city offices. The slate included Jennie Lasswell who was the wife of the mayor. Can you imagine the conversations at the breakfast table and other places in the Lasswell household when the mayor became aware of the election?

         It seems that enough folks in the town agreed with the ladies. The entire slate was elected. Mary Goodall Burt became the town’s first female mayor. Mary was a PacificUniversity graduate and a former teacher. Teachers played a prominent part. Council members were: Jennie Lasswell, also a former teacher; Bernice Wilson, a teacher; Nettie Hanan, a community activist; and Edith Thompson, active in women’s organizations and community work.

         I wanted to name them for you because so many pioneer women remain nameless in the history books. I’m hoping someone who reads this  will carry a name or know someone who might know the area or a name. These ladies stepped forward just a year before I was born. And it was a big step. But they knew it was not right not to have an election. They were living in the struggle for equal right and the difficult movement to gain the vote. This was just not a Yoncalla Affair. These wonderful women were ordinary women living a pioneer life in Eastern Oregon who stepped up to do what was right. .

         I am grateful that the baby girl born in New Albin, Iowa a year after this successful campaign is able to tell the story. It is one of the wonderful stories of pioneer women of the Northwest that I honor in “Pioneer Women of the Northwest.” 

         When I think of these women, I don’t dare say or think that I cannot make a difference. I am one, but I am one who has had \the opportunity to follow incredibly brave, courageous, and strong women. I hope that I have helped to clear some brambles from the path of those following me. It is still a journey that requires courage. But I am determined to do what I can to make it better for my granddaughters and my grandsons. Freedom alwasys has and always will require vigilance, courage, and action.

The Rocking Chair

Picture this.

A 91 year old grandma sitting on the front porch in the proverbial rocking chair rocking away the time. Or perhaps in California or Arizona or Florida. She’s sitting in a comfortable swing on a patio overlooking the countryside.

Wow! What a waste.

Well, I don’t have a rocking chair. I do have a swing on a patio overlooking the countryside in a beautiful small town in almost bankrupt southern California. This state is a model of finance not to follow. We spend far more than we take in. I have watched the politicians try all the tricks in the book to make this work.

O citizen, we’re doing it for you, they proclaim. You may be doing it for all those people who think it works, or perhaps for those who don’t work. But you are not doing it for me. I learned a long time ago that when I have a penny I can choose to spend it or save it, but I never have been able to make it into two pennies or three unless I invest it.

I know I’m old-fashioned. But old or not, I am a student of my surroundings.  I know I don’t like what I see happening in my state and in my nation. Just today I see ads telling me about all the wonderful things available to me free in the new health care provisions. I see invitations to check my eligibility for food stamps. I could go on. Yes, it’s my tax money and yours telling us about all the free stuff.

I must protest. It didn’t feel free when I sent my check to the IRS.