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Hattie Redmond and the Oregon State University Hattie Redmond Women and Gender Center

August 13, 2019

Written by: Natalia Fernández, Curator of the Oregon Multicultural Archives and OSU Queer Archives, and Whitney Archer, Associate Director of OSU’s Diversity & Cultural Engagement and Center Director of the Hattie Redmond Women and Gender Center

Co-Authors’ Note: This post uses the word ‘colored’ as it was used in the names of organizations of the time period, however, the authors acknowledge it is a dated term.

Hattie Redmond, Courtesy Oregon Historical Society Research Library, bb09628

Harriet “Hattie” Redmond was an Oregon suffragist who lived in Portland and the Oregon State University Hattie Redmond Women and Gender Center is named in her honor. Born in Missouri in 1862 as the daughter of emancipated slaves, she and her family moved to Oregon and settled in Portland by 1880. During the 1912 women’s suffrage campaign in Oregon, Redmond became a leader within the suffragist community. As a black woman living in a state with black exclusion laws in its constitution, the right to vote was especially important to Redmond. She worked with the Oregon Colored Women’s Council (later named the Oregon Colored Women’s Club) and the Portland YWCA; and she served as the Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage Association’s first secretary and later, as its president. As a community organizer, Redmond organized meetings and held educational conferences on women’s suffrage at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, the first established Black Baptist church in the state, and she served on the State Central Campaign Committee. After the success of the women’s suffrage campaign, Redmond registered to vote in April 1913. Due to limited job opportunities for Black women in Portland, during her life, Redmond worked as a hairdresser, department store cleaner, and a domestic servant. She worked as a janitor for Oregon’s U.S. District Court for twenty-nine years until her retirement in 1939. Redmond passed away at the age of ninety in 1952. Her headstone at Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery honors Redmond’s life and work with the inscription “Black American Suffragist.”

Hattie Redmond Women & Gender Center Staff

In the summer of 2018, the OSU Women’s Center, in a building officially named Benton Annex, was renamed the Hattie Redmond Women and Gender Center. The name change was the result of student activism that called attention to building namesakes with racist or otherwise exclusionary views. In the tradition of Hattie Redmond, the student activists were community organizers using their voices for social change.  

Hattie Redmond Women and Gender Center

As we think about the ways black women and other women of color were excluded and pushed to the margins of the suffrage movement, we think about the ways feminism centers whiteness and continues to fail Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. University women’s centers are often coded as white because ‘woman’ is coded as white, and research indicates that many women of color students do not feel adequately supported by the feminisms promoted within campus-based women’s centers. As such, it is important for us to acknowledge that having a Black woman’s name on our building does not erase those realities. We strive to actively center women of color feminisms and to apply an intersectional lens to the work we do but we must continue to do better. To us, Hattie Redmond is much more than a building name. The staff feel proud to be connected with such a powerful example of resistance and resilience. Her life and work embody the spirit of AYA, which is the Adinkra symbol for ‘fern’ and the name of the Womxn of Color initiative housed at center. The fern is a hardy plant that can grow in difficult places. It represents endurance, resourcefulness, courage, and will to persist even when adverse circumstances make it difficult. Hattie Redmond cultivated community and found ways to thrive as she battled against racism and sexism in her fight for suffrage.

As we commemorate the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, we encourage others to learn the history of Oregon’s women’s suffrage – there are so many incredible stories of resistance and collaboration. While not perfect nor completely inclusive, there is a rich history of various communities and women of different backgrounds coming together for a common cause to campaign for the right to vote. For example, in addition to the Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage Association, Chinese American women in Portland created the Chinese American Equal Suffrage Society. These women gave speeches, networked, and rallied their communities together in order to ensure equality not only for themselves, but also for future generations – for us. The more that we can recognize, honor, and celebrate the accomplishments of these women, the more empowered our communities will be today. 

References and Resources for Further Reading

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Vote. To encourage heritage organizations to start planning for the Centennial, Oregon Heritage is sharing stories of notable women in Oregon’s history. For ideas on how to research women’s history in your community, visit Oregonheritage.org and refer to our Centennial Vote Planning Guide.

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