Columbia Sportswear matriarch Gert Boyle, politicians among inspiring women on Oregon list

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They campaigned for women's suffrage and championed landmark legislation banning sex discrimination in schools.

They shattered the glass ceilings in business, politics and the military.

And they advocated for civil rights, public health, tribal restoration and special education.

They blazed trails not just for women but for everyone, fitting for a state settled at the end of an epic 2,170-mile trail that offered hope for a better life.

They are Oregon's Women of the Century, part of a national project commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The USA TODAY Network is naming 10 women from all 50 states and the District of Columbia who made a significant difference not just in their states, but in the country and world.

A five-person panel, well-versed in Oregon history, pored over nominations from the public and their own suggestions of women with outstanding achievements in the fields of arts and literature, business, civil rights, education, entertainment, law, media, nonprofits and philanthropy, politics, science and medicine, and sports.

Among the requirements for eligibility were U.S. citizenship and having lived between 1920 and 2020.

Abigail Scott Duniway, synonymous with Oregon women's suffrage, was scratched from the get-go. She died in 1915, three years after the state voted to grant women the right to vote and five years before all American women gained that right.

Narrowing the list to 10 was a monumental task. How do you compare the contributions and influence of a politician who championed legislation that became Title IX against an author who entertained generations of children?

You don't. But we had to.

Individually, panelists deliberated over who had to be included and who had to be left out.

"If I keep looking at this list," one said, "I will change it another 10 times."

You should see the names of women absent from the list, in many cases every bit as worthy as the ones on it. In another state, they might be shoo-ins.

Mercedes Deiz, the first female to pass the bar exam in Oregon and the first Black woman to serve as a judge in the state, was deserving of the top 10. So was Beverly Cleary, an award-winning children's author and legend in the literary world, and Lola Greene Baldwin, the first female police officer in the United States.

Tough choices had to be made but in the end, we produced a list we believe Oregonians can be proud of, one filled with trailblazers.

Meet Oregon's Women of the Century: 

Beatrice Morrow Cannady

Civil rights advocate


Beatrice Morrow Cannady

Beatrice Morrow Cannady was a pioneer woman attorney and crusading civil rights advocate in the early 1900s. She was a longtime editor of The Advocate, the largest and at times only African American newspaper in Portland; a founding member of the city’s NAACP chapter, the oldest continuously chartered branch west of the Mississippi; and the first Black female to practice law in Oregon after graduating in 1922 from Northwestern College of Law.

With a powerful voice in the newspaper, she regularly challenged racial discrimination and became the unofficial spokeswoman for the city's small Black community. She crafted Oregon's first civil rights legislation, which failed, but successfully campaigned to repeal Oregon's notorious exclusion laws, which prohibited Blacks from settling in the state, in 1926.

In 1928, Cannady refused to give up her seat in the orchestra section of a Portland theater — 27 years before Rosa Parks' famous protest on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Cannady ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 1932 and six years later left public life, moving to Los Angeles. Although Cannady is largely unrecognized in Oregon, an elementary school in Happy Valley and an affordable housing project on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Portland are named in her honor.

Esther Pohl Lovejoy

One of Oregon’s earliest female physicians, suffrage activist


Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy

Esther Pohl Lovejoy was one of Oregon's earliest female physicians, a public health pioneer, suffragist and a key character in early efforts to organize international medical relief work.

Though she had practically no formal education as a child, she was just the second woman to earn a medical degree from what is now Oregon Health & Science University and the first to practice medicine in 1890.

She also was the nation's first female city health officer, appointed by the Portland mayor. She led the effort to install school nurses and inspect schoolchildren for communicable disease and is recognized for establishing the city as a leader of high standards for public health and sanitation.

Lovejoy was a sought-after speaker and organizer in the state's suffrage movement and then the national effort. Her commitment to creating coalitions and coordination among the woman suffrage ranks was key to Oregon’s passage in 1912.

She ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the U.S. Congress in 1920 before spending much of the rest of her life devoted to international medical relief work. She directed the American Women's Hospital nonprofit, with service in 28 nations, for nearly five decades.

Lovejoy endowed medical scholarships at OHSU, stipulating one-third should go to women.

Gert Boyle

Businesswoman who built the billion-dollar Columbia Sportswear company


Gert Boyle
Photo: Kobbi R. Blair, Salem Statesman Journal, ILLUSTRATION: USA TODAY NETWORK

Gert Boyle was a no-nonsense businesswoman who helped build a brand synonymous with the Pacific Northwest. She was the longtime chairman of Columbia Sportswear and star of the iconic "One Tough Mother" advertising campaign.

She took over a struggling company after her husband's death in 1970, when women CEOs were practically unheard of, and with the help of son Tim developed a leading global seller of outdoor apparel, footwear and equipment with annual sales of nearly $3 billion in 2018.

Boyle was a 46-year-old housewife and mother of three when she found herself at the helm of Columbia Sportswear, which was started as a hat manufacturer by her father, a Jewish immigrant who fled Nazi Germany.

She has been referred to as a visionary business leader, generous philanthropist and one of Oregon's most recognized and beloved public figures, largely because of the ad campaign launched in 1984, introducing her to the world as the company's robust, gray-haired matriarch. One of her catchphrases was: "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise."

Boyle was the first woman inducted into the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame in 2003. She continued working in the office, signing every paycheck into her 90s.

Kathryn Harrison

Influential tribal leader

(1924- )

Kathryn Harrison
Photo: Rick Bowmer, Associated Press, ILLUSTRATION: USA TODAY NETWORK

Kathryn Harrison is one of Oregon's important tribal leaders, known for her contributions to regaining federal recognition for the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

She was a single mother of 10 children, living in poverty, when she became the first Native American graduate of the nursing program at Lane Community College in 1972. She eventually became an alcohol rehabilitation counselor for the Siletz, joining the tribe's effort to regain federal recognition in 1977.

Harrison returned to her father's tribal home at Grand Ronde and was instrumental in her second Restoration effort in 1983. She testified before Congress, along with a son and daughter.

She served on the Tribal Council at Grand Ronde from April 1984 through September 2001, never losing an election. She was the first woman elected council chair, a position she held for six years.

Harrison helped guide the development of gaming as a revenue source to fund tribal educational, health and cultural efforts and the opening of Spirit Mountain Casino. She also worked to establish the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, a charitable foundation that has distributed more than $83 million to Oregon nonprofits since 1997.

Now in her 90s, she's still involved with the tribe.

Barbara Roberts

First woman governor of Oregon

(1936- )

Barbara Roberts
Photo: Thomas Patterson, Salem Statesman Journal, Illustration: USA TODAY Network

Barbara Roberts was elected governor of Oregon in November 1990, becoming not only the first woman governor of her state, but one of the first 10 female governors in the nation.

The descendant of Oregon Trail pioneers and a fourth-generation Oregonian, she began her career in public service as an advocate for the educational rights of her autistic son. Her efforts resulted in one of the nation's first special-education laws.

She was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1980, and in 1983 became the first woman to serve as majority leader. She served two terms as secretary of state, the first Democrat elected to the position in more than 100 years.

She also worked with her husband, state Sen. Frank Roberts, to campaign for Oregon's Death With Dignity Act. It passed a year after he died.

While governor, Oregon was recognized by Financial World magazine as the seventh-best-managed state in the nation. Her policies on tax reform and the timber industry were controversial, and she faced three unsuccessful recall efforts before deciding not to run for a second term.

Roberts took a position at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and later at Portland State University's Hatfield School of Government.

The state Human Services Building and an alternative high school are named in her honor in Salem. She lives in Portland.

Maurine Neuberger

First and only woman from Oregon to serve in the U.S. Senate


Maurine Neuberger

Maurine Neuberger remains the first and only woman from Oregon to serve in the U.S. Senate. She focused on environmental and health issues, sponsoring one of the first bills to require warning labels on cigarette packaging.

She was a teacher until deciding to join her husband, Richard, a state senator, in politics. She won a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives, and in 1951, they were the first married couple in the nation to serve in the same legislature.

She is best remembered for taking on the state's powerful dairy industry. Her well-publicized demonstration on the House floor — wearing an apron and showing how difficult it was to whip yellow food coloring into white margarine — led to the repeal of the state ban on colored margarine.

Richard was elected in 1954 to the U.S. Senate, and Maurine served as his aide. He died in 1960 before his term expired, and she won a special election to fill the vacancy, and then the general election.

She went on to teach American politics at Radcliffe, Boston University and Reed College. She also served on the consumer advisory panel for Presidents Johnson and Carter. The Richard and Maurine Neuberger Center on the Portland State University campus is named in their honor.

Edith Green

U.S. Representative who helped develop legislation leading to the 1972 passage of Title IX


Edith Green
Photo: Salem Statesman Journal, ILLUSTRATION: USA TODAY NETWORK

Edith Green was a Democrat in the U.S. Congress most noted for her work developing legislation that led to the 1972 passage of Title IX, which prohibited sex discrimination in federally funded educational institutions.

A former schoolteacher, radio commentator and lobbyist, she became an important figure in Oregon politics when she was elected to Congress in 1955. She served 10 terms and focused on women's issues, education and social reforms. Few women in Congress have left such a substantial legacy. Oregon's U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield called her "the most powerful woman to ever serve in the Congress."

Her most enduring legislative achievement was Title IX. As chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education of the Education and Labor Committee, she overcame opposition from many university administrators and conservative congressmen. The legislation gave gender equal rights to educational programs, activities and federal financial assistance, opening the door for millions of female athletes.

After deciding not to seek an 11th term, she returned to Portland and became a professor of government at Warner Pacific College. She was appointed to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education in 1979.

Linfield College in McMinnville annually presents the Edith Green Distinguished Professor award, and an 18-story federal office building in downtown Portland bears her name.

Norma Paulus

Oregon’s first female secretary of state


Norma Paulus
Photo: Ron Cooper, Salem Statesman Journal, ILLUSTRATION: USA TODAY NETWORK

Norma Paulus served as Oregon's first female secretary of state, helping pioneer the state's first vote-by-mail election. In the Oregon House of Representatives, she was a major proponent of Oregon's path-breaking land-use laws.

As a longtime public servant she fought for women's rights, quality education, environmental protection and government transparency.

Paulus did not have an undergraduate degree when she was accepted into Willamette University's law school with a personal recommendation from the Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice whom she worked for.

She graduated with honors in 1962, while raising a family, and was one of only two women who passed the bar exam that year. Paulus was working as a well-respected appellate attorney when Gov. Tom McCall appointed her to the Marion-Polk Boundary Commission in 1969, which eventually put her at the forefront of state land use issues.

She served three terms in the Oregon House before being elected secretary of state in 1976, becoming the first woman to hold statewide elected office in Oregon.

She unsuccessfully ran for governor before being elected state superintendent of public instruction in 1990. She championed an overhaul of the state's educational system, placing greater emphasis on performance standards and assessment measures.

Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm

First female one-star general in the U.S. Air Force


Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm

Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm was the first female one-star general in the U.S. Air Force and first two-star general in any branch of service. She fought to expand women's roles and opportunities in the military, retiring in 1975 and holding positions in the administrations of three U.S. presidents.

She enlisted during World War II as a truck driver in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and graduated from Officer Candidate School in 1943. She was commissioned in the newly formed Air Force when it became a separate branch of service.

After serving in Germany during the Berlin Airlift, she was the first woman to attend Air Command and Staff College in 1952. She became director of Women in the Air Force in November 1965, advocating for increased roles and career opportunities for women during the remainder of her career. She led efforts to open ROTC to women and admit women to flying programs.

In 1971, Holm was promoted to brigadier general. Two years later, she achieved the rank of major general.

After retiring from the military, she served in a variety of roles under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Margaret Carter

First African American woman elected to the Oregon Legislature

(1935- )

Margaret Carter
Photo: Anna Reed, Salem Statesman Journal, ILLUSTRATION: USA TODAY NETWORK

Margaret Carter in 1984 became the first African American woman elected to the Oregon Legislature, and spent nearly 28 years serving in the Oregon House and Senate. During her early years in Salem, she helped pass a bill declaring Martin Luther King Jr. Day to be an official holiday, and another requiring the divestiture of holdings in apartheid-governed South Africa.

After moving to Oregon in 1967 with her five children, she found work as a teacher's assistant in Portland Public Schools and eventually earned a bachelor's degree in education. While teaching, she enrolled in Oregon State University's Portland-based master's in counseling program and went on to serve as a counselor at Portland Community College for 27 years.

Approached by a bipartisan group to run for state office, she was the first Black woman elected to the Oregon Legislature.

Her pro-education agenda included the creation of regional skills-training centers and summer programs for kids. A member of the Legislature's joint budget committee, she was chosen as chair of the Oregon Democratic Party in 1996. After serving her term limit in the House, she won an open seat in the state Senate and in 2005 was selected as Senate President Pro Tempore.

She later became deputy director of Oregon's Department of Human Services, retiring in 2014. She still lives in Portland.

Sources used in the Women of the Century list project include newspaper articles, state archives, historical websites, encyclopedias and other resources. 

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