Oregon City Womans Club

Eva Emery Dye

In February 1874 the local newspaper announced the formation of the Clackamas County Equal Rights Club. This group, made up of both men and women, began to work toward state approval of voting rights for women. Although it would take until 1912 for the male voters of Oregon to grant the right to vote to women, the founding members of the Equal Rights Club and successor organizations, worked together for the next several decades to improve life for the citizens of Oregon City


Among the founding members of the Equal Rights Club were Oregon pioneers Sarah Meldrum McCown and Jennie Barlow - both of whom would later be founding members of the Oregon City Woman's Club.

Sarah Mabry Meldrum was the fifth of ten children born to John Meldrum and Susanna Depew Cox Meldrum.  Born in Illinois in 1844, young Sarah  traveled the Oregon Trail to Oregon City in 1845 with her parents and four older siblings.


In 1865 she married Captain Ferdinand O. McCown, who like George Harding, had recently served in Company E of the First Oregon Infantry.


The McCowns were active in the politics of the day in Oregon City. Ferdinand, a lawyer, served as  a councilman and mayor of Oregon City. For the opening of the Willamette Falls Locks in 1873, he was invited to ride on the first boat through the locks. Sarah was also included in the party, the only woman known to have been on board.


Although Oregon women were not able to vote in state and federal elections in the 19th century, they were eligible to vote for, and hold, offices in school elections.  In March 1898, Sarah was elected to her second term as District Clerk, defeating a male opponent by 253 votes to the seven votes for him.


Sarah was also active in the Meade Ladies' Relief Corps and gave the welcome speech in June 1895 when Oregon City hosted the annual encampment of the Grand Army of Republic of Oregon.  In 1896 Sarah was installed as the department commander for the state organization, and Jennie Harding was installed as secretary.


She was a member of the First Baptist Church of Oregon City, first established in 1847.  At a jubilee celebration for the church in 1897, Sarah gave a history of congregation, of which she had been a member from the beginning. She was also a member of the Derthick Club, a group of local residents who supported musical performances and offered scholarships for young singers and musicians.


In 1916, then in her 70s, Sarah moved to Berkeley, California to live with her daughter, Irene Octavia McCown Warren. Sarah died in Berkeley on September 22, 1932 and was survived by seven of her eight children. She is buried at Mountain View Cemetery, next to her husband who died in 1891.

Margaret Jane "Jennie" Barlow was born June 30, 1852 south of Oregon City. The oldest of four children born to John Lawson Barlow and Mary Miller Barlow, she was the granddaughter of Samuel Kimbrough Barlow, builder of the Barlow Road around Mt. Hood. Shortly after her birth the family moved to Oregon City. Jennie graduated from the Oregon City Seminary, one of the first schools in Oregon City, in 1870.


On October 27, 1877 Jennie married druggist George Albert Harding, a native of Australia who had emigrated to the Oregon Territory in the 1850s.  


George was actively involved in the politics of Oregon City until his death in 1926. Several of the Harding children followed their parents' interest in public affairs, including Lloyd Ordway "Ben" Harding who served as mayor and Imogen Harding Brodie, who took over as the publisher of the Oregon City Enterprise after the death of her husband, former ambassador to Finland Edward E. Brodie.


In addition to the Equal Rights Club and the Oregon City Woman's Club, Jennie was active in many organizations throughout her life. She founded the Susannah Lee Barlow chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1918 in Oregon City, naming the chapter in honor of her grandmother.


She was one of the promoters of the first rose show of Oregon City, and through her efforts the rose society was formed, of which she served as president.


She also served for many years as department president of the Women's Relief Corps, her husband George having served in the 1st Oregon Infantry during the Civil War. She was a member of St. Paul's Guild of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, a member of the Clackamas County Humane society for 25 years and a member of the McLoughlin Memorial Association.


Jennie died March 22, 1926 and is buried Mountain View Cemetery.  George, who died six months later, is buried next to her.