Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Mill offers Talks on WCTU and Jason Lee with Online Lecture Series

This is old news now, but it's good news and deserves more notice. The Mill's announced what looks like a terrific series of lectures, "Zooming Back to History," distributed by online video and $10 each.

Two of them given by Willamette University faculty are of particular interest here.

Mary Ramp via the Mill
and Brooks Historical Society

On October 20th, Leslie Dunlap will talk about the WCTU:

Into the 1980s, many historians and members of the public viewed participants in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union as puritanical laughingstocks, driven by the “haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy” (in H.L. Mencken’s words). In the 1980s, historians recharacterized the WCTU, the largest political mobilization of women in the U.S. in the nineteenth century, as a “proto-feminist” organization whose efforts to prevent drinking segued into efforts to win the vote, reform rape law, and stop domestic violence. My research on temperance women reframes the question by focusing on race and women’s activism.

I find that instead of either “progressive” or “conservative,” the movement was a meeting ground, where African American, Native American, and white participants debated the purpose and direction of women’s political participation.

The Ramps: From Temperance to Anarchism

As it happens, perhaps keyed to the lecture series announcement, on FB the Mill reposted a 2012 piece on an important local advocate:

Mary Anne Hammer Ramp was born in 1829 in Kentucky. She married Samuel Ramp in 1849, and in 1853, they and their two small children left for the West along the Oregon Trail. They had another child during the journey. Initially settling in the Silverton Hills, the family saved and eventually purchased a farm on French Prairie just north of Brooks. By the time Samuel Ramp died in 1898, the family owned 11 farms in the Willamette Valley, which Mary continued to manage after Samuel’s death.

Even though she raised seven children, Mary Ramp took up the suffrage cause while also championing temperance. She gave Salem a home for the W.C.T.U (Women’s Christian Temperance Union), known as “Ramp Hall for the Promotion of Equal Suffrage and Temperance. Temperance was later changed to “National Prohibition.”

Mary Ramp was active in the early suffrage movement and she was an ardent prohibitionist. After her husband’s death, she moved to Salem, where she lived until she passed away in 1916 at the age of 86. She was survived by three children, 21 grandchildren and 28 great grandchildren.

There are so many interesting directions to go from here! Dunlap's talk may be more about the national or regional context of the WCTU, but here in Salem there is a history also of course.

The Ramp Memorial Hall was downtown where the Umpqua Bank is now, across from the Conference Center and former site of the Marion Car Park. It is interesting that the newspaper and post office, both of which had offices in the building, have associated pictures in our archives, but the building is not featured as the home of the WCTU in photos. We have postman Ben Taylor out in front multiple times, but never Mary Ramp. In the materials that have come to us, unsurprisingly there is a real bias towards masculine enterprises and the men who conducted them. But of course there is an important history of the WCTU, and as it is retrieved it will turn out to be more significant than our last-century's histories supposed.

Former WCTU Ramp Memorial Hall in 1955
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
The hall in 1926 on the Sanborn map

The WCTU dedicated the hall in 1903, but the papers did not give much attention to the Ramp name, instead focusing on the fact that the Capital Journal was published in the building, and letters to the editor clarified the benefaction a few days later, saying "there was an omission in your very excellent report of the dedication of the W. C. T. U. hall."

April 6th, 1903

April 11th, 1903

There might be an interesting history of ownership, as a full generation later the claim to title was a little contested between Ramp descendants and the Temperance Union.

March 19th, 1932

Indeed, there is more to say about the building, since it has been a part of histories of the State Capitol building. Most sources today call it the Nesmith Building, and say the Territorial Legislature met in it for a while. The newspapers also swapped in it. By this time, in the 1920s and 30s, it was the Statesman, not the Capital Journal, published in it, and it was often also called the Statesman Building.  The ID as the Nesmith Building, it turns out, is not right. Its name and dates have got a little messed up in our standard histories. More to come in a second post! (Updated with link.)

There is also more about the Ramp family.

Floyd Ramp, National Archives at Seattle
via Oregon Historical Society and OHQ

You may recall Floyd Ramp. He was a grandson of Mary Ramp. In 1911 he spoke in Salem on socialism, when it was acceptable even a little fashionable. Just a few years later in 1918 during the red scare he was sentenced to two years in prison for violating the Espionage Act by encouraging pacifism.

January 20th, 1916

February 19th, 1918

The arc from WTCU to socialism and pacifism is not perhaps so surprising. The Ramp family has an interesting place in our local history and certainly deserves more attention.

3 cent Oregon Territory Centennial, 1948

Jason Lee was Fired!

And on November 17th Jennifer Jopp will talk about a favorite topic, new perspectives on Jason Lee:

We are accustomed to think of Jason Lee as solitary figure, one fueled by the desire to convert the indigenous peoples to Christianity. Yet, his arrival in the territory cannot be understood outside the relationships with indigenous peoples in the area, the colonial conflict with Great Britain for supremacy in the region, the conflict with other religious denominations in the area, and the conflict with others over access to land. Lee, sent by the Methodists to the territory, was instrumental in the construction of a Manual Labor Training School for indigenous youth. When that project failed, the newly-imagined school for the children of the white missionaries took over the building. This lecture re-examines the life of Lee and seeks, by placing Lee into this broader colonial context, to understand how we have come to see Lee - who largely failed at his ventures and was recalled in disgrace - as we do. It seeks, too, to understand what aspects of our history we elide when we focus on the life of one white man.

Other talks will be on trains and smallpox. See the full announcement for complete dates, speakers, and topics.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Updated with link on Nesmith Building ID problem)