Archive empowers women

Leaving a legacy

After the game-changing role women played in the recent election—67 percent of single
women voted for President Barack Obama—numerous news articles and pundits have hailed 2012 as a landmark year for women in politics.

Leaving a legacy

After the game-changing role women played in the recent election—67 percent of single women voted for President Barack Obama—numerous news articles and pundits have hailed 2012 as a landmark year for women in politics.

Daniel Johnston/VANGUARD STAFf

Barbara Roberts, former governor of Oregon, speaks at the Center for Women, Politics and Policy for the digital archive launch event. Roberts was Oregon’s first female governor.

On Tuesday night, a joyful group celebrated women’s success in the state of Oregon.

Women from the PSU Center for Women, Politics and Policy program and a who’s who of Oregon’s female politicians gathered to mark recent victories and launch the
center’s new digital archive of personal political documents of some of Oregon’s most high-powered women leaders.

The online tool allows the user to flip through the historic documents. Sunny Petit, the director of the CWPP, said that she wanted to create an archive that would “add to the texture” of the center’s efforts to promote young women to political leadership roles.

Daniel Johnston/VANGUARD STAFf

Students Angela Fouquette, Mariana Lindsay and Lea Woods (left to right) helped organize Tuesday’s event.

“Our focus is on looking at how we create more women leaders and [how we] connect women to history so that they see themselves in leadership [roles],” Petit said.

The collection includes papers from activist Eleanor Davis, former Oregon state Sen. Avel Gordly (the first African-American woman to be elected to the state Senate), former city commissioner and PSU instructor Gretchen Kafoury (an Oregon legislator who fought to have Portland’s City Club include women), former Portland Mayor Vera Katz, Honorable Justice Betty Roberts (the first woman to serve on the state Supreme Court), and Oregon’s first woman governor, Barbara Roberts.

Daniel Johnston/VANGUARD STAFf

The Interactive digital exhibit at the Center for Women, Politics and Policy provides a history of Oregon’s women leaders.

The colorful, user-friendly archive features a drop-down menu where viewers can examine documents by issue, such as “multiculturalism,” “education” or “gay rights,” or by the woman leader.

Portland State sophomore Lea Woods was instrumental in bringing the digital archive into being. Woods works at the center and assisted with preparing the archive. Woods went through CWPP’s leadership development program, called NEW Leadership Oregon.

Daniel Johnston/VANGUARD STAFf

Susan Castillo,Oregon’s superintendent of public instruction from 2003-12 speaks at Tuesday’s digital archive.

“[It] really changed my life substantially,” Woods said.

Women should not question their abilities to lead, Kafoury said. She has held numerous leadership roles across Portland and was elected to the Oregon Legislature beforeteaching at PSU. Kafoury noted that fewer women today are elected to leadership positions than they were 30 years ago, a period she called “the glory days” of
women in politics.

“We were in a unique time,” she said of her stint in the Legislature. “We need to get back that sense that change is possible.”

Roberts said the digital archive underscores the importance of publishing documents and books that reflect how women have lived.

Publishing the histories of women leaders signals that “we’ve lived it again and [are] making sure we’re capturing history for the generations that follow us,” she said.

“We will have these books, these records, these papers and these photographs,” she added.

Petit is optimistic that PSU instructors as well as colleges and young leaders across the country will use the archive to further education. She expects to see use increase after Women’s History Month in March, and hopes the archive will explore “watershed moments” for Oregon women in politics, particularly during the 1973 legislative session.

Looking forward, CWPP plans to bring more young women leaders to campus for the Elect Her—Campus Women Win program, with trainings that will occur early next year. Trainings will happen over several weekday evenings and serve to encourage and train female students to run for student government positions. One of the trainings will be open to women students across the state, while another will focus on female students from the PSU campus.

Petit said that 24 percent of leadership roles in academia are occupied by women, a higher rate than the 18 percent of women in leadership roles nationally.

“We have a president at Portland State that is really interested in seeing women leaders recognized,” she said, also emphasizing the center’s dedication to increasing the number of women in national leadership roles.

Kafoury also voiced her confidence that the low representation of women in leadership roles will soon change.“I’m an optimist,” she said. “I have three grandchildren, I have to be.”

To view the online archive visit