Who are the remarkable women buried in Metro’s historic cemeteries? A new grant will help uncover their stories.
The $9,997 grant from Oregon Heritage Commission, which was matched by Metro to provide the program just under $20,000, makes it possible for a researcher to comb through thousands of records to fill gaps in information.
“There are periods of time when the records weren’t kept well,” said Quinn Spencer, Metro cemetery researcher. “This is the first step to bring attention to these women’s lives and honor them in some way.”
Their stories will be shared throughout the year to mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. While the amendment outlawed discrimination to vote based on sex, in most of the country it applied only to white women. The fight for suffrage took four more decades to secure the right to vote for Black women, Chinese-American women, Indigenous women, Latinx women and more women of color. It’s a fight that continues.
“Native American women weren’t given the right to vote in 1920,” said Emma Williams, a cemetery program coordinator at Metro. “There’s history that we need to talk about, and that people should be made aware of.”
The grant allows time and resources to find these stories. Decades-old death certificates and memorials often don’t include comprehensive information. Lax record-keeping disproportionately affects women, whose documents and headstones often only referred to them by their husbands’ names.
“Most of the stories we know are focused on prominent white men,” said Williams. “This is an opportunity to find and share stories that exist but are rarely told.”
Spencer also hopes the research yields stories that have been previously glossed over.
“We want to be on people’s radar as a historical resource,” he said. “I want to make sure that we do that responsibly — through which stories we tell, and how we choose to tell them.”
Information gathered through this project will go into Metro’s new cemetery database, which will be accessible by the public for genealogy and research in the future.
Do you know about a woman buried at a Metro’s cemetery whose story should be told? Contact the cemetery office at 503-797-1709 or [email protected]