Oregon Legislature Passes Resolution Honoring Abigail Scott Duniway

February 27, 2015

Abigail Scott Duniway

Abigail Scott Duniway

Today the Oregon Legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution 7 honoring Oregon pioneer, author and activist Abigail Scott Duniway:

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION

Whereas Abigail Scott Duniway was the embodiment of a true pioneer, traveling the Oregon

Trail and eventually becoming one of the leading voices in the nationwide struggle for woman

suffrage; and

Whereas Abigail Scott Duniway was born Abigail Jane Scott in Illinois on October 22, 1834; and

Whereas Abigail Scott traveled to Oregon Territory with her family in 1852, settling in

Lafayette; and

Whereas Abigail Scott married Benjamin Duniway in 1853 and together they had one daughter

and five sons; and

Whereas Abigail Scott Duniway wrote 22 novels over the course of her life, including Captain

Gray’s Company in 1859, the first book commercially published in Oregon; and

Whereas the Duniway family lost their farm properties due to fire and Benjamin Duniway’s financial

difficulties, circumstances soon followed by an accident that left Benjamin Duniway unable

to perform hard physical labor; and

Whereas following her husband’s injury, Abigail Scott Duniway became the primary breadwinner

for the family, opening a millinery shop, running a school and taking in boarders; and

Whereas the Duniway family moved to Portland in 1871, where Abigail Scott Duniway founded

a newspaper, The New Northwest, in 1871, and served as editor and writer for the newspaper until

it closed in 1887; and

Whereas Abigail Scott Duniway worked for women’s rights as a lecturer, organizer, writer and

editor, founded the Oregon State Woman Suffrage Association and the Oregon State Equal Suffrage

Association, served as one of the five National Woman Suffrage Association vice-presidents-at-large

and traveled throughout Oregon and the United States to advocate for woman suffrage; and

Whereas Abigail Scott Duniway advocated the use of persuasive words and nonconfrontational

tactics to further the causes she espoused; and

Whereas in addition to the cause of woman suffrage, Abigail Scott Duniway promoted discourse

regarding many other topics, including social injustices she observed; and

Whereas Abigail Scott Duniway died on October 11, 1915, after seeing women granted the vote

in Oregon but before the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified,

guaranteeing the right to vote for all women in the United States; and

Whereas Abigail Scott Duniway’s tireless work on behalf of woman suffrage has led many to

honor her as the “Mother of Equal Suffrage”; now, therefore,

Be It Resolved by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon:

That we, the members of the Seventy-eighth Legislative Assembly, honor Abigail Scott Duniway

for her pioneering work for woman suffrage and for her place in Oregon’s history as one of its

earliest and most influential leaders.

Black Women’s History 40 Question Challenge

As Black History Month (February) comes to an end, and Women’s History Month (March) is about to begin let’s check our knowledge of Black and Women’s History!

Created by Margaret Zierdt, National Women’s History Project Board Member

  1. Who was head of National Council of Negro Women for 40 years and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal for her work for social equality?
  2. Who was an advocate for civil rights, a fund raiser for NAACP, and the first black person to sign a long-term Hollywood contract in 1942?
  3. Who was member of Harlem Renaissance, an anthropologist, and author of many books, including “Their Eyes Were Watching God”?
  4. Who was the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field – in the 1960 Olympics for the 100 and 200 meters and the 400 meter relay?
  5. Who was denied permission to sing in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) auditorium because of her race in 1939, but later became the first black person to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in 1955?
  6. Who is the dancer, singer, actor, fund raiser, author, and poet who read a specially-composed poem at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993?
  7. Who was a nightclub and cabaret idol of Paris in the 1920’s and a freedom fighter during World War II?
  8. What black woman chemist developed an extract from the Awa Root which relieved leprosy symptoms when injected and which was widely used until sulfa drugs were invented in the 1940’s?
  9. Who was a civil rights activist and President of the Arkansas NAACP who advised the nine high school students who integrated the Little Rock public schools in 1957?
  10. Who founded the college that became the Bethune-Cookman University in Florida and founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935?
  11. Who was the first black female newspaper publisher and editor in North America (in Ontario, Canada), and the first black woman to enroll in law school ( Howard University)?
  12. Who was the first black woman in the world to earn a pilot’s license, and was a barnstorming aviator who performed daredevil tricks?
  13. Who was the first black Congresswoman, beginning in 1968; and who in 1972 ran for President and won 151 delegates at the Democratic Convention?
  14. Who was America’s first great black choreographer, dancer, and teacher who formed the first black dance troupe in the 1940’s?
  15. Who founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973, a group focusing on helping millions of children living in poverty?
  16. Who was first black woman to win a tennis championship at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Open?
  17. Who was the first black woman to write a Broadway play (1959) which was made into a movie (1961), “A Raisin in the Sun”?
  18. Who was the first black concert pianist to play with a European orchestra in 1904?
  19. Who was first woman of color to go into space on the shuttle Endeavor in 1992?
  20. Who was the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet – as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Carter in 1977, and then served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1979?
  21. Who was the first woman bank president in America?
  22. What slave named Isabella became a fiery orator supporting anit-slavery and woman suffrage after gaining her freedom?
  23. Who is considered the first black woman journalist who advocated for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery?
  24. Who was an award-winning poet who penned “For My People” in 1942, and a novelist who wrote “Jubilee” in 1966?
  25. Who was the black educator who founded the National Training School for Girls about 1909 in Washington, D.C. which was re-named in her honor after her death?
  26. What woman was the first African-American in New England to serve as Master of a public high school which position she held for 40 years?
  27. Who was the first black woman lawyer in the U.S. and the first woman admitted to the District of Columbia bar (1872)?
  28. Who won the 2-day, seven-event heptathlon competition at the Goodwill Games in July, 1986 and won a gold medal in the heptathlon at the Olympics in 1988 and 1992?
  29. What educator was the fourth African American woman to earn a doctoral degree (from the University of Paris-Sorbonne in 1924)?
  30. Who was first African-American woman to earn a BA degree in United States – from Oberlin College in 1862?
  31. Who was the first black president of an Ivy League University and the first female president of Brown University?
  32. What abstract painter was the first fine arts student to graduate from Howard University, and the first woman to have a solo exhibit at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City?
  33. What female athlete is considered “the fastest woman of all time” and set the record for the 100 and 200 meters in 1988?
  34. Who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad and secured the freedom of at least 300 enslaved people, making 19 trips into the South over 10 years, and served as a spy and scout for the Union Army?
  35. Who helped black artists and disadvantaged children while winning 13 Grammys and being honored as the “First Lady of Song”?
  36. What anthropology professor became the first African-American woman president of Spelman College in 1987?
  37. What actress appeared in “Gone With the Wind,” received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1975, and won an Emmy for her role on television in 1979?
  38. Who became a self-made millionaire philanthropist after creating a hair product sold house-to-house, and later held what may be the first national meeting of businesswomen in the U.S. in 1917?
  39. Who was the first African-American woman to become an ordained minister, a lawyer who helped found the first legal periodical about women’s rights, and co-founded the National Organization of Women?
  40. What African-American woman was born enslaved, gained her freedom in 1856, became a entrepreneur and philanthropist, and co-founded the first black church in Los Angeles?

ANSWERS

  1. Dorothy Height (1912 – 2010)
  2. Lena Horne (1917 – 2010)
  3. Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960)
  4. Wilma Glodean Rudolph (1940 – 1994)
  5. Marian Anderson (1897 – 1993)
  6. Maya Angelou (1928)
  7. Josephine Baker (1906-1975)
  8. Alice Ball (1892- 1916)
  9. Daisy Lee May Bates (1914 – 1999)
  10. Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (1875 – 1955)
  11. Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823 – 1893)
  12. Bessie Coleman (1892 – 1926)
  13. Shirley Chisholm 1924 – 2005)
  14. Katherine Dunham (1909 – 2006)
  15. Marian Wright Edelman (1939)
  16. Althea Gibson ( 1927 – 2003)
  17. Lorraine Hansberry (1930 – 1965)
  18. Hazel Harrison (1883 – 1969)
  19. Dr. Mae Jemison (1956)
  20. Patricia Roberts Harris (1924 – 1985)
  21. Maggie Lena Walker (1867- 1934)
  22. Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – 1883)
  23. Maria Stewart (1803 – 1879)
  24. Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander (1915 – 1998)
  25. Nannie Burroughs (1879 – 1961)
  26. Maria Louise Baldwin (1856 – 1922)
  27. Charlotte Ray (1850 – 1911)
  28. Jacqueline “Jackie” Joyner Kersee (1962)
  29. Anna Cooper (1858 or 59 – 1964)
  30. Mary Jane Patterson (1840 – 1894)
  31. Ruth Jean Simmons (1945)
  32. Alma Thomas (1891 – 1978)
  33. Delorez Florence “Flo-Jo” Griffith Joyner (1959 – 1998)
  34. Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross, c.1822 – 1913)
  35. Ella Jane Fitzgerald (1917 – 1996)
  36. Johnnetta Cole (1936)
  37. The lma “Butterfly” McQueen (1911 – 1995)
  38. Madam C.J. Walker (1867 – 1919)
  39. Pauli Murray (1910 – 1985)
  40. Biddy Mason (1818 – 1891)

http://www.nwhp.org/resources/quizzes/#africanamerican

Black History Month: Hon. Mercedes Deiz

Mercedes Deiz was a person with   two "firsts" attached to her name:   first African American woman to be   admitted to the Oregon Bar, and   the first African American woman   to serve on the Oregon bench.

Mercedes Deiz was a person with
two “firsts” attached to her name:
first African American woman to be
admitted to the Oregon Bar, and
the first African American woman
to serve on the Oregon bench.

Mercedes Deiz will always have a special place in my heart.  She took me under her wing when I was a law student and never let go of me.  When I was wondering what direction I should take with my law practice shortly after I passed the bar she offered me excellent guidance.  When I was still a fairly new lawyer I took my teenage son to visit her court for a school project he was working on; it was at a time when I probably was not my son’s favorite person; “Merce” (as she was fondly called by her friends) beckoned my son and me into her chambers and proceeded to lift me up onto a pedestal right before my son’s eyes.  I appeared before Judge Deiz several times as a lawyer; her ability to “read” people always amazed me.  I remember one particular case in which I was fighting for my client to have custody of his child; we lost and I thought Judge Deiz made a bad decision; a few years later I realized that she made absolutely the correct decision.  I had the honor to serve with “Merce” as founding board members of Oregon Women Lawyers.  I was also privileged to serve with her on the Oregon Supreme Court Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Issues in the Judicial System.  She was a wonderful mentor and a true friend.  It is a great pleasure to share her story during Black History Month.

A Life of Firsts
Mercedes Deiz was a trailblazer by choice
By Cliff Collins   

 Some people become pioneers by accident, others by choice. Mercedes Deiz consciously chose to be a pioneer, seemingly at every step along her lengthy career. When she died in Portland Oct. 5, 2005 at age 87, Deiz left a long legacy of service to the Oregon State Bar and the profession, but also specifically to many individual lawyers, especially women and attorneys from ethnic minorities.

“Judge Deiz was a one-person affirmative action committee, welcoming and counseling Oregon’s minority lawyers,” wrote attorney Katherine H. O’Neil in 2000, when endorsing Deiz for the OSB’s highest honor, the Award of Merit. “I do believe that each and every African-American lawyer who entered practice between 1970 and 1992 sat with Judge Deiz in her chambers, receiving a few hours or more of private tutoring in career development.”

“Black has nothing to do with the color of the skin; it’s a question of ethnicity,” Deiz once said. “You are your race. A person has roots to whatever he or she comes from in one’s ancestry. And I am a black lady.”

Her self-identify was, again, a conscious choice, as she was of mixed racial descent, raised in an impoverished, polyglot Harlem neighborhood. Born Mercedes Frances Lopez in 1917 in New York City, she was the oldest of 10 children. Her mother was Czechoslovakian, and her father was black and born in Cuba. Though her family was poor, she said her parents insisted that their children frequent the library, and she grew up reading and visiting the city’s free museums.

“My dad had much more of an influence on me (than my mother) in being an individualist,” she is quoted as saying in Images of Oregon Women, a 1983 book by Ellen Nichols. “He insisted that each of his kids be unique to the best of our abilities.”

Mercedes Deiz became the first black female lawyer in Oregon when she was admitted to the bar in 1960. In November 1969, then-Gov. Tom McCall appointed her as a district court judge, making her the first woman of color to become a judge in Oregon. That next May primary, Multnomah County voters elected her to the post outright, and she became the first black woman to be elected to the bench in Oregon. In 1972, she was encouraged to run for the Multnomah County Circuit Court, and in the general election, she defeated seven male challengers for the position.

“She saw her role in the right way — not just being the first, but making sure there were many more to follow her,” Oregon Court of Appeals Judge Ellen F. Rosenblum told The Oregonian after Deiz’s death.

“As a woman of color, she was always subjected to heightened scrutiny,” wrote Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Marilyn E. Litzenberger, then-president of Oregon Women Lawyers, in support of Deiz’s Award of Merit. “She responded with grace, humor and self-confidence. Her path-breaking example has convinced hundreds of others, male and female, that there is a place for them in the legal community. Her personal mentoring and encouragement of younger lawyers are legendary.”

After graduating from high school at the age of 16, Deiz worked variously as a maid, theater usher, switchboard operator and ticket clerk, and completed three years at Hunter College of the City of New York before marrying. She helped organize women within her union of office employees. She and her husband held fund raisers to help pay for legal-action cases involving race. In 1948, after 12 years of marriage, she left her husband and took her 4-year-old son to Portland, where a brother lived. She recalled arriving by train with only $12 to her name.

After being denied service in a Portland restaurant, Deiz became active in the local Urban League and the NAACP. “But she (was) discriminated against more often because of her gender than because of her race,” Nichols wrote. “She was frustrated in several job-seeking attempts because — private sector or civil service — the jobs were restricted to males, even though she was qualified in every other respect.” When she sought to advance at Bonneville Power Administration, Deiz later recalled, the job posts read, “Men Only,” or “Veterans Only.” She held various jobs, including eventually working with the Internal Revenue Service, the BPA, and in a law firm as a legal assistant.

According to O’Neil, Deiz said that at an early age, she wanted to become a lawyer because she believed that the law was the forum to right wrongs. Nichols quoted Deiz’s explanation for wanting to go to law school: “I really want to … help people. And I can’t see how to do it better than just being an advocate and speaking for them. I always wanted to do that.”

While working with the IRS in Portland, she met fellow IRS worker Carl Deiz and married him in 1949. They raised three children. Her husband helped take care of the children while she attended Northwestern School of Law at night while working as a legal assistant. She finished fourth in her class. In a 1999 interview, she credited her husband with taking a large part in raising their children. “I am not a dependent woman,” she said. “But I could not have done the things I did without Carl.”

She continued her community activism, and practiced trial law for eight years — during which she said her clients were overwhelmingly white males, and she received many referrals from male attorneys — and served as an administrative law judge with the workers’ compensation board for two years, before her appointment to the bench.

“As a judge, you have to be strictly impartial and eschew any perception of any kind of bias one way or another,” she told Nichols. “But my sensitivities and concerns are always for working people; that’s what I came from.”

She also became an advocate for youth after spending much of her judgeship presiding over family law cases. Deiz served on the Governor’s Committee on Children and Youth, and the Metropolitan Youth Commission. She was on the board of the National Association for Women Judges, of which she was a founding member.

Deiz also was a founding board member of Oregon Women Lawyers and actively involved in the National Bar Association, Oregon Minority Lawyers Association and the Owen Panner Inns of Court. At Harvard Law School, she taught trial techniques as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, and in 1997, the school she attended as an undergraduate, Hunter College, awarded her an honorary doctorate degree.

She also did volunteer work within the bar, including after she was forced by law to retire in 1992 because of age, following her election to four six-year terms as a judge. Deiz served on the Oregon Supreme Court Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Issues in the Judicial System and on the Multnomah Bar Association’s Status of Women Committee.

At the OSB, she was on the Public Service and Information Committee and the Press and Broadcasters Committee, and she chaired the Minor Courts Committee. For the Multnomah Bar Association, she served as secretary and treasurer. She also was a member of the American Bar Association, Queen’s Bench, the American Judicature Society and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

Deiz’s community and public service included work with many organizations devoted to civil rights and education. She lectured on the court system, rights of minorities, race and ethnic relations, women’s rights and juvenile and family law. She was a 12-year board member of the National Center for State Courts, and a member of the Governor’s Commission on Judicial Reform. She chaired the State Advisory Committee to the federal Civil Rights Commission, and vice-chaired the Urban League in Portland.

Her numerous awards included: the Northwestern School of Law Distinguished Alumna Award; the Chisolm Award for contributions to Oregon citizens; the March of Dimes’ Oregon’s Ten Outstanding Women; Oregon Women Lawyers’ Mother of Achievement Award; the Association of Black Lawyers Distinguished Service on the Bench Award; the Urban League’s Devotion to Concept of Equality Award and the Woman of Accomplishment Award.

Deiz and her husband, who survives her, enjoyed traveling abroad, according to The Oregonian, which added that she not only was adventurous in her career, but also in her leisure activities, such as paragliding in Mexico.

The OSB recognized her in 1992 with its Affirmative Action Award, and in 2000 — on the 40th anniversary of her admission to the bar — with the Award of Merit, the OSB’s highest honor, which is “awarded in recognition of outstanding contributions to the bench, bar and community at large by attorneys who exhibit the highest standards of professionalism.”

“From the time Mercedes Deiz tried her first case, in October 1960, until the present day, she has exemplified the qualities which make the very best lawyers: common sense, practicality, a quick wit, decisiveness, compassion, concern for the community and an abiding love and respect for the law,” wrote Litzenberger in 2000.

“In each of her 40 years as lawyer, judge and … senior judge, (Deiz) … made significant contributions towards public respect for the legal system,” added O’Neil. “She has made a significant, positive difference in dozens and dozens of lawyers of color, and the legal careers of dozens and dozens of women lawyers.”

Editor’s note: Beatrice Cannady, erroneously reported to be the first female African-American attorney in Oregon by various sources including the Oregon Historical Society, never was admitted to the bar, but that didn’t stop her from representing clients in court. Cannady, who graduated from Northwestern School of Law in 1922, failed the bar examination five times. … Cannady was a feisty and outspoken advocate for civil rights and successfully defended black children who had been denied attendance in Oregon public schools. Throughout her adult life, she worked to improve race relations and better living and educational conditions for blacks. In 1929 the Portland Council of Churches nominated her for the Harmon Award for outstanding contributions to race relations, and over the years she received much public acclaim for her efforts. It would be another 38 years before a black woman, Mercedes Deiz, would be admitted to the Oregon State Bar and become the state’s first female African American attorney.

Source: “Serving Justice: A History of the Oregon State Bar, 1890-2000.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cliff Collins is a Portland-area freelance writer and a frequent contributor to the Bulletin.

© 2005 Cliff Collins

http://www.osbar.org/publications/bulletin/05dec/heritage.html

                                            

Newport Woman’s Act of Generosity

Nel Ward

Nel Ward

Thank you Central Oregon Coast NOW member Nel Ward for your generosity and for being the inspiration for the legislation that is proposed (HB 2545) to alleviate the problem of many Oregon families not being able to afford reduced priced school lunches.

Feb 27, 2015 by Elizabeth Seaberry

Last year, Newport-resident Nel Ward walked into Newport Intermediate School and paid off students’ past-due school lunch accounts -for every single student who owed money. Her act of generosity moved her community, and inspired legislators.

We talked with Nel about her act of kindness. We’re advocating for legislation to solve the problem of Oregon families not being able to afford the reduced-price lunch co-pay (HB 2545).

Can you share a little about your background?

I’m retired. I was a school teacher in Phoenix and moved here to Oregon 22 years ago. I opened a bed and breakfast and bookstore. Now I have small publishing company. I also write a blog.

How did you learn about the school lunch accounts?

I was on the internet. I read about this man in Texas who was a tutor at a middle or elementary school. He discovered that his school had kids whose families had trouble affording the reduced-price lunch co-pay. He went in and paid off what they owed. I went in and did it. I asked the school how much was owed. I wrote a check and that was that. It was a little over $300.

What was the school’s response?

It went viral because the school’s principal wrote a thank-you letter in the local newspaper. A lot of people around the town commented on it, including my dentist when I had a crown put on. It’s a small community. There are about 10,000 people in town. They took notice.

How did Rep. Gomberg learn about your story?

Probably through the newspaper thank-you. He said something about reading it. He called me a week or two ago and told me that he was introducing this bill (HB 2545) and asked me if I was interested in keeping up with it. I said yes.

What do you think of the bill to eliminate the reduced-price lunch co-pay?

I’m extremely supportive. In the past, I worked with a woman here who started an Operation Backpack in Newport. For a few years, my partner and I would pick up the backpacks and load them and take them back. We donated quite a bit to it. The foodshare took over the program, and they had enough volunteers.

Why should every Oregonian care about this?

This is about our future. These kids are the people who are going to be making decisions for us down the road. If they’re not well-educated, and of course food is a requirement for being well-educated, or if they’re not emotionally stable, food is a requirement for that too, then they’re less likely to make good decisions.

Besides, they’re little kids. They don’t deserve this. We’re a community. We should help the parents.

– See more at: https://oregonhunger.org/blog/newports-nel-ward-paid-kids-lunch-accounts#sthash.UE1YCX7t.eGtZhF3M.dpuf

Speakers | NOW National Conference

The NOW National Conference is June 19 to 21 in New Orleans!

For more information about the Speakers:

Speakers | National Organization for Women.

The Conference will be a Strategy Summit and Bylaws Convention.  For more information and to make suggestions:

https://nowconference2015.wordpress.com/

To Register:  http://now.org/about/conference/register-now/

Hotel Information:  http://now.org/about/conference/hotel-and-location/

Program that helps mothers in prison rebuild relationships with their kids on state chopping block

The Oregon Department of Corrections has decided to cut the Family Preservation Project from Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. The program helps mothers rebuild relationships with their children and families. (Courtesy of Brian Lindstrom )

The Oregon Department of Corrections has decided to cut the Family Preservation Project from Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. The program helps mothers rebuild relationships with their children and families. (Courtesy of Brian Lindstrom )

By Rebecca Woolington | The Oregonian/OregonLive The Oregonian

February 25, 2015

Nicole Edwards went to prison not knowing her daughter. She wasn’t sure of her favorite color or whether she had any friends.

Edwards expected she and her daughter would only grow further apart while she served three years for theft, selling meth near a school and being a felon in possession of a firearm. It was her second time doing time at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville and she had lost custody of her 4-year-old daughter to the girl’s paternal grandmother.

But Edwards said the extensive treatment she received in prison through the Family Preservation Project helped her grow closer to her daughter.

Without it, Edwards, now 28, believes she and her daughter would still be strangers.

“It’s just amazing that she even wants to be a part of my life because of all the wreckage I dragged her through,” Edwards said.

So when she learned that the family program will end, she was stunned.

Supporters are rallying to save the 5-year-old project. More than 2,800 people signed a petition addressed to legislators and the governor’s office to keep it alive.

Participants receive parenting training and visit with their kids in an open room in prison, allowing them to rebuild their relationships while they read, eat and play together. Normal visiting at the prison is held at tables in a dining hall with guards standing watch.

But state Department of Corrections leaders say it’s not cost-effective.

It’s the most expensive program it funds when measured by the number of inmates served: $300,000 to help about 10 inmates each year. The department’s total budget for two years is $1.4 billion.

Since 2010, the program has worked with 31 mothers and 53 children, the department said. The cost covers supplies and services, two full-time positions and a part-time employee, said Heidi Steward, superintendent at Coffee Creek. The department also was concerned that the program spent money on inmate families, not just inmates, she said.

“I just don’t think it’s the best investment,” Steward said.

The prison plans to phase out the program throughout the spring, keeping one employee and continuing services focused on the mothers but no longer holding visits with the children. The prison has proposed adding a family advocate, who would help provide support services to mothers.

mothering inside still 4.jpgView full sizeThe Family Preservation Program operating at Coffee Creek prison cost the state about $300,000 a year to serve about 10 inmates, according to corrections officials. Because of the cost, the department has decided to cut the program.

Coffee Creek houses more than 1,200 women and is the only prison for women in the state. About 80 percent of inmates say they’re moms. Supporters of the Family Preservation Project say none of the program’s participants have returned to prison since the initiative began.

They point to a consultant’s study done for Portland Community College, which has provided contracted employees to run the project. It found the program to be effective and recommended expanding such services.

Steward said the women already are considered low-risk and unlikely to end up back in prison, so it hasn’t significantly reduced recidivism.

Jessica Katz, the project’s coordinator, said so far 27 participants have been released to the community.

The women spend at least 15 hours a week in the program. They undergo deep evaluation to figure out how they wound up where they did, said Katz, a social worker. They receive help working through their trauma and addiction, and receive education and skill-building resources, she said.

“They are not just an inmate, a person who has made terrible mistakes,” she said. “They are a mother. They have something to return to. That means a lot.”

State Sen. Chip Shields, D-Portland, said the program has shown that it can reduce risk factors for children with an imprisoned mother. He has encouraged supporters to write letters to their state legislators and attend the Corrections Department budget hearing, scheduled for March 19, to provide public testimony and show support. He said he plans to talk with the Corrections and Human Services departments to try to restore some funding.

“I do feel confident that we will get this issue resolved before the Department of Corrections budget goes through,” Shields said this week.

Among the program’s other supporters is Brian Lindstrom, a Portland filmmaker who spent months with the participants at Coffee Creek and did a documentary, “Mothering Inside.” The film screened last week at Cinema 21 in Northwest Portland and will show again at Hollywood Theatre at 7:15 p.m. Thursday.

Katrina Going, 29, is one of the inmates featured in the film. She served about six years at the prison for robbery and selling meth and participated in the program when her daughter was 9 and her son was 5. She was able to maintain a close relationship with her brother, who added a room to his Corvallis home for her and had it waiting when she was released two weeks ago. She has custody of her children and wants to start school.

“That would have never happened without the program,” she said.

Edwards, the other former participant, drove to Portland from Albany to catch last week’s screening. She brought her husband and their new baby girl.

“That program literally means the world to me,” said Edwards, who participated for 14 months. She got out of prison in January 2014.

During those months, Edwards had conferences with her older daughter’s teacher. During visits, they were able to cuddle, paint and tend to the garden in the prison yard.

Until then, Edwards said she had known only a life of drug dealing and meth addiction. She had given up a son for adoption.

Today, she spends every other weekend with her older daughter, now 8. The program taught her how to communicate and showed her how to be a parent. She has gotten to know her second-grader, including her favorite color: purple.

— Rebecca Woolington

rwoolington@oregonian.com

503-294-4049; @rwoolington