VANCOUVER, Wash. – Portland, Ore., is home to the oldest battered-women’s shelter on the West Coast—the Bradley-Angle House, established in 1975. The shelter’s unlikely origins and enduring legacy are the subject of Samantha Edgerton’s award-winning paper for a senior research seminar in history at Washington State University Vancouver.
“The establishment of the Bradley-Angle house was the result of the coming together of white lesbian feminist activists from all walks of life—women living on the streets as well as educated feminists who had experience in the women’s movement—who overcame their differences to create a program that has lasted,” said Edgerton, a 2017 history graduate. Their work marked the beginning of the domestic violence shelter network in Portland.
For her tenacious research, important findings and clear prose, Edgerton’s paper, “The Story of Our Lives: Portland, the Battered Women’s Movement, and the Establishment of Bradley-Angle House,” received the 2017 Library Research Excellence Award. “She demonstrated in-depth knowledge of the research process and the need to use a variety of resources,” said Library Director Karen Diller.
Surprises along the research trail
Edgerton drew on more than 30 sources. In addition to publications and databases at WSU Vancouver’s library, she discovered valuable newspaper archives at the Multnomah County Library, oral histories of Bradley-Angle’s founders at the Oregon Historical Society, and documentation of licensing and hearings at the Portland city archives. Buried among obscure papers was a police intelligence report on founder Bonnie Tinker and her sister, Mary Elizabeth. The two women became the subject of suspicions because they had traveled to Cuba to help women there.
Although founded by lesbians, Bradley-Angle has always been ecumenical, providing services to any woman who is a victim of a violent relationship. “It wasn’t till much later that the organization differentiated itself by creating incredible programs for the LGBTQ community and African American and African immigrant women,” Edgerton said.
She credits her history department mentors, particularly her advisor, Professor of History Laurie Mercier, for helping her become a better researcher. As an older, nontraditional student who follows the news, she said, “I considered myself fairly well informed, but I had no experience on where you go to find primary sources or how to follow the trail in footnotes, especially in academic journals. That skill opened a whole new world for me.”
One of her more intriguing findings is that Portland police were unusual in offering assistance to women when called, more so than in other large cities. Perhaps that’s because “Oregon has tended to be violent place for women since settlement days,” Edgerton said.
That is a topic she intends to explore further in her graduate studies. Edgerton will pursue a master’s degree in history at WSU in Pullman beginning this fall.
About the Library Research Excellence Award
The annual award recognizes excellence in undergraduate research that demonstrates evidence of significant inquiry using the library, its resources and collections. Projects are evaluated by a panel of WSU Vancouver librarians. The recipient receives a $300 prize.
About WSU Vancouver
As one of six campuses of the Washington State University system, WSU Vancouver offers big-school resources in a small-school environment. The university provides affordable, high-quality baccalaureate- and graduate-level education to benefit the people and communities it serves. As the only four-year research university in Southwest Washington, WSU Vancouver helps drive economic growth through relationships with local businesses and industries, schools and nonprofit organizations.
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