Biographical Sketch of Charlotte Terwilliger Moffett Cartwright

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Charlotte Terwilliger Moffett Cartwright, 1842-1915

By Jennifer Ortiz

Oregon Equal Suffrage Association (first vice-president)

Charlotte Terwilliger Moffett Cartwright (also C.M. Cartwright) was born December 21, 1842, in Chicago, Illinois, to James Terwilliger and Sophronia Hurd, both from New York. In 1845, three year-old Charlotte, her three other siblings and her parents, crossed the plains in a company of 100 wagons westward to Oregon. The Terwilligers joined the half of the company who decided to take Stephen Meek's “cut-off,” believing it to be a shorter, less arduous trip. They ended up enduring many hardships due to the difficult terrain. At least 23 died as they made their way along the Malhuer River. Upon entry into The Dalles, Sophronia also lost her life.

James and the four children were among the first residents of the newly named city of Portland. He built the city's first frame building for his blacksmith shop. Charlotte was a student in Portland's first school, a log structure. She later attended the Portland Academy, and was a student at the Female Seminary for several years. In 1860, at age 18, Charlotte married Walter Moffett, a Portland saloon owner. Together they had six children, of which only two sons survived into adulthood. Charlotte and Walter were well-traveled and the family maintained a home that open to all visitors, including parentless children. This generosity earned Charlotte the name Mother Moffett. Walter died while at sea in 1878. She then married C.M. Cartwright, a rancher in Eastern Oregon. Charlotte organized a lending library during the time she lived at the ranch.

Charlotte actively participated in her community through church and civic volunteering, notably through the club movement that peaked in the late nineteenth century. She was chair of the Woman's Auxiliary of the Oregon Pioneer Association for 15 years and was a charter member of the Portland Woman's Club. She was also a member of the Sacagawea Statue Association, the Stat Pioneers' Association, and the Forestry Club. In an article she wrote for the Journal of the Oregon History Society, “Glimpses of Early Days in Oregon,” Charlotte stressed the iconic values of personal determination, character, and self-reliance that were typical of expansionist thinking at the time.

Oregon's suffrage movement began in 1870 with the formation of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association (OAESA). Charlotte was its first vice-president, along with Abigail Scott Duniway, another pioneer, as president. Susan B. Anthony visited Portland in 1871. Charlotte's active years as a suffragist are part of Oregon's early movement, when the focus was on appealing to powerful men. When the National American Women's Suffrage Association held its annual convention in Portland in 1905, momentum was generated for a more popular style of campaigning that stressed coalition-building. At that date Charlotte Cartwright served on a Campaign Committee established to mount another referendum campaign. The next generation of Oregon suffragists, including Esther Pohl Lovejoy and Lucy Coe, built upon the foundational work of Charlotte and her contemporaries. She died in 1915 and was buried in Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland.


Abigail Scott Duniway Papers, MSS 432, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Cartwright, C. M. “Glimpses of Early Days in Oregon.” The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, vol. 4 no. l (1903): 55-69.

Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. TheHistory of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6. J.J. Little & Ives Co., New York, 1922. [LINK]

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