Hermiston may have voted to keep its embroiled council in office, but Umatilla women gave their city government a clean sweep on Tuesday.
With picket signs proclaiming, “Women belong in the house AND the Senate” and “We are women, hear us ROAR,” seven Umatilla women ran their male elected officials out of their seats during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Umatilla City Council in a symbolic action reflecting Umatilla’s past and future. Mary Dedrick, the only woman currently serving on the Umatilla City Council, maintained her position.
The staged protest was organized as a tribute to the “Petticoat Rebellion” of 1916, when the city of Umatilla elected a female mayor, a female treasurer and recorder and an almost all-woman council. The historic event has been called “Operation Clean Sweep.”
The re-enactment was organized by Dedrick, who is also the president of the Umatilla Lions Club.
“I just thought it would be neat because they’re doing the (Operation Clean Sweep) play for Landing Days, and I said, ‘Well, I think it would be neat if we could take over the city council meeting to kick off the celebration and give people a little bit of enthusiasm,” Dedrick said. “It was great.”
The seven women — Joe Ann Penn, Heidi Sipe, Liz Shaw, Cathy Putnam, Sharon Farnsworth, Kellie Lamoreau and Pam Johnson — stormed the stage during the meeting’s second public comment period.
Sipe, the night’s “pretend take-over Mayor of the City of Umatilla”, ran the remainder of the meeting and issued a proclamation. The “Landing Days Proclamation” addressed the actions of the 1916 women officials — who worked to improve water and electrical services, started the public library and initiated garbage collection — and served as the launch of the city’s 150th birthday celebration.
“Whereas, we no longer need a ‘clean sweep’ but instead appreciate those who have led and lead,” Sipe read. “As we move toward the next 150 years, we honor those who served our community, thank those who serve currently and welcome those who are to come.”
The main portion of Umatilla’s 150th Anniversary and Umatilla Landing Days will take place June 22-24. The three-day festival will shinea light on Umatilla’s past, present and future with a variety of activities spread across the city.