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Blazing a Trail

February 22, 2019

During the most recent midterm elections, there was a record number of women and diverse candidates who were elected into office. In light of these results and in honor of Black History Month, we'd like to highlight Avel Gordly, the first African-Remembering CoverAmerican woman elected to the Oregon State Senate.

Gordly served three terms as a member of the House of Representatives, and was elected as State Senator in 1996, retiring from her position in 2008. During her time in office, she worked on tasks forces and committees as well as on legislation. In her foreword for Remembering the Power of Words, Charlotte B. Rutherford highlights that Gordly worked to remove racist language from Oregon’s constitution, renounce Oregon’s legacy of institutional racism, proclaim Juneteenth a day for statewide celebration, and require every county police force to be trained in the use of appropriate deadly force, among other essential political work.

Remembering the Power of Words also explores Gordly’s personal experiences, and Rutherford writes that “Avel’s personal story is one of faith and perseverance in the face of adversity, while dealing with clinical depression. Anyone who has battled depression while holding down a responsible position will identify with Avel’s observations. Anyone who is faced with doubts about whether he or she is up to the challenge of single parenting or any single parent who wants more from life will gain strength from her story. Anyone who believes that social change is possible and that individuals can accomplish it will be encouraged by Avel’s story...Avel has lived a life of service and she has blazed a trail of Black female ‘firsts.’ Her story includes her personal challenges and growth and how that growth has affected and improved the communities she has served.”


To learn more about Gordly and Remembering the Power of Words, you can read an excerpt of the book here. Remembering the Power of Words is part of a OSU series that highlights women and politics in the Pacific Northwest.


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