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Raising a Toast to a Women’s Rights Pioneer

Cover Image for Raising a Toast to a Women’s Rights Pioneer
By Chris LaMorte
Categories:InterviewsWomen's History Month

If you’re looking for the perfect place to salute our country’s foremothers during Women’s History Month, visit Abigail Hall in Portland, Oregon. Nestled in the historic Woodlark Hotel, this charming lounge is named for Abigail Scott Duniway, the first woman to cast a ballot in Oregon and an icon of the women’s suffragist movement in the Pacific Northwest. We spoke to Abigail Hall owner, Jen Quist, to learn more about Duniway and how her legacy lives on today.

What inspired the name, Abigail Hall?
Our building was built in 1907 as the Cornelius Hotel. Back then, men and women were separated during social engagements, and the space where Abigail Hall is now was called the Ladies Reception Hall. So I was drawn to developing the restaurant concept about a strong female, specifically one from Oregon. I did a ton of research, and Abigail Scott Duniway was the name that kept popping up again and again. There was no proof she ever visited the reception hall, but she was at her peak around the time it opened. So we like to think she was active in the city around the time it was open. 

Tell me more about her.
She wrote the Oregon Equal Women’s Suffrage proclamation in 1912. And she also published her own newspaper.  What’s really cool about her is that she was an advocate for human rights and spoke up for social injustice as a whole. She advocated on behalf of all minorities and used her voice to make significant changes in the world. 

“I love the energy that comes from working alongside other female creators, chefs, and farmers.”

How do you incorporate Duniway’s life story into the space?
When we planned Abigail Hall, we worked with a historian to completely recreate the space as it looked in 1907, from that paint color to the tile on the floor. We commissioned a portrait of Abigail from a local artist Gracie Ellison. Our design team, Smith Hanes Studio, also surprised us with five New Yorker-style cartoons that they had commissioned from New Yorker cartoonist Elisabeth McNair. They feature Abigail Scott Duniway talking about women’s rights and even show some design elements of our space.

Does Abigail Hall have any special plans to recognize Women’s History Month?
Yes, we offer a special menu called “All the Ladies.” We ask each staff member to write a short paragraph about one female that inspires them. Our bartender then creates a unique cocktail based on that inspiration. A portion of the proceeds goes towards the Raphael House, a local organization supporting women and children who are recovering from abusive situations. We also serve as a drop-off point for donated items. The menu launches on March 8, which is International Women’s Day. We’re going to host a little party with a local female DJ to celebrate and raise money.

Inspired by Coco Chanel, the Chanel-itini is part of the March “All the Women” menu at Abigail Hall.

Tell me a little bit about your career.
I’ve done almost everything, from working in kitchens to running the front of the house and the business. I’ve created concepts from scratch, gotten them up and running, and managed their operations. I started working in New York kitchens about 13 or 14 years ago. I moved to Portland 11 years ago and opened a restaurant. And about six years ago, I started a company called Holler Hospitality. We also have Bullard Tavern, which is also in the Woodlark Hotel, and Holler and Holler Treats, both located in Portland.

Who inspired you to get involved in the restaurant industry?
The women around me. My mom and grandma inspired me to love hospitality and to love food. My grandma was an incredible cook. My peers, the women I’ve worked next to in my career, also inspire me. I love the energy that comes from working alongside other female creators, chefs, and farmers. 

Abigail Hall owner Jen Quist.

Do you have any advice for up-and-coming women in hospitality?
I always say to be true to yourself. That might sound vague, but it’s important to listen to your gut and make your voice heard in a male-dominated industry. It’s also important to remain faithful to why you got into this line of work and to your goals. If you stay grounded to those, you’ll be fine.

Tell me more about the High Tea service.
It runs every Sunday in Abigail Hall. I think of it as a little bit classic and a little bit saucy, just like the women who continue to inspire us. We developed High Tea as a way for friends and family to get together over the holidays for a traditional tea experience, but with a little twist. You select your tea from our menu of Smith Teamaker Teas and enjoy your pot while nibbling traditional tea sandwiches and sweets. But we have also a cocktail menu built around our favorite teas. If you want to give your tea an extra kick, Smith Tea helped us pair CBD tinctures and spirits to drop in each of the teas. We will be doing Saturday and Sundays over Easter Weekend and Mother’s Day weekend.

Book High Tea at Abigail Hall

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