Anna Maria Pittman Lee: Pioneer who set Oregon records

Share this

The “sweet” life of Anna Maria Pittman Lee
Oregon’s Lipstick Revolution Series
By Naomi Inman

On the eve of Oregon’s amorously dated 150th anniversary, I owe a Valentine to all Oregon women who took part in the Lipstick Revolution.  These are the women who put on their best lipstick—their fearless, feminine influence—and left a sweeter legacy for us all.

In Oregon Faith Report, Tom Fuller reported on the life of missionary Jason Lee, who played a crucial role in settling Oregon.  But what of Mrs. Lee?  Miss Anna Maria Pittman, the missionary bride, who lived a wisp of a life at 35 years and a protracted life of firsts for the Oregon Territory. She was the first white woman to be married, give birth, die and be buried in Oregon, but it was her shade of lipstick that made her special.

A New York “spinster” at 32, Anna responded to Lee’s call for more help in the Oregon Territory by boarding the ship Hamilton and voyaging 20,000 miles to Oregon.  The Hon. Dr. John McLoughlin introduced Anna to Jason Lee at Fort Vancouver in May, 1837.  Within two months Jason erased her spinster status on the banks of the Willamette River.  She bolstered his very heart for the work at hand.  Isn’t that what women do best?

Well, yes.  But women also profoundly encourage other women by the way they face both life and death.  By June, 1838, Anna died in childbirth along with her newborn son.  In 13 short months at that little mission by the Willamette River, Anna lovingly mothered thirty Indian children and was reputed for her joyful conduct.  It was her joyful attitude, her optimism, grace and devotion that set a tone for Oregon’s first wave of settlers. So here’s to an Oregon sweetheart whom we can celebrate on this 150th anniversary. For the occasion, Anna put on her best lipstick and we still remember it today.

*If you can suggest a living or historical figure for the Lipstick Revolution, please send your welcome submissions to [email protected]

*Source material in More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Oregon Women by Gayle Shirley (Globe Pequot Press, 1998).

— Naomi Inman was born in Argentina and immigrated to Oregon with her parents and three siblings.  She grew up in rural Clackamas County, enjoying all the girlhood pleasures of country living and horseback riding. She earned her M.A. in Journalism at Regent University (Virginia) and has put her education to use in radio and magazine work, and supremely so, as the mother of two young boys, composing rhyme to sooth the savage beast. She is happily married, intensely loved, and forever needed at all hours of the day or night.  What more could a woman ask