Nearly 100 years ago, May and Ann Shogren were among Portland's most celebrated citizens. In an era when women were barred from most professions, the sisters brought high fashion to the Northwest, and earned a reputation that reached from New York to California. Yet they started out with nothing but talent, ambition, and strength of character.

The Shogren family settled in Portland in 1872, after traveling west on the new transcontinental railroad. At just 14 years old, May Shogren apprenticed with a tailor. Capable and well liked, she opened a dressmaking business of her own. Soon Ann Shogren followed her, and in the 1880s, the sisters set up shop as M&A Shogren. For the next 20 years their trend-setting designs attracted a huge following that included Portland's most influential women.

Every year, the sisters journeyed to New York and Paris to view the spring collections, sketch the latest designs, and to purchase stylish fabrics. Fashionable ladies poured over the designs and ordered custom made gowns from the Shogren sisters.

Starting out in a genteel downtown studio in the Dekum building, M&A Shogren later moved to a luxurious house on Southwest 10th and Yamhill - where they converted two parlors into fitting rooms. By 1900, M&A Shogren employed 100 women. They formed close relationships with their staff and treated them well.

As word of M&A's elegant designs spread, ladies from Hollywood to Alaska flocked to Portland to order clothes from the Shogren sisters. Loyal fans included opera diva Ernestine Schumann, and Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester rifle fortune. At the height of their success a Shogren dress cost as much as one of the new Model T Ford Automobiles.

In 1904, the family bought land on the north side of Mount Tabor where they constructed an unusual Arts and Crafts style house. Ann, May, and their sister, Elizabeth moved in with Lizzie's children, Foster and Elsie McLynn. Elizabeth's marriage to a handsome alcoholic, George McLynn, had gone sour. Family legend maintains that when McLynn came calling at the Mount Tabor house, Ann Shogren seized a horsewhip and drove him off the property.

The Shogren sisters were generous to their family, employees, and community. Devout Baptists, they donated to their church and to charity. They also enjoyed life. They were among the first women members of the Mazamas and the Multnomah Hunt Club. They also loved to socialize, hosting parties, musical evenings, and dinners. We think the Shogren sisters would be proud that their home remains a place for retreat, conviviality, and for celebration.