Image courtesy of Washington State Archives
In 1889, Congress passed the Enabling Act, which “enabled” Washington to draft a state constitution and request admission to the Union. During the Washington State Constitutional Convention, women petitioned the delegates to include women’s suffrage in the new state constitution. The issue was presented to the voters as a separate amendment on the ballot. In the ensuing vote, 16,527 voters voted to include the amendment granting women the right to vote, but 34,613 voted no. The measure failed to pass, though the new constitution authorized women to vote in school elections.
In 1897, the Fusionist and Populist reformers in the state Legislature passed a bill to provide for a statewide vote to amend the Washington Constitution to grant women’s suffrage. Despite work by suffrage groups statewide, the amendment lost by a vote of 30,540 to 20,658.
1909 saw suffragists from around the nation arriving in to Seattle to attend the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. The suffragists brilliantly utilized the event as a forum to promote voting rights for women. Encouraged by the fanfare, the Legislature passed an act which would put women’s suffrage on the 1910 ballot as a constitutional amendment.