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Talk focuses on women and Washington State Constitution ?>

Talk focuses on women and Washington State Constitution


Local historian Shanna Stevenson talks about the history of suffrage in Washington.

Suffragists in Washington Territory were told to leave voting rights to the “chivalry of men,” who would eventually allow for them to vote. Thankfully, many activists and suffragists ignored that advice. Washington state became the 5th state in the United States to permanently protect women’s right to vote.

This was just one story from local historian Shanna Stevenson’s presentation. At a brown-bag event hosted by Secretary of State Wyman on Wednesday, Stevenson detailed the history of the suffrage debates at our Constitutional Convention, the activists who came to Olympia, the vote on suffrage in 1889 and the rights won and lost as women approached their victory in 1910 for permanent women’s suffrage in Washington.

In 1883, women in our territory actually had the right to vote. Here in the West, there was no entrenched body of anti-suffrage laws compared to the eastern United States, Stevenson said. Also, women in Washington had already left behind many of the traditional, domestic expectations for their gender due to the demands of frontier living.

By the 1889 Constitutional Convention, however, women’s right to vote had been removed. Suffragists held their own opposing convention to champion their right to vote. Their convention inspired real discussion of women’s rights and roles as citizens of the new state.

To overcome their opposition, women in the Washington Territory became activists. They built coalitions, signed petitions, separated themselves from Prohibition, moderated elections and even published a cookbook. In a particularly persuasive (and familiar) argument, activist Zerelda McCoy said she would not submit to taxation because she had no representation.

In 1888, to challenge the laws that barred her participation, McCoy went to the polls and voted. Fifteen Washington women had made a similar move in 1870. These were bold statements, since it was another 50 years before the 19th Amendment passed in America.

Through their perseverance, women finally convinced Washington’s Legislature that they wanted and deserved the right to vote. The male voters of Washington approved suffrage in 1910.

Secretary Wyman is the second female elected Republican official. Before her was Josephine Corliss Preston, who was the first woman elected to Washington state government after women won the right to vote in 1910. She served as State School Superintendent.

This event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women.

Retired Washington Supreme Court Justice Gerry Alexander will talk more about Washington’s journey to statehood next month. More information about his upcoming presentation can be found here.

Vote for your fave State Library Jewel! ?>

Vote for your fave State Library Jewel!

Here in our office, we’re always interested in voting and elections. Last week, we asked what your favorite Archives Treasure was, and now we’re curious to know which State Library Jewel you like most.

Over the past few days, we’ve featured three different Library Jewels for January, starting with a 1924 Washington road map. We then showcased a list of motor vehicle owners in 1912. Finally, we brought out a suffrage leader’s scrapbook that includes memorabilia ranging from 1908 to 1938.

Now we need your opinion. Please vote for the Library Jewel you like best out of these three. Our online poll will remain open until next Tuesday at 5 p.m. Happy voting!

#1 1924 Washington road map


#2 List of WA motor vehicle owners in 1912


#3 Suffrage leader’s scrapbook


What is your favorite January Library Jewel?

  • Suffrage leader's scrapbook (52%)
  • 1924 Washington road map (33%)
  • List of WA motor vehicle owners in 1912 (15%)

Total Voters: 66

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State Library Jewel #3: suffrage leader’s scrapbook ?>

State Library Jewel #3: suffrage leader’s scrapbook


Early this week, we began our “State Library Jewels” blog series to show off some of the many interesting items and collections found in the State Library.

The first jewel we presented was a  1924 Washington road map, followed by a list of motor vehicle owners in 1912. Our third piece to be showcased is the scrapbook of Clara Watson Elsom, a leading activist in the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

Inside the scrapbook (pictured here) is Elsom’s own collection of newspaper articles, photographs, letters and notes, as well as the obituary of Emma Smith DeVoe, president of the Washington Equal Suffrage Association and state organizer for a women’s voting group called NAWSA.

The scrapbook was assembled in no particular order, but does contain several bits of memorabilia ranging from October 22, 1908, to August 27, 1938.

On Friday, we’ll have our online poll up and running so you can vote on your favorite State Library Jewel for January.

(We originally ran the blog series in 2012. Due to its popularity, we’re bringing it back for an encore performance!)

“Library jewels” poll is open, so vote! ?>

“Library jewels” poll is open, so vote!

Over the past few days, we’ve featured three “candidates” for the August edition of “Library Jewels,” which showcases interesting or historic items or collections found in our State Library, and now we’re launching the online poll to let you and others choose your favorite.

The three jewels this month are:

1) Books about the War of 1812

2) The State Library’s Spanish language collection

3) Women’s suffrage documents

The online poll closes Sept. 7 at noon, so take a few moments and check them out and then make sure to vote!

What is your favorite August Library jewel?

  • Women's suffrage documents (58%)
  • Spanish language collection (27%)
  • Books about War of 1812 (15%)

Total Voters: 71

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Library jewel #3: Women’s suffrage documents ?>

Library jewel #3: Women’s suffrage documents

(A 1910 letter sent to Washington suffrage leader Emma Smith DeVoe from the president of the California Equal Suffrage Association, courtesy of Washington State Library)

Our third State Library jewel for August is an assortment of documents pertaining to women’s suffrage in Washington State and beyond.  Just in case you were not privy to the state’s recent celebration of the 100th anniversary of Washington women winning the vote, you can still find a marvelous collection of women’s suffrage documents in the Washington State Library.  The citations below make up only a fraction of the information made available to the public through the State Library.

Women vote in Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Norway, Finland, Australia, New Zealand This is a 1910 poster advertisement which states “Women vote in Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Norway, Finland, Australia, and New Zealand.  Are the women of Washington less entitled to vote?”

Annual report of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (It has Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony listed as authors.)

Speech of the Hon. D.R. Bigelow, on female suferage [sic] : delivered in the House of Representatives of Washington Territory Legislature, October 14, 1871

Woman suffrage : the argument of Carrie S. Burnham before Chief Justice Read, and Associate Justices Agnew Sharswood and Mercur of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, in banc, on the third and fourth of April, 1873, with an appendix containing the opinion of Hon. George Sharswood, and a complete history of the case, also, a compilation of the laws of Pennsylvania touching the rights of women

Look for our online poll  on the three August Library jewels and make sure to vote for your favorite!

Countdown to the November 8th Day of Jubilation – The Final Chapter ?>

Countdown to the November 8th Day of Jubilation – The Final Chapter

In 1910, Emma Smith DeVoe and May Arkwright Hutton led campaigns in Washington supporting the women’s suffrage amendment.  The ballot measure to amend Article VI of the Washington Constitution was on the 1910 General Election ballot and was passed by majority of 22,623, a favorable vote of nearly 2 to 1.  Washington State joined the western states of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho, that had already enacted women’s suffrage.  Washington was the first state in the 20th century to pass women’s suffrage.  Governor Hay signed the proclamation on November 8, 1910.

Countdown to the November 8th Day of Jubilation – Part 11 ?>

Countdown to the November 8th Day of Jubilation – Part 11

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.

Countdown to the November 8th Day of Jubilation – Part 10 ?>

Countdown to the November 8th Day of Jubilation – Part 10

1887 and 1888 proved to be dark years for the women’s suffrage movement in Washington.  In the 1887 case of Harland v. Territory, the Territorial Supreme Court overturned the Women’s Suffrage Act of 1886 because it allowed women to serve on juries.  Justice George Turner (photo on left courtesy of Washington State Archives), who firmly believed that women were incapable of voting intelligently on public matters (tsk-tsk!), ruled that the title of the 1886 election law was defective and the law giving women the right to vote was revoked.  The ruling of the court snatched the voting franchise away from women before they had a real chance to exercise it.

On January 18, 1888, the Washington Territorial Legislature passed a new law, specifically stating:  “That all citizens of the United State, male and female, above the age of twenty-one years .  .  .  shall be entitled to vote at any election in this Territory. . .”  However, the law went on to state: “. . . nothing in this act shall be so construed as to make it lawful for women to serve as jurors.”  Once the January law was passed, women could vote once again, but they couldn’t serve on juries.

Believing that women’s suffrage would conflict with his business interests, saloon owner Edward Bloomer of Spokane hatched a plot to end women’s suffrage.  On April 3, 1888, Bloomer marched his wife, Nevada, to the polls.  After marking her ballot, she handed it to the election official who, as pre-arranged, refused to accept it.  A few days later, Nevada Bloomer sued the election officials for $5,000 for “wrongfully depriving her of the privilege of voting.” The case was appealed to the Territorial Supreme Court.  On August 14, 1888, the Court struck down the territorial women’s suffrage law, asserting that “citizen” meant male citizenship, and that the territorial law conflicted with federal law.

Countdown to the November 8th Day of Jubilation – Part 7 ?>

Countdown to the November 8th Day of Jubilation – Part 7

My post is full of all kinds of drama and excitement today!  I have some good news, and then I have some bad news, but I’m going to end my post with some really great news.   

The good news: on November 11, 1881, the Washington Territorial House of Representatives passed House Bill 103, a women’s suffrage bill by a vote of 13 to 11.  The bad news is that the measure was voted down by the Territorial Council, five to seven.  Please keep your chins up, my friends!  Next week’s post will be far more upbeat. 

My really great news of the day is this: we are only two months away from the Day of Jubilation!  Huzzah!  Huzzah!  Eh, what’s that? 

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in Washington, our office is coordinating with the Women’s History Consortium, Washington State Historical Society, Temple of Justice, Governor’s Office, League of Women Voters, and the Interagency Committee of State Employed Women to put on a two-day jubilatory party in Olympia.  Below is a basic outline of events. 

On November 7th, please visit the State Capital Museum between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for a Women’s Suffrage Commemorative Pink Tea. 

On November 8th, please come to the Capitol Campus for a full day of performances, films, and presentations, culminating with a formal program at 4:00. 

So start brushing off your suffrage whites and top hats, and stay tuned for more information!

Countdown to the November 8th Day of Jubilation – Part 6 ?>

Countdown to the November 8th Day of Jubilation – Part 6

The year was 1878.  In hope of qualifying Washington for statehood, a Constitutional Convention was held in Walla Walla to draft a state constitution (which Congress failed to ratify).  A separate measure granting women to vote was put on the ballot, but it was rejected by a three-to-one margin of all-male voters.