She was the last Territorial Librarian and by default became the first State Librarian when Washington attained statehood on Nov. 11, 1889. Born July, 1848 in Logan County, Ky., she surfaced as a teacher in Olympia in 1882. In 1884 she was apparently teaching in Mason County. By 1886 Ellen was employed as a clerk for the Legislature and in that brief window of time (1883-1888) when women could vote in Washington (before legal challenges shut down the right), she ran unsuccessfully as a candidate from the radical People’s Party for the office of Thurston County School Superintendent. She was appointed by Gov. Eugene Semple to the office of Territorial Librarian. In her 1888 report Ellen wrote:
There has been an allowance of $50 a year for the expenses of the Library. There may have been a time when this sum was sufficient, based on the business transacted by the office, yet, in the two years just passed, it has restricted the business of this office in every department– limiting the correspondence, the shipping and receiving. It has made of the Librarian both porter and janitor, and necessitated working in cold rooms without fire.
Given the popularity of the current Washington State Library’s massive collection of newspapers (on microfilm, hardcopy, and online), Stevenson was prophetic when she wrote, “Newspapers contain the history of the days’ proceedings and will grow in value with the years.” By 1897 she was living in Spokane where she ran a boarding house. Ellen appears to have lived in Spokane until at least 1915.
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