State Senate honors women’s suffrage centennial

Celebrates Washington’s leadership in the fight for women’s right to vote

 

OLYMPIA – Washington state was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement. So, too, is it a leader in honoring the centennial of women gaining the right to vote in the United States. The Washington State Senate will celebrate 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment in a bipartisan resolution presented Thursday, one of the first such observances in the country.

Developed in cooperation with the Women’s History Consortium, the Washington State Historical Society, and the Washington State Women’s Commission, Senate Resolution 8670 details the history of Washington’s role in women’s fight for the vote. It acknowledges the contributions of women who made landmark strides in the movement here in Washington and nationally. Live coverage of the resolution can be seen on TVW or online at TVW.org.

“The fight for our right to vote is a fascinating tale of passion and courage…and downright dogged determination,” said Sen. Randi Becker, R-Olympia, prime sponsor of SR 8670. “I’m in my 12th year serving in the Legislature and I wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t for the women who led that fight. The fact that Washington was a leader in the suffrage movement is a great source of pride as a Washington state senator.”

“So many of us can’t even imagine a time when women wouldn’t have been allowed to vote,” said co-sponsor Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island. “But, it wasn’t too long ago that women like myself and all of my female colleagues were barred from participating in democracy, from shaping our laws and policies. I am so grateful for the strong women who stood up to fight for our rights and ensure that we have a place in the polling booth and on the Senate floor.”

When men in Washington state’s Legislature voted in 1910 in favor of women’s suffrage nearly two-to-one, Washington became the first state in the 20th century and the fifth state in the nation where women won the right to vote.

“Because Washington was the fifth state in the nation to acknowledge voting rights for women, the women of Washington played an important role in inspiring the rest of the nation to adopt women’s suffrage. When we celebrate national women’s suffrage, we are also celebrating the bravery and leadership of Washington women then and now who have fought for women’s rights,” said Jennifer Kilmer, executive director of the Washington State Historical Society.

The 1910 vote didn’t come without struggles, however. Twice before, the Washington Territorial Legislature enacted women’s right to vote, but the Territorial Supreme Court overturned it. Later, however, women’s right to vote became the law of the land. March 22, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the Washington State Legislature’s ratification of the 19th Amendment. Ratification was certified by the United States Secretary of State on August 26, 1920.

Included in the resolution are local celebrated activist sisters Mary Olney Brown and Charlotte Olney French, both from Thurston County, who tried several times in 1870, and finally succeeded, to cast ballots in Washington Territory. This encouraged others in the movement.

Also included is the Pacific Northwest women’s rights leader Abigail Scott Duniway. Duniway organized a speaking tour with Susan B. Anthony throughout Washington Territory to promote women’s suffrage. The tour culminated in Anthony becoming the first woman to address the Washington Territorial Legislature.

Other local women leaders celebrated in SR 8670 include Emma Smith DeVoe and May Arkwright Hutton, whose direct approach in communicating the movement’s message. All told, women’s fight for the right to vote lasted 72 years, bringing together women from all walks of life to demonstrate for the cause.

Now, 68 women currently serve in the Washington State Legislature and roughly 29 percent of the members of the United States Senate and Congress are women.

“There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make the laws and elect lawmakers.”

-Susan B. Anthony

Washington’s first female Senate majority leader, Jeannette Hayner, rose to the top leadership position in 1979 and Rep. Laurie Jinkins was chosen as the first female Speaker of the House this year. Women serve at all levels as elected officials in Washington state, including three times as governor with the elections of Dixie Lee Ray once and Christine Gregoire twice. Currently, Kim Wyman is Washington’s highest-ranking female state official, serving as secretary of state. Washington state’s 12-member federal delegation is currently comprised of seven women. It is one of six states with an all-female U.S. Senate delegation. Washington’s nine-member Supreme Court consists of six women and is led by Chief Justice Debra Stephens.

Join the celebration by attending the Votes for Women Centennial Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020, at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia.

 

Learn more about the National Suffrage Centennial 2020 at www.suffrage100wa.com.