As Seattle is about to elect its second woman mayor, I got curious about the history of women holding elected offices in our state. The history below is directly from the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
In 1854, the Washington Territorial Legislature defeated a women’s suffrage bill by one vote. If it had passed, Washington would have been the first American legislature to give women the vote. Instead Wyoming received that honor in 1869. Women received the vote in Washington State in 1910, only the fifth
state to do so. Statewide, in every county, the vote was 2 to 1 in favor
of women having the vote.
Washington’s first senator was Reba Hurn, who served from 1923 to 1931. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Hurn was a former high school teacher and lawyer.
Seattle’s Bertha K. Landes was the first female mayor of a major American city. In 1924, Landes, republican city council president at the time, became acting mayor of Seattle. Two years later she was elected mayor in her own right in a campaign run by women and with the slogan “municipal housekeeping.” She lost her bid for a second full term. Bertha has her own Facebook page!
Washington’s first female governor was Dixy Lee Ray, a marine biologist who served from 1977-1981. Her 1976 campaign slogan was “Little lady takes on big boys.”
Washington elected its first female US senator, Patty Murray in 1992. Murray started her career as a teacher, then served on Shoreline’s school board and in the State Senate. In 2001, Murray became the first woman to serve as chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
From 1993 to 2004 Washington led the nation in the percentage of elected women to the state legislature. In 1999 and 2000, Washington set a record for highest percentage to date: 40.8 percent.
The first female Washington State Supreme Court Justice was Carolyn Dimmick. Dimmick first became a state court judge on the Northeast District Court. She then became a superior court judge of King County Superior Court and later a Justice of the Washington Supreme Court. Dimmick then became a judge on the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, later serving as chief judge.
The first woman was hired by the Seattle Police Department in 1893. Sue Rahr became King County’s first female Sheriff in 2005.
In 1924 the first two women were elected to the Seattle City Council: Kathryn Miracle and Bertha Knight.
Seattle Women’s Commission formed in 1970.
The first two women to serve in the Washington State Legislature were Frances C. Axtell from Bellingham and Nena J. Croake from Tacoma. Both were elected in 1912 to the State House of Representatives.
When I was about to turn 65 years old, I thought about how important it is to live life to the fullest, enjoying and appreciating each minute. I knew that there were many wonderful experiences I still wanted to have. So I sat down and created a “bucket list” that had 25 items on it. Over the last 7 years, I crossed off most of the items on the list as I completed them, including getting a tattoo (two, actually), skydiving, swimming with sharks, parasailing, and traveling to some specific locations. Still, a few items remained, including……wait for it……milking a cow!
Many people laughed at me when I told them I wanted to milk a cow, but I didn’t mind -- I just smiled and continued on my quest. I grew up in Chicago, and the closest I ever got to a cow was driving along the roads in Wisconsin on our way to a summer vacation.
Finally, this weekend, just 2 days after my 72nd birthday, I MILKED A COW! With the help of some good friends, I met Pearl, a big tan cow, at a local farm. I loved petting her, looking into those huge brown eyes, and talking to her. In fact, I spent more time petting and talking to her than I did milking her. She responded to me like a dog probably would have, nudging my hand and making satisfied noises. That was great fun. The milking was easier than I had been told it would be. But, drinking the fresh, warm milk was not a highlight! I have never liked warm milk, and Pearl’s milk coated my tongue in a way I didn’t like. Nevertheless, I feel very satisfied to have milked a cow, and my bucket list is one item shorter.
Now, there is one unusual item left on my “bucket list”: playing in a Texas Hold ‘em poker tournament. I am not brave enough to do it by myself, and all of my friends either don’t know how to play or just don’t want to. So, if you know anyone willing to take an OK poker player like me (who is a novice at tournament play) to a small, low entry fee tournament, let me know. I have no expectations of winning or even lasting very long. I just want to play for however long my chips last. Sounds like fun, right?
Here’s the thing. I have truly enjoyed creating and having a “bucket list”. It has helped me be brave enough to try many things I probably would not have done without it. It has given me many awesome moments and lots more to look forward to. So, if you don’t have a “bucket list” already, I encourage you to create one. As J.R.R. Tolkien’s character, Gandalf, said in The Lord of the Rings, “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”
Susan is a frequent volunteer at Eastside Community Aid Thrift Shop, where she sorts, prices, and stocks merchandise to her heart's content. Before retirement, she owned and operated a consignment shop for women's plus size clothing in Seattle. Through trial and error and talking with customers, she learned a thing or two. An avid "thrift shopper," Susan loves to buy clothing, especially when she gets good quality and value for her money.
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