The right of citizens to vote is a pillar of democracy—a mainstay denied to Washington women until they united in a campaign to enact change. Suffragettes briefly achieved the right to vote through an 1883 legislative act, only to have a Territorial Supreme Court decision declare it invalid. Once again, women formed clubs and embarked on a grassroots crusade. They canvassed neighborhoods, circulated petitions, published a newspaper, conducted debates, sold a cookbook, participated in fairs, and more. Finally, in 1910, suffragettes persuaded Washington men to ratify a state constitutional amendment granting permanent voting rights for women, only the fifth state to do so. Their success revitalized the national movement, inspiring activists struggling toward another pivotal goal, the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Approved in 1920, the revision secured voting rights for women across the country.
But the story does not end there. Woman suffrage was a harbinger of social change. Females enrolled in higher education in record numbers, became more directly involved in community affairs, and increasingly joined such professions as social work, medicine, and architecture. By 1910, women dominated the office workplace, comprising 83 percent of typists and stenographers.
Since gaining the vote, female Washingtonians have regularly exercised their voice in government—addressing the concerns of women, children, and families, and continuing to strive for equal rights.
Women’s Votes, Women’s Voices provides a comprehensive summary of the Washington woman suffrage movement and presents vignettes on many of the state’s most active leaders, such as May Arkwright Hutton and Emma Smith DeVoe, along with numerous illustrations.
Washington State Historical Society
Photographs / notes / 120 pages