National Women's Political Caucus of Washington

Washington Feminist History

  • 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.
  • 1865: Nettie Craig Asbury, activist and founder of the Tacoma NAACP, was born.
  • 1893: The first woman was hired by the Seattle Police Dept in 1893. Sue Rahr became King County's first female Sheriff in 2005.
  • 1910: 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.
  • 1912: The first two women were elected to serve in the Washington state legislature: Frances C. Axtell from Bellingham and Nena J. Croake from Tacoma.
  • 1917: The Washington State Federation of Colored Women (WSFCW) was founded in Spokane.
  • 1923: Washington’s first state 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.
  • 1924: 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 of “municipal housekeeping.” She lost her bid for a second full term. Bertha has her own Facebook page!
  • 1924: The first two women were elected to the Seattle City Council: Kathryn Miracle and Bertha Knight.
  • 1965: Marjorie Edwina Pitter King was the first African American woman to serve as a Washington State legislator and was one of the state's earliest African American businesswomen.
  • 1970: Formation of the Seattle Women's Commission.
  • 1970: On November 3, 1970, Washington voters approved Referendum 20, which legalized abortion in the early months of pregnancy.
  • 1972: Approved the Equal Rights amendment.
  • 1975: Dorothy Hollingsworth became the first black woman to serve on a school board in Washington with her election to the Seattle School Board.
  • 1977: 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.”
  • 1977: The International Women’s Year Conference in Ellensburg was a pivotal event to galvanize positions on feminism in Washington.
  • 1978: Seattle becomes the largest city in the country to desegregate schools without a court order.
  • 1981: 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 the 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.
  • 1992: Washington elected its first woman 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.
  • 1993: 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.
  • 2005: The Women's History Consortium, created by state statute (RCW 27.34.360) in 2005 as a Washington State Historical Society-led initiative, is dedicated to preserving and making available resources about Washington women’s history.
  • 2017: Seattle elected its first openly gay woman mayor, Jenny Durkan.
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