National Women's Political Caucus of Washington

Washington Feminist History

  • 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 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.
  • 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!
  • 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 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.
  • The first woman was hired by the Seattle Police Dept 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.
Join NWPC-WA Endorsements Events