About Us >> Our History >> Our
HOW WE BEGAN
Arthur Denny, founder of Seattle, proposed woman suffrage
in the first legislative meeting in Olympia in 1854. He
lost on an eight to nine vote. The Washington Territory
Woman Suffrage Association was formed in 1871 in Olympia.
The territorial legislature gave women the vote in 1883.
Women lost their vote in 1887 when the Territorial Supreme
Court ruled that Congress did not intend to give territories
the power to enfranchise women.
Women were unable to vote for delegates to the State Constitutional
Convention in 1889. Woman suffrage was submitted to the
voters as a separate amendment to ratification of the constitution.
It failed again in an 1897 vote.
In 1895 the first convention of Washington State's Equal
Suffrage Association was held. Washington Territory was
known for its suffragists. With differing styles, the persistent
Emma Smith DeVoe and the direct and indomitable May Arkwright
Hutton worked for the common cause of women's suffrage in
Washington State. By 1907, the Washington Equal Suffrage
Association had several thousand members, and in November
of 1910 the amendment to the state constitution allowing
women to vote carried by nearly two to one. This made Washington
the fifth state to give women the right to vote - nine years
before the 19th Amendment to the US. Constitution extended
the vote to all the nation's women.
The League of Women Voters of the United States was first
projected at the Jubilee Convention of the National American
Women Suffrage Association in 1919. The League of Women
Voters of Washington was organized the next year. Seattle
and Tacoma were the first two local Leagues in the state.
In the early days the League of Women Voters of Washington
supported state legislation pertaining to protection of
children in fields of labor, health and education. At the
present time there are twenty-one local Leagues around the
- WHAT WE HAVE DONE
- NATIONAL...The League of Women Voters
was organized in 1919 after suffrage for women was passed
by Congress and ratified by the states. Since that time
the League has kept pace with changing times. The League
has worked hard to improve the legal status of women
and the welfare of children and to improve legislation
protecting the consumer. The League championed the reorganization
of Congress, and has led the struggle to fight air and
water pollution. The League is concerned about equal
opportunities for all citizens in education, employment
- STATE...The League of Women Voters of
Washington was organized in 1920. Over the years the
LWVWA has given sustained attention to issues dealing
with the judicial system, election laws, government,
state finances, children's services and the environment.
- LOCAL...Local Leagues have spearheaded
improvements in the structure and efficiency of town
and city governments, have worked on such issues as
public schools, housing, health services, sanitation,
tax reforms, city charters and local planning.
CELEBRATE THE LEAGUE
Adapted from information on the LWVUS website and from
Judy A Hedden, LWVWA, Past President 2001-2003
The official birthday of the League of Women Voters is
February 14, 1920. LWV is an outgrowth of the suffragist
movement. Carrie Chapman Catt founded the organization in
1920 during the convention of the National American Woman
Suffrage Association. This Victory Convention was held only
six months before the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution
was ratified, giving women the right to vote after a 57-year
struggle. The League of Women Voters of Washington was organized
the same year. Seattle and Tacoma were the first two local
Leagues in the state.
Board of Directors National League of Women Voters Chicago
February 1920. Click
here to view the online photo
collection on the National League of Women Voters' website.
When Catt, a feminist who had been a dynamic leader in
the suffragist movement, first wrote of how she envisioned
the League in April 1919, she characterized it as "a
union of all intelligent forces within the state" to
attack "illiteracy, social evils, industrial ills."
She added, "The politicians used to ask us why we wanted
the vote. They seemed to think that we want to do something
particular with it, something we were not telling about.
They did not understand that women wanted to help make the
Helping to "make the general welfare" was the
primary agenda of the new League. During its first conventions,
delegates voted 69 separate items as a statement of principle
and recommendations for legislation. Most of the items were
what we might call "family issues" today. They
were important to the League, because leaders saw their
enactment into law, along with enfranchisement, as critical
to the independence of women. Among them were support for
collective bargaining, child labor laws, minimum wage, a
joint federal-state employment service, compulsory education,
and equal opportunity for women in government industry.
Many of these items were enacted into laws that are still
in force today. They have been part of American life for
so many years most of us take them for granted. But more
than 81 years ago, the League's struggle for legislation
to improve the quality of life for Americans was a long
and arduous one.
We as current League members strive on that same long and
arduous struggle to build better communities. We are carrying
the legacy of the courageous suffragists and past League
members who have accomplished so much for our democracy.
LetÕs celebrate the people in the past who made us
what we are today, the people in the present who give so
much to our goals, and the people of the future who will
continue in this struggle.