Our History

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 state.


Centennial Events Around the State

    • 17 Jan 2020
    • 7:30 PM
    • 15 Aug 2020
    • 7:00 PM
    • See Description

    PowerPoint Presentation on American Women of Color's Struggle for the Vote.

    Available to view on the LWVCLA website and in person at LWVCLA Events.


    • 17 Feb 2020
    • 8:00 AM
    • 21 Feb 2020
    • 2:30 PM
    • City of Spokane High Schools

    League members present on LWV history to selected high school classes.

    • 21 Feb 2020
    • 7:30 PM
    • 08 Mar 2020
    • 7:30 PM
    • Olympic Theatre Arts, Sequim WA 98382

    Quilters, by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek, directed by Richard Stephens

    February 21–March 8, 2020

    The musical story of a pioneer woman and her six daughters, Quilters blends love, warmth, rich and lively humor and the moving spectacle of simple human dignity and steadfastness in the face of adversity.

    “A show pieced together with love and stitched with pride...a thing of beauty, comfort and joy."
    —NY Post

    https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=ota

    • 22 Feb 2020
    • 11:00 AM
    • Jackson Center at Everett Community College

    Make Your Reservations Now for the League Birthday Luncheon

    Saturday, February 22
    11 a.m to 2 p.m.

    The League of Women Voters was founded a century ago, on February 14, 1920. Help us celebrate this milestone in our history and in the history of democracy. Bring your family members, friends, and neighbors.

    This year's Birthday Luncheon is in the Jackson Center at Everett Community College. (View campus map) A special Centennial program will be followed by a soup and salad lunch.

    Cost is $25 per person.

    Buy tickets here.

    • 26 Feb 2020
    • 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
    • Island Lake Community Building (Poulsbo)

    Potluck brunch and speaker from 10:30am to 12:30pm
    Guest Speaker: Dr. Amy Peloff, LWVWA Administrator
    Island Lake Community Building
    1087 NW Island Lake Rd
    Poulsbo, WA 98370

    The LWV will be 100 years old in February. To celebrate this milestone, Amy Peloff will join us at the Island Lake Community Building for brunch and a historical look at the LWV. Her presentation will highlight some of the League’s many successes while exploring what we can learn from our history—both positive and negative—to create an even brighter future.

    Amy Peloff is an affiliate assistant professor of gender, women, and sexuality studies at the University of Washington. Her writing on feminism has encompassed a variety of pop culture topics from Dolly Parton to Doctor Who, and she continually studies the ways in which ideas about identities are created, presented, and shared through media and entertainment. When she is not working with students at the University of Washington or giving talks on feminism and media through the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, she runs the state office for the League of Women Voters of Washington.

    Please bring a brunch item to share and consider bringing a mug and your own table setting in support of environmental sustainability.


    • 27 Feb 2020
    • 6:30 PM
    • Performing Arts Center at Western Washington University

    February 27, 2020—Join us for a special event featuring Elaine Weiss, author of The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, at the Main Stage of the Performing Arts Center at Western Washington University at 6:30 pm.

    A reception with the author will follow her presentation. The Woman’s Hour not only recounts how women won the vote, but also shows how the core themes of American history—race, class, money, gender, state’s rights, power, and democracy all came into play in Nashville, Tennessee, during the summer of 1920. Published in 2018, the book will be developed into a television production by Steven Spielberg with Hillary Rodham Clinton as Executive Producer. Author Elaine Weiss brings this gripping story and the many characters to life.

    Campus parking lots have been reserved for you in lots 6V, 7G, 11G and 9G. Campus Map

    This event is co-sponsored by the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education and Village Books, with support from the Washington State Historical Society and Washington State Women’s Commission’s Votes for Women Centennial Grant and the LWV of Washington Education Fund. The event is free and open to the public.

    • 03 Mar 2020
    • 8:00 AM
    • 31 Mar 2020
    • 2:30 PM
    • High Schools in City of Spokane

    Civics teachers will present lessons to high school students on early Suffrage workers in City of Spokane

    • 19 Mar 2020
    • 5:30 PM
    • Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall (Bellingham)

    Toward a More Perfect Democracy—First in a 4-part series exploring the history and future of the struggle for suffrage and political voice.

    Join us for a lively, thought-provoking presentation with an opportunity to ask your questions on the topic. A light meal will be served at 5:30 pm followed by a panel discussion with experts, Gen Z voices, and audience Q & A.

    March 19, 2020 5:30 - 7:30 pm

    Imperfect Democracy: How social inequality has undermined the implementation of our democratic ideals.

    Panelists: Dr. Peter Pihos and Jewell Praying Wolf James

    Moderator: Dr. Kate Destler

    Recognizing that the 19th amendment was a milestone within an ongoing struggle rather than a final victory, this 4-part series will address the broader scope of the struggle for universal suffrage and political agency in the United States.  

    Speakers will address strategies used to exclude portions of the population from participation in democracy, as well as the past experiences and ongoing challenges of marginalized groups in our community.

    The series is co-sponsored by the LWV of Bellingham/Whatcom County, the Whatcom Museum and the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education. 

    Scheduled on the 3rd Thursday evening of the month, March - June, each of the four discussions will include refreshments, a moderated panel of experts and a Q&A session led by a team of young voters who will inherit the world we shape today. 

    Dr. Kate Destler, WWU Political Science professor will moderate each session which will take place on the third Thursday of the month in the Rotunda Room of the Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall.

    Dr. Josh Cerretti, WWU History professor will lead Decolonizing Bellingham walking tours on April 17 and May 22 to enhance the series and highlight issues in our local history.


    • 16 Apr 2020
    • 5:30 PM
    • Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall

    Toward a More Perfect Democracy—Second in a 4-part series exploring the history and future of the struggle for suffrage and political voice.

    Join us for a lively, thought-provoking presentation with an opportunity to ask your questions on the topic. A light meal will be served at 5:30 pm followed by a panel discussion with experts, Gen Z voices, and audience Q & A.

    April 16, 2020 5:30 - 7:30 pm

    Diversity & Demographic Change: How increasing diversity poses challenges and creates opportunities in Bellingham and beyond.

    Panelists: Representative Debra Lekanoff, Sahar Fathi, and Dr. Melina Juarez

    Moderator: Dr. Kate Destler

    Recognizing that the 19th amendment was a milestone within an ongoing struggle rather than a final victory, this 4-part series will address the broader scope of the struggle for universal suffrage and political agency in the United States.  

    Speakers will address strategies used to exclude portions of the population from participation in democracy, as well as the past experiences and ongoing challenges of marginalized groups in our community.

    The series is co-sponsored by the LWV of Bellingham/Whatcom County, the Whatcom Museum and the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education. 

    Scheduled on the 3rd Thursday evening of the month, March - June, each of the four discussions will include refreshments, a moderated panel of experts and a Q&A session led by a team of young voters who will inherit the world we shape today. 

    Dr. Kate Destler, WWU Political Science professor will moderate each session which will take place on the third Thursday of the month in the Rotunda Room of the Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall.

    Dr. Josh Cerretti, WWU History professor will lead Decolonizing Bellingham walking tours on April 17 and May 22 to enhance the series and highlight issues in our local history.


    • 21 May 2020
    • 5:30 PM
    • Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall

    Toward a More Perfect Democracy—Third in a 4-part series exploring the history and future of the struggle for suffrage and political voice.

    Join us for a lively, thought-provoking presentation with an opportunity to ask your questions on the topic. A light meal will be served at 5:30 pm followed by a panel discussion with experts, Gen Z voices, and audience Q & A.

    May 21, 2020 5:30 - 7:30 pm

    Voting Access: Historical and contemporary efforts to combat voter suppression and expand representation.

    Panelists: Dr. Christopher Parker, Carrie Blackwood, Dr. Breanna Weider

    Moderator: Dr. Kate Destler

    Recognizing that the 19th amendment was a milestone within an ongoing struggle rather than a final victory, this 4-part series will address the broader scope of the struggle for universal suffrage and political agency in the United States.  

    Speakers will address strategies used to exclude portions of the population from participation in democracy, as well as the past experiences and ongoing challenges of marginalized groups in our community.

    The series is co-sponsored by the LWV of Bellingham/Whatcom County, the Whatcom Museum and the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education. 

    Scheduled on the 3rd Thursday evening of the month, March - June, each of the four discussions will include refreshments, a moderated panel of experts and a Q&A session led by a team of young voters who will inherit the world we shape today. 

    Dr. Kate Destler, WWU Political Science professor will moderate each session which will take place on the third Thursday of the month in the Rotunda Room of the Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall.

    Dr. Josh Cerretti, WWU History professor will lead Decolonizing Bellingham walking tours on April 17 and May 22 to enhance the series and highlight issues in our local history.


    • 18 Jun 2020
    • 5:30 PM
    • Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall

    Toward a More Perfect Democracy—Fourth in a 4-part series exploring the history and future of the struggle for suffrage and political voice.

    Join us for a lively, thought-provoking presentation with an opportunity to ask your questions on the topic. A light meal will be served at 5:30 pm followed by a panel discussion with experts, Gen Z voices, and audience Q & A.

    Panelists:  Dr. Larry Estrada, Julie Johnson, and Marco Morales

    Moderator: Dr. Kate Destler

    Recognizing that the 19th amendment was a milestone within an ongoing struggle rather than a final victory, this 4-part series will address the broader scope of the struggle for universal suffrage and political agency in the United States.  

    Speakers will address strategies used to exclude portions of the population from participation in democracy, as well as the past experiences and ongoing challenges of marginalized groups in our community.

    The series is co-sponsored by the LWV of Bellingham/Whatcom County, the Whatcom Museum and the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education. 

    Scheduled on the 3rd Thursday evening of the month, March - June, each of the four discussions will include refreshments, a moderated panel of experts and a Q&A session led by a team of young voters who will inherit the world we shape today. 

    Dr. Kate Destler, WWU Political Science professor will moderate each session which will take place on the third Thursday of the month in the Rotunda Room of the Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall.

    Dr. Josh Cerretti, WWU History professor will lead Decolonizing Bellingham walking tours on April 17 and May 22 to enhance the series and highlight issues in our local history.

    • 15 Aug 2020
    • 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM
    • Olympic Cellars Winery, 255410 US-101, Port Angeles, WA 98362

    Music Event-(Band: Cream Tangerine)-LWVCLA Centennial Celebration Finale-Quilt Raffle. See https://olympiccellars.com/summer-concert-series-2/ and https://my.lwv.org/washington/clallam-county/centennial-events-0

Centennial Resources

Your Vote Tabloid

A collaboration between LWVWA and the Spokesman-Review, this tabloid includes a history of the US suffrage movement and useful information on how government in general and the electoral process in particular works in Washington State. Available as an interactive website and as a downloadable PDF.

Op-Ed: "This Women's Equality Day, stop romanticizing the 19th Amendment" by LWV-US CEO Virginia Kase in The Hill, 8/26/2019

A thoughtful meditation on the early fight for women's suffrage, and how that fight frequently prioritized white women's rights over the rights of people of color. She ends this essay with a call to use these lessons of the past to ground our work going forward in a more intersectional approach: "So, as we celebrate this great achievement, we do so with recognition that women’s suffrage was not perfect. Progress towards a more perfect democracy is often messy, but we can’t allow the ends to justify the means, especially if perpetuates oppression. Let us use the lessons of our history to inform our present and our future. Let us seek out ways to ensure all eligible voters have their voices heard and their votes counted."

Votes for (Some) Women: A Timeline

An annotated timeline prepared by Laura Edmonston, Deputy Law Librarian for the Washington State Supreme Court.

LWV-US History

A new, interactive historical timeline highlighting the League’s achievements over our 100-year history.

LWV of Bellingham-Whatcom County: "Find out more: Who got the vote? Who fought for the vote?"

Resource page pulled together by LWV-BC. Includes readings and videos on the history of suffrage in the U.S.

Suffrage Reading List by League of Women Voters of Ohio
Suffrage Discussion List by League of Women Voters of Ohio 



The League of Women Voters of Washington is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization.
The League of Women Voters of Washington Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. LWVWA Education Fund contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. The League of Women Voters Education Fund does not endorse the contents of any web pages to which it links.

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