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 (UTC-08:00)
    • 15 Aug 2020
    • 7:00 PM (UTC-07:00)
    • 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.


    • 18 Jun 2020
    • 5:30 PM (UTC-07:00)
    • 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.

    • 08 Aug 2020
    • 6:30 PM (UTC-07:00)
    • Hanford House (Richland)

    LWVB-F will hold a banquet honoring local women who have contributed to our lives.  Women Power the Vote banquet will include a guest speaker, entertainment, the announcement of the winners for our Your Vote is Our Future essay contest for high school students and drawing the winner of our centennial quilt, a fundraising project.

     

    • 15 Aug 2020
    • 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM (UTC-07:00)
    • 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.

League of Women Voters of the United States

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