Editorials

Votes for women! A giant celebration

A huge celebration in Olympia is scheduled Sunday and Monday to celebrate 100 years of women's suffrage in Washington.

In 1910, Washington finally got it right and allowed women the vote to which they had always been entitled -- except by law.

Washington was the first state in the 20th century and the fifth in the United States to grant women's suffrage.

But early as that was, Nov. 8, 1910, wasn't the first attempt to extend voting rights to Washington's women.

After all, Susan B. Anthony traveled out here when we still were a territory, suffering ridicule along the way and condemnation from the local paper when she reached Walla Walla for a speech.

Actually, according to Secretary of State Sam Reed's website, in 1854, Washington nearly became the first state or territory to grant women's suffrage.

But the proposal was defeated in the Legislature by a single vote.

Following that, in an attempt to crush the woman's suffrage movement, the territorial Legislature mandated that "no female shall have the right of ballot or vote."

This had followed Anthony and Abigail Scott Duniway leading a voting rights crusade in 1871 through Washington and Oregon.

Reed's site says, "Due to the group's constant protesting and pushing, full voting rights were given to women in 1883 by a bill that passed through the territorial Legislature.

"But in 1887, the territorial Supreme Court overturned that law. Another was passed in 1888 but also was overturned.

"This happened because women voters were making sales of liquor more difficult with their votes, and the state's liquor lobby had fought hard to remove their voting rights.

"In light of this opposition, some activists chose to emphasize the contributions of women workers to the community, and finally, in 1910, the Washington State Constitution was permanently amended to grant women the right to vote."

Washington's decision was a precursor to ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, with the words, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of Sex."

Some local celebrations of the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in Washington state already have been held in the Tri-Cities but nothing approaching the blow-out in Olympia.

Sunday and Monday (especially Monday) many government offices will be open for speeches, role-playing, a white-handkerchief-waving march (one of the Suffragists' symbols), brown-bag lunches, music, tribal dancers and vintage automobiles.

If you want more information on the day's events or more historical background, check the secretary of state's website: sos.wa.gov.

It's going to be quite a party.

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