Elected Women of Washington
After Women's Suffrage was enacted in the state in 1910, Washington’s first women
legislators were elected in 1912 and served in the 1913 State Legislature. Washington
has consistently been in the top five states for percentage of women legislators
and from 1993 to 2004 led the nation in percentage of Women State Legislators, and
in 1999 and 2000 boasted a record-breaking 40.8 percent of the House and Senate.
In 2010, 240 women have served in the Washington State Legislature since 1913.
Elected Women of Washington Biographies
The WHC has collected biographies for trailblazing elected women in Washington. Biographical sketches and links to additional resources are available for Frances Axtell and Nena J. Croake, the first two women elected to the Washington State Legislature; Anna Colwell and Frances Haskell, who were female legislators when then 19th amendment was ratified; and pioneer African American legislators Vivian Caver, Rosa Franklin, Marjorie Pitter King, Dawn Mason, and Peggy Maxie.
Governors Papers Related to Women's Issues 1904-1984
Washington State Archives
Governor Dixy Lee Ray was Washington's first woman governor, and advocates of women's
issues had high hopes for progress during her administration. Governor Ray, however,
proved not to be a stauch supporter, abolishing the Women's Council in 1977. The
Governors Papers Related to Women's Issues 1904-1984 Collection, depicts the turbulent struggle over the Equal Rights
Amendment and the Women's Council.
The Papers of Catherine May Bedell
The Catherine May Bedell Papers were acquired by the Washington
State University Library in February 1971. A gift of Mrs. May, the collection
was transferred to the Library from her office and the National Archives and Records
Service facility at Washington, D.C. The collection consists of approximately 400,000
items in 558 containers and constitutes the Congressional office files of Mrs. May
during her tenure as United States Representative from the Fourth Congressional
District of Washington, between 1959 and 1970. (See finding aid,
Washington State Legislature Oral History
The Washington State Legislature Oral History project documents and preserves the history of the Legislature by recording the recollections of key members of the Washington House of Representatives and Senate. Oral histories available online include Former 36th District State Representative Helen Sommers and Former 16th District State Representative/Senator and Majority/Minority Leader Jeannette Hayner.
The Women's History Consortium digitized the book
Political Pioneers. In the early 1980s, Elected Washington Women, The Washington Commission for the Humanities, and the Washington State Senate funded a study of Washington's female political pioneers. The resulting book offers biographical sketches of the ninety-eight women who served in the Washington State Legislature prior to 1982. The book also includes an essay entitled "The Women Lawmakers" by Kathryn M. Hinsch.
Nancy Rust, Washington State Representative, 1981-1996
Nancy Rust's involvement in the King County League of Women Voters sparked her involvement in state government. Rust's interest in environmental issues and governmental reform got her noticed by women legislators who encouraged her to run for public office.
Rust served as a Washington State Representative from 1981-1996. Rust participated in two oral histories:
In 1983, Rust was interviewed by Elected Women of Washington (EWW) as part of a research project that examined the lives of the women who served in the Washington State Legislature. View the 1983 oral history transcript.
Rust was interviewed again between 2008 and 2009 by oral historian Maria McLeod. The interviews were an eightieth birthday gift from her family, who wanted to provide a way for Rust to share her stories about her path to the legislature, her terms in office, and her activities afterward.
43 years in public office, Julia Butler Hansen
During her 43 years in public office, Julia Butler Hansen became one of the
greatest political figures Washington has ever known. This
WHC profile presents a brief biographical introduction and points visitors
to numerous resources available for further study.
African American Women Legislators