Evangeline Starr becomes King County's second female Justice of the Peace in 1941.

  • By HistoryLink Staff
  • Posted 12/09/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2879
In 1941, Evangeline Starr becomes King County's second female Justice of the Peace. She had worked as a prosecuting attorney before being appointed to the bench. She serves seven elective four-year terms until her retirement in 1971.

Starr was a longtime advocate of equal rights for women. In 1963, she presented a report to the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women that pointed out the inequality between men and women in many of Washington state’s existing laws. For example, a woman could serve on a jury but was not required to do so, and she could claim an exemption solely on the basis of gender. A wife could not transfer stocks without her husband’s signature, although her signature was not required on his stock transfers. A married woman could not sue for personal injuries unless her husband was a party to the suit. Women could marry at 18, but men had to wait until they were 21.

She was a member of the Commission on the Status of Women from 1961 through 1969, serving under Governors Albert D. Rosellini (1910-2011) and Daniel Evans (b. 1925). In 1970, the Seattle Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) was organized in her chambers, after business hours. Starr was also active in the American Association of University Women, the Washington State Federation of Women’s Clubs, Traveler’s Aid, the Phi Delta Delta legal fraternity, and the Business and Professional Women’s Club (serving as president of the Seattle chapter in 1934-36).

Starr was appointed to the bench as a replacement for Reah Mary Whitehead, Washington’s first woman judge, who defeated nine male candidates for election as justice of the peace in 1914 and went on to hold that position for 27 years. Starr served the judicial system for 29 years, first as a justice of the peace and then, when the district court system was created to replace justices of the peace in 1963, as a Seattle District Court judge. She retired in 1970.

Sources: Mildred Tanner Andrews, Woman's Place: A Guide to Seattle and King County History (Seattle: Gemil Press, 1994), 216-217; Mary Bridge, unpublished history of the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, May 2003 (http://icsew.wa.gov/meetings/200305Begin.pdf); Debra Hannula, “District Court Seat is a Woman’s Place,” Washington Women Lawyers Website accessed August 12, 2004 (http://www.wwl.org/articles/court_seat.html).
Note: This essay was revised on August 29, 2004.

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