Clara McCarty is elected superintendent of Pierce County schools on November 2, 1880.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 1/17/2003
  • Essay 5061
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On November 2, 1880, Clara McCarty (1858-1929) is elected superintendent of Pierce County schools. McCarty, still in her early twenties, is the first woman in Pierce County to win elective office. She was also (in 1876) the first college graduate of the University of Washington. McCarty wins this election three years before women in Washington Territory first obtain the right to vote. (Women win and lose the right to vote several times before 1910, when Washington state becomes the fifth state in the nation to enfranchise women.)

McCarty was born in Steilacoom. In 1858, during the treaty wars, her parents had evacuated their home in Sumner for Steilacoom and Clara was born there. She graduated from the Territorial University in 1876, and became certified to teach in Pierce County three years later.

McCarty married John H. Wilt, and declined re-election. The next Pierce County superintendent of schools was also a woman -- Cornelia Greer.


Murray Morgan and Rosa Morgan, South on the Sound: An Illustrated History of Tacoma and Pierce County (Woodland Hills, California: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1984), 63; W. P. Bonney, History of Pierce County, Washington, Vol. 1 (Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1927), p. 421.
Note: The day date of McCarty's election was added on October 17, 2006. .

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