The Washington Equal Suffrage Association hosts the third evening meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in Seattle on July 3, 1909.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 5/03/2008
  • Essay 8586

On July 3, 1909, members of the Washington Equal Suffrage League host the third evening meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention at Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle. The convention is taking place during Washington's first world's fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (A-Y-P) Exposition, held on the University of Washington campus. The confluence of the widely publicized convention and the world's fair will help win supporters for women's right to vote.

This evening was originally planned as a legislative evening with speeches by sitting members of the state legislature who had supported the suffrage amendment. A special legislative session kept these men in Olympia, however. National American Woman Suffrage Association president, The Reverend Dr. Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919) presided.

Labor, The Grange, and Suffrage History

Alonzo Wardell of the Federation of Labor and a woman representative of the Washington Grange addressed the crowd.

Adella Parker recounted the twisted saga of women's voting rights in Washington. Parker had written an essay on the subject entitled "How Washington Women Lost The Ballot" that was included in The Washington Women's Cook Book, published by the Washington Equal Suffrage Association and sold at their permanent booth at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and through their Seattle office to generate funds and spread the suffrage message into kitchens, pantries, breakfast nooks, and dining rooms across the state.

When Mothers Vote

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted that Anna Howard Shaw showed her "characteristic humor" when she answered questions that had been placed in a question box by audience members:

"'If the men of the country,' said Miss Shaw, 'thought that their wives would vote as they wanted them to, the ballot would be forced upon them before they could think about it.'" In reply a question about women and the church Shaw was quoted as having said, "No, it is not the church that is holding the women down. It is the women that are holding the church down, and if there were no women there would be no church to hold anybody down. To the woman who asks what to do when her church work takes too much of her time to allow her to vote, I will say that if the women took the time to vote there would be no necessity of devoting so much of their time to the church."

"The next question Shaw plucked from the box was "Who will take care of the baby when mother goes to vote?" The newspaper noted that this question appeared in the box five times -- evidently it was a pressing issue for more than one member of that night's crowd. Shaw answered, "I would naturally suppose that a woman would make the same provision for the bay [sic] when she goes to vote that she does when she goes to play bridge whist, or when she goes upon other errands of pleasure or duty; but this can be depended upon -- when the women get the ballot, the candidates who are looking for the mother's vote will make ample provision for the care of the babies" (July 4, 1909).

Sources: "Question Box Yields Fun For Delegates," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 4, 1909. p. 2; "Program Seattle Convention," Progress, June 1909; "The National Convention," Progress, August 1909; Harriet Taylor Upton, "The Seattle Convention," Progress, August 1909; Forty-First Annual Report of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association Held At Seattle, Washington July 1st to 6th, 1909 ed. by Harriet Taylor Upton (Warren, Ohio: The Association, 1909); The History of Woman Suffrage, Vols. 5 and  6, ed. by Ida Husted Harper (New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922); Marte Jo Sheeran, "The Woman Suffrage Issue In Washington, 1890-1910" (master's thesis, University of Washington, May 27, 1977), p. 129; Mary Susan Pacey, "The Breakthrough State: The Washington State Suffrage Campaign of 1906-1910" (master's thesis, University of Washington, June 5, 1978); Washington Women's Cookbook compiled by Linda Deziah Jennings (Seattle: Washington Equal Suffrage Association, ca. 1908; Pots And Politics: An Historical Cookbook, From The Suffragists To The Equal Rights Amendment ed. by Shirlie Kaplan (Tacoma: Washington State Women's Political Caucus, 1976).

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