Woman Suffrage Campaign -- Snohomish County (1909-1910)

  • By Margaret Riddle
  • Posted 8/27/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8690
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Grassroots organizing was critical to the 1910 campaign for Washington women's suffrage and Snohomish County played an important part in the event. Most prominent was journalist Missouri Hanna (1856-1926), often called "Mrs. M. T. B. Hanna" of Edmonds, who from 1909 to 1911 edited Votes for Women, the official newspaper of the Washington Equal Suffrage Association. Snohomish County suffrage workers effectively utilized the support of two groups, organized labor and the Grange, to help deliver the 2 to 1 state victory that gave Washington women the vote on November 8, 1910. Also important to the campaign was Ida Noyes McIntyre, M.D. (1859-1932), an important figure in Everett who set up a medical clinic in 1901 and began applying lessons learned from the successful Colorado women's suffrage amendment, a state in which she had been voting for several years.

Winning the Vote for Women

Snohomish County women were prominent in Washington State's campaign for women's suffrage. A major player was Missouri Hanna of Edmonds. Hanna edited and published Votes for Women, a newspaper whose banner declared it  the "Official Organ of the Washington Equal Suffrage Association." The publication ran from 1909 through 1910, operating out of Seattle's Arcade Building, room 323, and included news from suffrage clubs throughout the state plus editorials, cartoons, and political commentary. After the vote was won, the paper continued through 1912 as The New Citizen, focusing on women's issues and endorsing political candidates.

Missouri Hanna was not new to journalism in 1910, having founded the Edmonds Review in 1904, the year she moved to Edmonds. A widow, she had turned to journalism and real estate to support herself and three children. Hanna's passionate and articulate support of women's causes led her to publish Votes for Women. Daughters Florence and Mercy Cleone worked with their mother on The New Citizen.  Florence was in charge of marketing and circulation and, despite an unstated illness that led to her death a few years later, Mercy Cleone served as the paper's assistant editor. Missouri Hanna often editorialized and in the October issue of Votes for Women wrote:

"It is argued that, given the ballot, women will cease to care for the home, leave the meals uncooked, the children uncared for, the buttons strewn while she rushes off to vote. As it only takes about two minutes to perform the function of voting none of the above calamities are likely to happen. We venture to guess that the enfranchised woman can cook and serve a delicious dinner, sew on the buttons, and kiss away the children's tears with the same degree of success and womanliness that she can stand and hang to a strap in the crowded street car while her brother man sits comfortably, reads his paper contentedly and puffs tobacco smoke in her face, serenely oblivious of her presence" (Votes for Women).

Hanna's publication left glimpses of other Snohomish County suffragists. Educators were prominent and included teacher Mary McNamara, who was president of both the Snohomish County and Edmonds Equal Suffrage Clubs and Rainie A. Small, a 14-year veteran teacher in the Snohomish County school district. Small was also county superintendent of schools in 1900, principal of Florence and Edmonds High Schools and a pioneer worker in the Grange movement.

The Everett Front

Everett was a strong center for organized labor and labor officially supported women's suffrage. Women's work was underpaid and thus threatened the jobs of male workers. It was in the interest of working men to eliminate the competition. As a result, labor believed that supporting women's suffrage would help to provide decent working conditions, safety regulations, and the eight-hour work day for all workers. If women had the vote there might be a chance for labor's long-sought equal pay for equal work.

The September 1910 issue of Votes for Women featured the Everett Suffrage Club, which had been one of the most successful in the state at gaining ongoing press coverage. The club reached thousands of readers through regular features in the Everett Daily Herald, the Everett Morning Tribune and the Labor Journal, all published in Everett. Particularly supportive was the Labor Journal with editor Ernest Marsh (1877-1963) and business manager and State Representative John E. Campbell (1880-1924) who, one year later would author and pass an eight-hour workday bill for Washington women.

Representing the Washington Political Equality League, suffragists Mrs. P. P. Stalford and Rose Moore made a statewide trip in October 1910 on which they spoke to unions and asked for their votes in November. Stalford and Moore reported being cordially welcomed everywhere. "Everett" said Stalford, "is the most strongly organized city in the state. Here we noticed that the unions even have their legends on the curtains in the moving picture shows. Their cordiality was genuine, and our visit there was full of pleasure as well as profit for suffrage" (Stalford, Everett Morning Tribune).

Operating from a third-floor room in the new Commerce Block (1801 Hewitt Avenue), Everett Suffrage club members strung a large, conspicuous banner across Hewitt Avenue just before election day with the legend: "Vote for Amendment, Article VI: It Means Votes for Women." Since the official ballot did not include the words "Woman Suffrage," suffragists felt they needed to educate voters on how to mark their ballots. Votes for Women made it clear that the amendment would be placed at the top of the ballot, directly under Instructions for Voting.

Ida Noyes McIntire, M.D. was the Everett Suffrage Club's vice president. She had come to Everett in 1901 to practice medicine and set up a clinic. A dedicated suffragist, McIntire had been able to vote as a Colorado resident. Prior to studying medicine, she worked as a journalist and was very likely the catalyst who gained excellent press coverage for suffrage. McIntire opened her clinic for meetings of the Everett Suffrage Club and was a prominent local speaker. A feature written by her husband, Ex-Governor Albert W. McIntire of Colorado. was published in the August-September 1910 issue of Votes for Women. He wrote of the Colorado campaign, for which he had worked, and told of its positive effects in the governing of that state.

Billy Sunday and the Everett Suffragists

A colorful event captured front-page attention in both of Everett's daily newspapers. On July 5, 1910, Ella M. Russell, president of the Everett Suffrage Club, rose to her feet before 6,500 people in a Billy Sunday crusade in Everett to answer an attack on women's suffrage. The attack came from Rae Muirhead, a Bible speaker with the Sunday campaign. Rae Muirhead opposed women's suffrage and in her testimony that evening said that a woman's role was to teach her sons to vote properly. She also claimed to have received harassing letters from the Everett Suffrage Club.

Ella Russell asked to be heard and when denied, stepped up on a bench in front of the hall and began to speak. Mrs. Muirhead, Ella explained, was a woman of influence whom the suffrage club had written in hopes of gaining her support. Reporting this event in Votes for Women, Missouri Hanna wrote: "This event became the rallying point of an enthusiasm for suffrage which has put Everett in the forefront of the campaign. Mrs. Russell is resourceful, she has rallied about her many able women and many novel schemes have been devised to further the cause of suffrage in Snohomish and adjoining counties" (Votes for Women).

Muirhead was not alone in her thinking. Many prominent women fought women's suffrage, citing passages from the bible which placed women under the authority of men and predicting the downfall of the family and loss of women's special position in society. The Everett Suffrage Club spoke directly to a city of industries in the Labor Journal of November 4, 1910:

"If You Were a Girl Worker"

"No woman in silks and satins, whose only care is how she may keep her social light burning brighter than her rival's has any right to stand in the way of the rights of the woman who toils." And regarding widows with children who often lost not only the breadwinner but their inheritance when death intruded, the writer continued, "No woman, whose home interests are well cared for, has any right to stand in the way of the rights of the woman who has carried her mate to the grave" (Labor Journal).

The 1910 campaign was well organized and on November 8, 1910, Washington women won the vote and kept it. Speaking at a victory party, Dr. Ida McIntire expressed her delight with the win, but also stated that she felt running for political office as a woman would still be years in the future. Washington State suffragists now turned their attention to women's issues and used their new political power to help elect and defeat candidates. Ten years later, on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America gave women the right to vote nationally.

Sources: "Equal Franchise Campaign Opens," The Labor Journal, May 6, 1909, p. 2; "Equal Suffragists Are Spreading Propaganda," Ibid., August 12, 1910, p. 1; "Women Need Broadening," Ibid., August 19, 1910, p. 1; Everett Suffrage Club, "Women Do Need Vote: And Working Girls Need it Worst of All to Relieve Intolerable Conditions," Ibid., October 7, 1910, p. 1; "Says Unions Are Back of Suffrage: Mrs. P. P. Stalford Discusses Several Weeks Spent on Coast in Interests of Women, Everett Is Most Strongly Organized City in State," Everett Morning Tribune, October 12, 1910, p. 1 (originally published in the Spokane Spokesman-Review); Everett Suffrage Club, "If You Were a Girl Worker," Ibid., November 4, 1910, p. 1; "The Everett Suffrage Club," Votes for Women, September 1910, pp. 5, 22; "The Everett Suffrage Club," Votes for Women, October, 1910, p. 22; "Ex-Governor McIntire on Suffrage," Ibid., August-September 1910, p. 9; "Suffragist Asks To Be Heard" and "Tells Story of Her Life: Mrs. Muirhead Describes Personal Experiences To a Large Audience," Everett Daily Herald, p. 1-2; "Mrs. Muirhead Tells Her Story" and "Suffragette Asks Chance to Speak," Everett Morning Tribune, p. 1; "If You Were a Girl Worker," Labor Journal, November 4, 1910; T. A. Larson, "The Woman Suffrage Movement in Washington," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol. 67, No. 2 (April 1976), 49-62; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Women's Suffrage Campaign, 1848-1920" (by Mildred Andrews) and "Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Western Washington" (by Mildred Andrews), http://www.historylink.org (accessed June 15, 2008); Lloyd Spencer and Lancaster Pollard, A History of the State of Washington, Vol. 4 (New York: American Historical Society, 1937), pp. 776-777.

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