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A Glimpse at Some of Washington's Earliest Women Voters

These pages of the Second Ward, City of Tacoma Voters Register list numerous women's names alongside their male counterparts. Washington State Archives. Tacoma 2nd Ward Voter Registration Records from 1885-1889.

The women of Washington State had a complicated route to the right to vote, and the Tacoma 2nd Ward Voter Registration Records from 1885-1889 illustrates part of that journey.

In 1854, just 6 years after Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton began the women’s suffrage movement, Washington women almost gained the right to vote. They would have been the first state or territory to do so, but the proposal lost by one vote in the Territorial Legislature. After this loss, the legislature publicly declared that Washington women would never gain the right to vote. However, things changed after Susan B. Anthony and Abigail Scott Duniway toured the Oregon and Washington territories in 1871 and inspired a wave of activism with the women of the Northwest. For twelve years women protested and pressured territorial leaders for the ability to vote. In 1883, a bill finally passed that gave white women the right to vote--only to have that right taken away in 1887.

The image above, from 1886, is a glimpse of that short period of time when women could vote in the Washington Territory. Women are registered right alongside men. It was not until 1910 when Washington women finally and permanently gained the right to vote. Check out the Olympia, City of, Register of Voters, 1872-1890 to see more early Washington women voters.

Written by Brianna Humphreys