Lawmakers Project Celebrated 70 Years of Elected Washington Women

The traveling exhibit Political Pioneers: The Women Lawmakers celebrated 82 women elected to legislative positions between 1912 and 1982 and traveled to over 30 locations around our state.

Six of the women lawmakers featured in the project. Left to Right: Margaret Hurley, Gladys Kirk, Lorraine Wojahn, Doris Johnson, Lois North, Geraldine McCormick and Peggy Jo Maxie

Six of the women featured in Political Pioneers: The Women Lawmakers. Left to Right: State Senator Margaret Hurley, State Representaitves Gladys Kirk, Lorraine Wojahn, Doris Johnson, State Senator Lois North, and State Representatives Geraldine McCormick and Peggy Jo Maxie

Humanities Washington is celebrating our 40th anniversary with 40 Years of Washington Stories. Each week on Spark, we’ll offer a snapshot from our past, sharing forty years of stories that have helped shape the humanities in Washington state.

Washington’s percentage of women state legislators was the second highest in the country by 1982, but it still sat at just 24%. In order to celebrate the contribution that women lawmakers had made in the past, and to encourage support for even greater female political participation in the future, Elected Washington Women partnered with Humanities Washington to produce a project entitled Political Pioneers: The Women Lawmakers.

Project director Katherine Hinsch oversaw the collection of hundreds of hours worth or oral histories, preserving the stories of 82 of the 98 women elected to legislative positions between 1912 and 1982. In addition to producing a bound volume that profiled each of these women, a traveling exhibit visited over 30 locations around Washington state. Composed of photographs and interview excerpts from Washington’s women lawmakers, the exhibition drew over 50,000 visitors. The volume that was released alongside the exhibit has been digitized, and can be viewed here.

The project celebrated the struggles and achievements of the women lawmakers, and encouraged discussion of a group of women who were forced to deal with the myriad challenges of a male-dominated political environment. In his introduction to the project, Dr. Thomas B. Rainey of the Evergreen State College wrote the following:

“Elected Washington women today, indeed all citizens of our state, owe a debt of gratitude to the women whose political lives are chronicled in this collection…. Their political lives should be an inspiration to us all.”

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