100 years later, women are proud of the right to vote

  • Sun Oct 3rd, 2010 11:08am
  • News

By Gale Fiege Herald Writer

Olivia Curnett, 14, a freshman at Arlington High School, doesn’t want to wait much longer to elect the first female president of the United States.

Last spring, her final history project at Post Middle School focused on women and the right to vote.

She was honored by the county League of Women Voters and the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Association for her research. During her studies, Olivia was surprised to find out that women in Washington have been voting only for 100 years.

“I would not want to be treated like women were back then,” she said. “The whole thing is astonishing because women are just as equal as men.”

With only four years to go until she votes for the first time, Olivia is excited.

“A lot of girls my age don’t care about this stuff, but they don’t realize how important it is,” she said. “It’s time for a woman in the White House. I don’t see why most of our former presidents were old white guys.”

Grace Wilcox Bargreen Parsons of Everett is 101 years old and still outspoken about politics.

Parsons doesn’t remember stories about her mother voting 100 years ago. By the time she was old enough to notice, everyone just voted, she said.

“My mother and father were very informed. We always took the newspaper because we wanted to know what was going on in the world,” Parsons said. “My parents stressed the importance of voting.”

After college, she taught music in Arlington schools, and then met and married businessman Howard Bargreen of Everett. During the Great Depression, Grace supported Howard in his political endeavors, culminating in his election to the state Senate in the 1950s.

“He was a moderate Democrat and one of the best state senators we’ve ever had,” Parsons said.

Though now a Republican, Parsons said she believes people can work together to achieve the best for society. And women are a big part of that, she said.

“Women make better politicians. They are more caring, can see the broader picture and don’t get into quarrels as much,” she said.

Parsons said she is looking forward to voting next month. She always does.

Michelle Valentine, 60, a Mukilteo pharmacist, is the current president of the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County.

“To move forward, we have to periodically look back,” Valentine said. “The centennial of women’s suffrage in this state is a good time to take stock. It’s easy to forget if you’ve never been without the right to vote. We need to honor the people who suffered so all of us can vote.”

Begun in the 1950s in the county, the League of Women Voters continues to host candidate and issue forums, produce the “They Represent You” public official information booklets and promote civil discussion and voter education.

“There’s a lot of excitement over this 100-year-anniversary among our members,” Valentine said. “The league has been and continues to be a training ground for women who want to make things happen.”

Stephanie Kermgard, 27, of Lynnwood is the Associated Student Body president at Everett Community College.

A Navy veteran, wife and mother, she is interested in pursuing a career in international affairs, with probable stops at a four-year university and law school.

Like many young people, she entered the Navy in order to see the world and earn some money for college.

“I was immediately impressed by the women serving in the military. There was pride in serving my country, but also pride in serving as a female,” Kermgard said. “This goes back to the struggles of suffrage for women. It shows what women have achieved.”

A native Washingtonian, Kermgard said she also is proud that her state led by example and was among the first five states to grant suffrage to women.

“I hope that as a mother, I set a good example to my daughter,” Kermgard “I want her to know that women are strong, capable and influential. Voting is the first step in that. I want her to know it’s absolute privilege and an honor.”