Four Snohomish county women who fought for the vote

  • Sun Oct 3rd, 2010 11:09am
  • News

By Gale Fiege Herald Writer

The grass-roots efforts of women in Snohomish County were important to the success of the suffrage movement in the state of Washington.

Mrs. P.P. Stalford, a member of the statewide Washington Political Equality League, told an Everett reporter in October 1910 that, “Everett is the most strongly organized city in the state.”

Among the women who worked hard for the vote in the county were journalist Missouri Hanna, physician Ida Noyes McIntire, educator Rainie Small and Everett Suffrage Club president Ella M. Russell.

Russell and her fellow suffragists had a third-floor office in the Commerce Building at Hewitt and Rockefeller avenues in downtown Everett, where they conducted a busy campaign for the right to vote.

In the summer of 1910, Russell attended a Billy Sunday crusade in town. A well-known Christian evangelist of the day, Sunday was accompanied in his touring crusade by fellow Christian speaker Rae Muirhead.

In Everett, Muirhead told the crowd of about 6,500 people that she opposed women’s suffrage because she believed a woman’s role was to teach her sons to vote properly. She wasn’t alone in her opinion. Many women held the belief that the right to vote would mean the downfall of the family home.

Muirhead claimed she had received harassing letters from the Everett Suffrage Club. Russell asked if she might answer Muirhead’s accusations.

Denied the opportunity, Russell went ahead and stood on a bench in the front of the hall and told the crowd that she had written to Muirhead, an influential Christian woman, only in hopes of gaining her support for suffrage in the state.

The next day, the exchange was on the front page of the Everett Daily Herald and was seen as an event that strengthened enthusiasm in the county for the movement.

• The vice president of the Everett Suffrage Club was Dr. Ida Noyes McIntire, who had come to Everett from Colorado in 1901 to practice medicine. Many female physicians were for suffrage in part because they felt health issues would be improved.

She also was a popular speaker and one who worked hard for press coverage of the suffrage movement. She wrote a column on suffrage for the Everett Daily Herald.

Her husband, a former governor of Colorado, also wrote for local publications about how women voting in Colorado had a positive influence on politics in that state.

• In their essay for the Snohomish County Women’s Legacy Project, “Women’s Stories, Women’s Lives,” Margaret Riddle and Louise Lindgren wrote that Missouri Hanna was a major player in the local suffrage movement.

Hanna, a widow with two daughters, had started the Edmonds Review newspaper in 1904. A few years later she began publishing Votes for Women, a newsmagazine circulated widely in the state.

“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,” Hanna wrote in her publication. “As it only takes about two minutes to perform the function of voting, none of the above calamities are likely to happen.”

• Hanna also wrote about her fellow Snohomish County suffragists.

Among them was veteran teacher, principal and Snohomish County School Superintendent Rainie A. Small,who knew a lot of people and spent time campaigning for suffrage in the farming communities of the county.

Because education was in the accepted sphere of women and the home, many teachers were women and suffragists.

Photos courtesy of the Everett Public Library.