The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

Library Corner


Last updated 2/12/2020 at 3:54pm

The Library District is throwing on a party hat for 2020, a big year for celebration.

It’s the centennial of women in the U.S. gaining the right to vote. The 19th Amendment was ratified Aug. 18, 1920, and added the words: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” to the constitution.

As Washingtonians, our foremothers led that fight and secured our voting rights a decade before in 1910.

The women’s fight to become enfranchised is long and dates back to the formation of the Washington Territory.

In 1854, Arthur Denny made the first proposal for woman’s suffrage in the territorial Legislature. This was only six years after the famous Seneca Falls Convention, where suffragists and abolitionists like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Frederick Douglass signed onto the “Declaration of Sentiments” demanding that women be the social and political equal of white men.

Denny’s territorial bill failed by one vote and Washington missed the opportunity to become the first state to enfranchise its women.

However, we became the second state to grant voting rights to women in 1883 thanks to a concerted effort from Susan B. Anthony and Oregon’s Abigail Scott Duniway.

That only lasted four years before the territorial courts overturned the law in 1887 in the run-up to statehood. It would be another 23 years before the women of Washington would regain their rights and women like Emma Smith Devoe and May Arkwright Hutton would seal their legacies as mothers of the Pacific Northwest movement.

Our library is celebrating 100 years of voting rights for American women with a free presentation thanks to the Votes for Women Grant funded by the Washington State Historical Society and the Washington Women’s History Consortium.

Contact me at [email protected] if you have a class or organization that would like to learn more.

Not only do I delve further into the history of suffrage in Washington, I also focus on some interesting women in Adams County who participated in the movement.

As we celebrate the right of women to vote, we also want to remind readers that 2020 is a great year for everyone to stand up and be counted as part of our 23rd national census. The first national Census was in 1790. Since then, historians and genealogists have long treasured the wealth of Census information.

The American Library Association has partnered with the Census Bureau to provide support for the first-ever largely online census. Our staff can answer any questions you may have; we also have computers available to complete the survey.

Come celebrate an exciting year of voting and enumeration and history at the library.

— Morgane Plager Roth is the local history library assistant. Email her at [email protected]


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