A Particularly Interesting Women’s History Month

Posted March 4, 2020 at 5:48 am by

Gladys Guard Madden 1888-1978 (Photo circa 1910)

Here’s this month’s his­to­ry col­umn from the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and Muse­um

Our March his­to­ry columns gen­er­al­ly fea­ture one or more of our community’s women, as March 8 is Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day and the entire month is known as Women’s His­to­ry Month.

This year marks two sig­nif­i­cant, nation­al lev­el Cen­ten­ni­als in our his­to­ry where women were at the fore­front: the pas­sage of the 19th Amend­ment to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and the estab­lish­ment of the League of Women Vot­ers, both which occurred in 1920.

It was Feb­ru­ary 14 for the League, a non­par­ti­san civic orga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to edu­cate cit­i­zens and mobi­lize vot­er par­tic­i­pa­tion, and August 26 for the sign­ing into law of the 19th Amend­ment which guar­an­teed women’s suffrage.

The road to nation­al women’s suf­frage – the right to vote – was a long one, going back to the first Women’s Rights Con­ven­tion in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York.

To put the focus on San Juan Island, we con­sult­ed the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Museum’s archived issues of the two local news­pa­pers in exis­tence dur­ing the ear­ly 1900s. 

The cam­paign for women’s suf­frage was active here local­ly in 1909 and 1910, dur­ing the time the Wash­ing­ton state leg­is­la­ture was con­sid­er­ing a statewide mea­sure. There were news­pa­per edi­to­ri­als for and against, and arti­cles about debates. Pic­tured above in this cir­ca 1910 por­trait is Gladys Guard Mad­den (1888–1978), one of two peo­ple cho­sen by the Dis­trict Boost­ers’ Club to debate in favor of “Resolved, That Women Shall Vote.” Also rep­re­sent­ing the affir­ma­tive view­point was Andrew Hansen. Speak­ing against the pro­pos­al were Josephine Tuck­er and Edward King. The debate took place on August 21, 1909 when Gladys was 21 years old and not yet mar­ried to Ray Madden.

Ear­li­er in the year, the Fri­day Har­bor High School Lit­er­ary Club also pre­sent­ed a debate on the top­ic of women’s suf­frage. Speak­ing in favor were Frances Mullis and Eve­lyn Cul­ver. Speak­ing against it were Harold Broder and Claire Tift. Both sides seemed to be some­what equal­ly rep­re­sent­ed over­all in island news­pa­per edi­to­ri­als and let­ters to the edi­tor, although the Fri­day Har­bor Jour­nal leaned toward more con­ser­v­a­tive views while the San Juan Islander rep­re­sent­ed more lib­er­al views. Ulti­mate­ly, the San Juan Coun­ty vote tal­ly in the Novem­ber 1910 elec­tion was 278 votes in favor of pas­sage and 140 votes against.

Wash­ing­ton became the fifth state to grant women the right to vote in 1910, and it marked a nation­al turn­ing point for the even­tu­al pas­sage into law of the 19th Amend­ment in 1920. In this year of 2020, we cel­e­brate its Cen­ten­ni­al. What a long road it’s been.

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Categories: History, People

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