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That time Washington gave women the vote & then took it away

Women won the right to vote in Washington in 1883 but lost it in 1888

Whatever you think of the 2016 Presidential election and whatever you think of the candidates (we’re sure you’ve got opinions), it’s hard to argue with the impact that women voters are likely to have on Election Day.

Just look at the jarring different between women and men per recent FiveThirtyEight numbers when it comes to who is voting for Donald Trump.

In other words, women are probably going to swing this election. It brings to mind the origins of the female vote in the United States and the role that Washington played in that history.

Washington didn’t become a state until 1889 but there was a push for women’s suffrage all the way back in 1854. Seattle's Arthur Denny (THAT Denny) actually proposed a bill at the inaugural session of the Washington Legislature to "allow all white women over the age of 18 years to vote." The measure was defeated that year by one solitary vote. Perhaps realizing that they would be likely to win the right the next time around, the Territorial Legislature mandated soon after that "no female shall have the right of ballot or vote."

Fast-forward to 1871. Susan B. Anthony and Abigail Scott Duniway are making headway in their crusade to win the women’s vote. Things got a bump in 1877 when women were allowed to vote in school board elections for the first time. Interest for women voters peaked in 1883, led by Eastern Washington farmers who thought women voters would help “clean up the morals of the territory.” Finally in 1883, a Territorial Legislature bill was passed giving women the right to vote. Territory elections in 1884 actually had higher turnout from women than men, which in turn helped to get dubious government officials tied up in gambling and booze voted out of office.

Victory! Well...

Real or perceived, powerful people with gambling and alcohol interests feared that women would continue to harm their businesses and, in turn, harm the territory’s chances to become a state. In 1888, the Territorial Supreme Court ruled the suffrage law void thanks to a sneaky technicality.

A bizarre challenge came from Nevada Bloomer, a Spokane saloonkeeper's wife. Bloomer, who opposed suffrage, arranged to have her ballot rejected by precinct judges in a municipal election, then proceeded to sue them. On August 14, 1888, the territorial Supreme Court ruled the suffrage law void because Congress had not intended to give the territories authority to enfranchise women. When suffragists raised $5,000 to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, Bloomer refused to cooperate. Without her as plaintiff, there could be no appeal. Bloomer sided with the saloon lobby, which opposed suffrage.

Another bill was attempted in 1889 but that would be defeated thanks to a powerful opposition. Washington would go on to become a state in 1889.

It wasn’t until 1910 when years of more protest finally paid off with an overwhelming voter approval, making Washington the fifth state in the United States where women could vote. Ten years later the 19th Amendment was ratified and women everywhere could cast their vote in America.