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Women’s History Month: Washington women lead the way

Women's History Month 2021

The Seattle region has no shortage of mold-breaking, earth-shaking, history-making women. Our city is better for their strength and innovation, and so are we. This Women’s History Month, we’re helping pass the baton from historical and present-day leaders to the women who will shape the future.

Rev. Phyllis R. Beaumonte and the Seattle World’s Fair

Born and raised in Seattle, Rev. Phyllis R. Beaumonte is a familiar face at Mount Zion Baptist Church where she’s an archivist and reverend. But did you know she was the first African American to work for the Seattle World’s Fair? The self-described adventurer threw her hat in the ring for a job with the Century 21 Exposition preparation team and was made manager of advanced ticket sales which grossed over $4 million before opening day!

Felicia Gonzalez holds onto heritage

As a small child, Felicia Gonzalez would not let go of a doll a military official tried to take from her hands as she and her family left Cuba for the United States. Today, she will not let go of the heritage that doll represents. From grueling English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in elementary school to her poetry and writing as an adult, Gonzalez explains the key role language plays in her identity.

“Just beyond my vision”: Barbara Earl Thomas’ art taps heritage & history

Barbara Earl Thomas lives in a creative state. She believes “life is what happens when you get past a plan” and lets her paintings guide her rather than assuming she knows how they’ll turn out. Her works have graced public and private collections around the country, and she says each one is a conversation between her and the viewer.

Melinda Gates believes women are key to a healthy society

Philanthropist, businesswoman, and author Melinda Gates says girls and women are the key to societal health. She joined Book Lust host Nancy Pearl at the opening of the 2019 American Library Association’s Midwinter meeting to talk about her book “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World” and lay out an action plan for a healthier society.

Seattle’s first woman mayor set a nationwide precedent

Bertha Knight Landes became the first woman mayor of a major American city in 1926. She made waves with her progressive platform, and enemies with her crackdown on corruption. This video from the archives gives a glimpse into her ascent to the mayorship and her efforts to empower other women to seek public office after she left.

Keepers of the Dream: Seattle Women Black Panthers

Did you know the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP) was the first outside of California? This series of five short documentaries uncovers the often-overlooked perspective of the women in the BPP. Their stories began scattered across the country, but converged in the name of one cause: racial justice.

Dr. Ruby: “The Original Superwoman”

The late great Dr. Ruby Inouye Shu was the first Japanese American woman physician in Seattle. But early in her life, Ruby was forced behind barbed wire in an incarceration camp during World War II. She would go on to deliver more than 1,000 babies, and was a driving force in creating a nursing home for elderly Japanese Americans that catered to their specific cultural needs. Those who knew her say her generosity came from a genuine joy in giving.

High voltage women

Ten women entered the electrical trades at Seattle City Light 47 years ago. Male coworkers resented them, harassed them, and even put them in physical danger. When leadership tried to fire them three months into the job, they fought back and won. Their courage and perseverance paved the way for what is now a far healthier work environment for every Seattle City Light employee.

Suffragist Katherine Smith fought for Washington’s women

Katherine Smith lost the right to vote in 1904 when she moved from Colorado, where women had been voting since 1893, to Alki, where women could not make their voices heard at the ballot box. She lit a fire under activists and politicians and played one of the largest roles in Washington’s women’s suffrage movement. Her opponents slung threats and resentment her way throughout the battle but were never able to beat her down; she took the fight to other states and the federal government after the Washington win.

Practice like you play

Heather Tarr achieved her wildest dream when she became head softball coach at University of Washington. She led the team to a national title, currently has more wins than any coach in UW history, and earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic Softball coaching team.

Remembering Cheryl Chow: Seattle City Council’s principled principal

Public service was in the air and in the water for Cheryl Chow. She came from a family dedicated to public service, including her mother Ruby Chow, who was the first Asian American elected to the King County Council. From early on in her career, Cheryl worked tirelessly for Seattleites, first as a teacher, then as a principal, and as a basketball and Chinese drill team coach. She went on to be elected to the Seattle City Council, serving on the governing body from 1990-1997.