Frances C. Axtell

Francis Axtell
Frances Axtell, courtesy Washington State Archives.

Quick Facts

  • Birth: June 12, 1866, Rock Falls/Sterling, Illinois
  • Death: April 1, 1953, Seattle, Washington
  • Party Affiliation: Republican
  • Years Served: 1913-1915
  • Office: Representative
  • District: 54 (Whatcom County)


Wrote several articles on “What Women are Thinking and Doing”

Married to Dr. William Axtell, an early Bellingham physician, who died in 1927. The couple had two daughters.


DePauw University graduate, 1889

Community Service

Active in civic affairs and club work in Bellingham


Kappa Alpha Theta member

University Presbyterian Church

Woman’s Century Club

Legislative and State Service

Illustration of Frances C. Axtell
Illustration of Frances C. Axtell, WSHS Collections.

One of two women first elected to the Washington State Legislature

Focused on minimum wage legislation, public safety issues and worker’s rights

Promoted initiative, referendum and recall measures

Committees: (1913) Appropriations; Corporations other than Municipal and Railroads; Education; State University; Water and Water Rights other than Irrigation

House Bills sponsored: (1913 session)

  • 19-Amending section 2457, Remington & Ballinger’s Code, defining the crime of adultery. Reported out of committee and died.
  • 20-Amending subdivision 3, section 2436, Remington & Ballinger’s Code, relating to carnal knowledge of children. Reported out of committee and died.
  • 21-Changing the rule of evidence in cases of crime against morality and repealing section 2443, Remington & Ballinger’s Code. Signed by Governor Lister.
  • 353-Relating to construction of a woman’s building for the University of Washington. Never went to first reading.
  • 472-Relating to the appointment of members of the state board of control. Went to first reading.
  • 626-Relating to city health officers. Went to first reading.

Leadership, Positions, and Appointments

Ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the U.S. House from District 2 in 1916

Ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the nomination for U.S. Senate in 1922

Ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the U.S. House from District 2 in 1926

Vice-Chairman of the United States Employees’ Compensation Commission in Washington, D.C. from 1917 to 1921. Appointed by President Wilson, she was the first woman named by any president for such a federal position. She assisted in fixing the minimum wage for women in mercantile establishments.

Acting chairman of the Washington State La Follette-Wheeler campaign, 1924


Biography courtesy of the Washington Office of the Secretary of State.


  • “Funeral Rites Set for Mrs. W.H. Axtell,” Seattle Daily Times, April 2, 1953.
  • “Thinks Women Can Make Guns for Soldiers,” Seattle Times, July 1, 1917.
  • “World News About Women,” The Women Citizen, November 1, 1924, vol. 9, num. 10, 22-23.
  • Binheim, Max and Charles A. Elvin. Women of the West. Publishers Press, Los Angeles, 1928
  • Hughes, Agnes L, “Interesting Westerners,” Sunset, The Pacific Monthly, November 1917, vol. 39, num. 5.


See the results of the 1916 Washington General Election for U.S. Congressional District 2, the 1922 Washington U.S. Senate Primary, and the 1926 Washington General Election for U.S. Congressional District 2 in which Frances Axtell unsucessfully ran for office. Courtesy Washington State Archives.

Biography, "Time and Tide," written by Frances Axtell Graves. Courtesy of Axtell family.

Biography on Frances Axtell, as part of Women Wielding Power: Pioneer Female State Legislators presentation, National Women's History Museum.

"Cartoonist Reynolds, At Olympia, Sketches Some Representatives, Masculine and Feminine, and Some Other Folks." Political cartoon by Edward S. "Tige" Reynolds, The Oregonian, January 26, 1913.

Exhibit, "Moving Forward, Looking Back: Washington's First Women in Government." Includes Frances Axtell biography. From The Washington State Heritage Center.

HistoryLink essay, "Axtell, Frances (1866-1953)"

Frances Axtell's Legacy Award citation from the Bellingham YWCA Northwest Women's Hall of Fame.

Speech by Frances Axtell, homecoming luncheon, November 13, 1948.

"Washington's New Political Boss - A Woman!," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 29, 1912.

"Wild Race In 90's On Injun Pony Won Boom Lots For Our Village Teacher," The Lynden Tribune, June 5, 1952, pg. 1.