Walking Tour

The City of Olympia Women’s History Walking Tour map marks important women's history sites in Olympia, Washington. The map was developed by WHC staff thanks to a partnership with Olympia Heritage Commission.

How to Use the Map:

To move along the map, click and drag your mouse left, right, up or down, or use the directional arrows at the top left of the map. To zoom in or out, click on the + or - buttons at the top left of the map. Click on the blue placemarkers to view information about locations. Locations with lengthy information have scrollbars in their pop-up windows. Scroll up and down to read information. To see a full-browser sized map with a list of site names, click on "View City of Olympia Walking Tour in a larger map" below.

View City of Olympia Women’s History Walking Tour in a larger map

Although women have always been part of the history of our area, their contributions have not always been evident in written accounts. Women’s roles in their homes or behind the scenes are often overlooked when communities write their histories. It is important to understand that whatever the event or time period, women were always there, but finding them sometimes requires taking a different perspective. These sites are representative of the importance of women in many ways to the history of our area, but it is by no means comprehensive. Look closely for women, you will find them everywhere making history.

The earliest Euro-Americans to settle in Olympia in 1846 were single men but they quickly welcomed women. Often their reminiscences make a point of recalling the non-Native women that were in Olympia when they arrived here. The 1850 census records only a few non-Native American women in Olympia. However more women quickly followed to join the Native American women here. They immediately make their presence felt by organizing fund raisers for the first school and church in Olympia. Not only were women important in establishing the community but because of the Oregon Donation Act of 1850 each married woman could claim 320 or 160 acres of free land - women were in great demand. Women worked as wives and mothers but they also lead the way in educating area children, helping to establish churches and in providing the social and cultural fabric of the community.

As time went on, women carved out both private and public roles for themselves in the development of the city. Some women worked outside their homes as photographers, secretaries, milliners, midwives, nurses and doctors, ministers, skilled laborers, laundresses and business owners. They joined together in clubs and service groups to improve schools, social conditions, and city spaces. During the World Wars, women actively supported the war effort and provided valuable home front support as well as active service. Some have left their marks on the community through their architecture, preservation of buildings and the environment, or political achievements, but contributions of others are less evident but no less important in the generations of families who have made Olympia history.