National Council of Women Voters

Officers of the National Council of Women Voters. L to R: Maud Bjorkman, Jane Addams, Emma Smith DeVoe, and Dr. Cora Smith King (Eaton). WSHS - All rights reserved.

Shortly after the Washington suffrage victory in 1910, Emma Smith DeVoe spearheaded the creation of the National Council of Women Voters (NCWV), a nonpartisan coalition of women from voting states. DeVoe organized this separate group partly in response to her rebuff by NAWSA at their 1909 national convention in Seattle. She also wanted to show the dissatisfaction of western states with the organization. The goals of the NCWV were to create an educational organization for women voters, to lobby for legislation, and to extend women’s suffrage nationally. DeVoe envisioned an evolving group that would add members from states as they enacted women’s suffrage. Creation of this coalition highlighted the differing strategies among western suffragists and NAWSA and enfranchised women who desired to take a more active role in the national campaign.

Cover, NCWV brochure. WSHS - All rights reserved.
DeVoe successfully encouraged Idaho governor James Brady to call a meeting to form the NCWV. The meeting took place on January 11, 1911, in Tacoma. Brady asked each suffrage state to appoint a recognized suffragist as a council delegate. Idaho appointed Margaret S. Roberts; Wyoming, Zell Hart Deming; Colorado, Mary C. C. Bradford; Utah, Susan Young Gates; and Washington, Virginia Wilson Mason. DeVoe was named president at the initial meeting in Tacoma, which was sparsely attended because a snowstorm kept Wyoming and Utah delegates from attending. Anna Howard Shaw said she recognized DeVoe’s ambitions to control NCWV and Cora Smith Eaton’s tactics in supporting her as similar to those they had used to take control at the 1909 WESA convention. DeVoe and Eaton’s actions elicited outcry from opponents in Washington State, with Hutton noting, “It looks like Tammany to me.” Other groups, including Washington’s Federation of Labor, Grange, Farmer’s Union, and women’s clubs also condemned DeVoe’s actions, which appeared to have gained her a “railroaded” presidency. From its headquarters in Tacoma, the NCWV, however, moved forward as part of the national campaign for women’s suffrage.


Jennifer Ross Nazzal’s Ph.D. Dissertation, Washington State University, 2004. “Always Be Good Natured and Cheerful”: Emma Smith DeVoe and the Woman Suffrage Movement,” is the source of much of this information. Her forthcoming book incorporating this history, Winning the West for Women: The Life of Suffragist Emma Smith DeVoe will be published this spring by the University of Washington Press. See:


Emma Smith DeVoe Papers, Washington State Library

Emma Smith Devoe: Practicing Pragmatic Politics in the Pacific Northwest
by Jennifer Ross-Nazzal

Teaching Citizenship to Women
From the Portland Oregonian February 1, 1912.