Late 20th Century Women's Rights

Women in Washington State participated in the "second wave" of feminism of the late 20th century following what is considered to be the "first wave" which began in the 1840s and lasted through the enactment of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 which enabled nationwide women’s suffrage. Beginning in 1963 when then Governor Albert D. Rosellini appointed the first Commission on the Status of Women in Washington, Washington enacted a series of feminist laws including legalizing abortion in early pregnancy in 1970, approving the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, as well as enacting Equal Credit for Women in 1972 and No-Fault Divorce in 1973. The International Women’s Year Conference in Ellensburg in 1977 was a pivotal event to galvanize positions on feminism in Washington and created a backlash which resulted in the dismantling of the Washington Women’s Council by then Governor Dixy Lee Ray in 1978. A landmark initiative in Washington relating to Comparable Worth for State Employees was established in the mid 1980s and the state’s abortion rights were confirmed in 1991. Throughout the period, decisions and discourse on women’s rights and opportunities continued to be in the public eye.

1977 Washington State International Women's Year Conference

The Washington State Conference for Women, sponsored by the National Committee on the Observance of International Women's Year, was held July 8-10 in Ellensburg, Washington. The Conference set out to meet four primary goals: to bring together women from all over the state; to identify barriers which prevented the women of Washington from participating fully and equally in all aspects of life; to develop a State Plan of Action with a timetable for removing barriers to equality; and to elect 24 delegates to bring the Washingto State Plan of Action to the National conference, held later that year in Houston, and to represent the interestes of women in Washington.
Women of Ellensburg Collection
1977 Washington Women's Conference Collection
IWY Oral History Project
The Women of Ellensburg: Report of the Washington State International Women's Year Conference


Comparable Worth

Comparable worth is a reform effort intended to provide "equal pay for equal work." Women traditionally earned lower pay for performing the same jobs as men. An initiative in Washington in the mid-1980s sought to protect the rights of women workers for equal pay.
Digital Materials
AFSCME, et al v. State of Washington
History of Comparable Worth in the State of Washington
Guide to Comparable Worth Collection--Washington State Archives


Equal Rights Amendment

"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." These words are at the core of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which passed both houses of Congress and was sent to the states for ratification on March 22, 1972. This process, which required at least 38 states to ratify the amendment within seven years, triggered a long and sometimes difficult struggle between ERA supporters and those who hoped to block its passage.
Digital Materials
Debating Equal Rights in Eastern Washington by Nancy Driscol Engle, Ph.D.
ERA Oral History Project

Federal Legislation 1977-1978
House Joint Resolution No. 10, 1973
House Joint Resolution No. 61, n.d.
Impact of Equal Rights Amendment, Washington State, 1974-1978
Through The Years: Important Washington Cases and Their Enduring Significance by Justice Debra L. Stephens

League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters of the United States was first projected at the Jubilee Convention of the National American Women Suffrage Association in 1919. The League of Women Voters of Washington was organized the next year. Seattle and Tacoma were the first two local Leagues in the state. In the early days the League of Women Voters of Washington supported state legislation pertaining to protection of children in fields of labor, health and education. At the present time there are twenty-one local Leagues around the state.
Digital Materials

Washington State Women's Council

The Washington State Women's Council (1971-1978) was created by Governor Daniel Evans to report on women's rights in the state and make recommendations for legal changes to improve the status of women. Governor Dixy Lee Ray dissolved the council in September of 1978, following the will of the voters.
Digital Materials
History, Activities, and Accomplishments, 1971-1977
Guide to the Women's Council Collection--Washington State Archives

National Women's Political Caucus of Washington State

The National Women's  Political Caucus of Washington State works to increase the participation of women in politics.
Digital Materials