Ella M. Russell, president of the Everett Suffrage Club, defends woman suffrage at a Billy Sunday crusade on July 5, 1910.

  • By Margaret Riddle
  • Posted 3/12/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8527

On July 5, 1910, Ella M. Russell, Everett’s Suffrage Club president, rises to her feet before 5,500 people in a Billy Sunday crusade in Everett to answer an attack on women’s suffrage.  The attack comes from Mrs. Rae Muirhead, a Bible speaker with the Sunday campaign.

A Rallying Point for Suffrage

The newsworthy event captured front-page coverage in both of Everett’s daily newspapers the following day.  Mrs. Muirhead opposed woman suffrage and, in her personal testimony, stated that a woman’s role was to teach her sons to vote properly.  She then claimed to have received harassing letters from the Everett Suffrage Club.   

Ella Russell asked to be heard and when denied, she stepped up on a bench in front of the hall and began to speak to the large crowd.  Mrs. Muirhead, Ella explained, was an influential woman. The Everett Suffrage Club had written her only in hopes of gaining her support.  Reporting the confrontation in Votes for Women, the official organ of the Washington State Suffrage Association, editor Missouri Hanna wrote:  “This event became the rallying point of an enthusiasm for suffrage which has put Everett in the forefront of the campaign.  Mrs. Russell is resourceful, she has rallied about her many able women and many novel schemes have been devised to further the cause of suffrage in Snohomish and adjoining counties” (Votes for Women).

"If You Were a Girl Worker..."

Rae Muirhead was not alone in her thinking.  Many prominent women opposed woman suffrage, citing passages from the Bible that placed women under the authority of men and predicting the downfall of the family and loss of women’s special privileges and position in society.   

The Everett Suffrage Club spoke to these women in the Labor Journal of November 4, 1910, “IF YOU WERE A GIRL WORKER: “No woman in silks and satins, whose only care is how she may keep her social light burning brighter than her rival’s has any right to stand in the way of the rights of the woman who toils.” And regarding widows with children who often lost not only the breadwinner but their inheritance when death intruded, the writer continued: “No woman, whose home interests are well cared for, has any right to stand in the way of the rights of the woman who has carried her mate to the grave.” (Labor Journal

In a previous mention in Votes for Women, the Everett Suffrage Club was honored for having been one of the most successful clubs in the state in gaining local media attention. The club held regular meetings in the Commerce Building in Everett.

On November 8, 1910, Washington state's male electorate ratified Amendment 6 to the state constitution granting women the right to vote. Breaking a 14-year gridlock in the national woman suffrage crusade, the state became the fifth in the nation to enfranchise women.

     

Sources: “The Everett Suffrage Club,” Votes for Women, October, 1910, p. 22; “Suffragist Asks To Be Heard” and “Tells Story of Her Life: Mrs. Muirhead Describes Personal Experiences To a Large Audience,” Everett Daily Herald, p. 1-2; “Mrs. Muirhead Tells Her Story” and “Suffraget Asks Chance to Speak,” Everett Morning Tribune, p. 1; “If You Were a Girl Worker,” Labor Journal, November 4, 1910.

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