Missouri T. B. Hanna, often known as "Mrs. M. T. B. Hanna," was born in Texas and grew up in Arkansas. She moved with her husband and three children to Spokane Falls, Washington Territory, in 1882 but was soon widowed. In 1904 she settled in the Puget Sound mill village of Edmonds and the next January purchased the weekly Edmonds Review which she published for five years, acknowledged as the first woman newspaper publisher in Washington. The paper chronicled the early phases of Edmonds’s growth. After selling that paper to the owner of the rival Edmonds Tribune, who thus created the long enduring Edmonds Tribune-Review, Hanna published two successive journals in behalf of woman suffrage. Votes for Women worked toward attaining the vote which was obtained in Washington in November 1910; its successor, The New Citizen, recognized the role of the newly enfranchised women. Meanwhile, she developed an Edmonds neighborhood known as Hanna Park and was a founder of the Snohomish County Press Association. Her personal life was marred by several tragedies including the early deaths of her husband, a son, and a daughter. Missouri Hanna died in Edmonds on June 14, 1926, honored as the “Mother of Journalism” in Washington.
From Texas to Spokane to Edmonds
She was born in Galveston, Texas, on February 17, 1857. Her early years were spent in Berryville, Arkansas. Her father, Levi R. Saunders (1816-1881), who carried the title “Judge,” became an early settler in the town of Eureka Springs; legend credits his son Burton, later a wealthy collector of firearms and western paraphernalia, with naming that resort community when a teenager. Educated at Clark Academy in Berryville, she married a fellow student, J. C. Hanna (1848-1887), of Fayetteville, who continued his education at the University of Arkansas and Fayetteville University and then entered the mercantile business.
By 1882, the couple had three small children and they moved to the fledgling community of Spokane Falls, Washington Territory. There he was active in Masonic and other organizations, served as city clerk, and acquired property as the city started to take shape. A boating disaster ended his promising career. While on a business trip inspecting Idaho mines on April 4, 1887, he was traveling down the Coeur d’Alene River aboard the Spokane, a small excursion steamer. The vessel hit a snag of logs, overturned, and Hanna drowned, one of six passengers who lost their lives among some 20 aboard. A Spokane newspaper called this “one of the most gloomy accidents that has ever occurred in the northwest.” (“The Last of the Tragedy”)
The widow was left with three young children, 14-year-old Kirke (1873-1893), and two daughters, Florence (b. 1876) aged 10 and 6-year-old Mercie (1880-1913). She engaged in real estate and home building in the burgeoning Spokane market, demonstrating what one short biography called “unremitting energy and fine judgment of values” (Spencer & Pollard, Vol. 4, p. 776). But new tragedies struck. Young Mercie was injured in a bicycle accident and became something of an invalid. In 1893, Kirke, who had attended school in Portland, Oregon, was at home in Spokane and working for the gas company when he took morphine to medicate a bowel obstruction. He became desperately ill and died suddenly at age 19. Mrs. Hanna later disposed of her Spokane land holdings and sought help for her youngest daughter at several health resorts. Her move to Edmonds in 1904 was apparently inspired by the hope that sea air and salt water might benefit the young woman.
Buying Edmonds Land and Newspapers
Edmonds, a waterfront mill town of about 600 population, was experiencing a rapid spurt of growth and would reach 1,100 in 1910. The savvy Missouri Hanna purchased five acres on a low bluff above the waterfront just north of the business district for her home. The tract became known as Hanna Park and offered lots for sale. An oft-published advertisement boasted of “5 acres High Upland, 7 ½ acres Tide Lands” that provided “Good View, Fine Soil, Clam Bed, and Bathing Beach” (Votes for Women, October 1909; New Citizen, March 1911)
More significantly, Hanna plunged into the publishing business, apparently a new field for her and one in which women previously had been little involved. Edmonds had had a spotty succession of short-lived newspapers and in August 1904 Richard Bushell Jr. established the Edmonds Review. Only five months later he sold it to Missouri Hanna along with Frank H. Darling (b. 1854), a resident since 1888 and a former school teacher active in various town affairs. Yet, “Mrs. M. T. B. Hanna” was listed solely as editor and publisher on the paper’s masthead; occasionally the “Mrs.” was dropped (Edmonds Review, January 6, 1905)
In a folksy initial column, Hanna suggested that no introduction was necessary: “We think we have sufficient nerve to run a local paper, [and so] we’ll try saying ‘How do you do’ all by ourselves.” She argued that the growing town needed a solid newspaper. “A newspaper,” she told readers, “is part of a city, [so readers should] help it along, read it, criticize and help pay for it, but don’t kill it.” Yet, there was a rival paper, apparently headed by mill owners and businessmen, who ridiculed Hanna’s efforts (“Introduction”).
Hanna vowed that the Review would be politically “independent; its policy will be to best serve the interests of our promising town, Edmonds, and its neighborhood.” She acknowledged that advertising and subscriptions were the financial base and asked readers to inform her of any errors that were published. “Finally,” she wrote, “we hope to merit the good wishes of all and have our efforts appreciated in personal matters, to always find some good in each and if we can not, we shall hesitate, look over the beautiful sound to the snow-covered Olympics and glorious sunset -- use our best judgment” (“Possibilities of Edmonds”).
Newspaperwoman of Edmonds
Most news in her earliest issues concerned state, national, and even international affairs, compiled no doubt from various news outlets. Gradually the paper took on more concerns about Edmonds including a column of local social and business activities. Then the paper indulged in Edmonds boosterism. In March a short column boasted about its businesses, school, streets, and amenities: It “is not the only town known to men, but is pretty near it” (“The Town We Live In”). A further increase in local emphasis may have been influenced by Frank Darling who served as editor from late September 1905 through most of 1906. Then, an apparent falling out between Hanna and Darling led the latter to an association with W. H. Schumacher (d. 1931), a merchant and banker, who acquired the rival Tribune.
During Hanna’s five years at the helm, the Review chronicled the tiny village as it acquired the structural and social needs of a growing community. A 66 percent population increase one year was said to be greater than any other city in the state. New industries arrived and others were proposed. Among the ever present shingle mills, one built a deep-water wharf. Streets were graded and paved and several sidewalks built. There was a need for downtown electric lighting, sewers, hydrants, and improved telephone service. Efforts sought improved overland transportation connections to nearby towns and thoroughfares, and a new railway station was built. A fire destroyed several frame buildings and prompted construction of cement and brick structures, including a new bank. Land was cleared for a city park. An “opera house” opened with a basketball game on the gymnasium floor, and in 1909 a high school building was constructed that endured almost a century. A initial collection of 450 books led to construction of a Carnegie Library that also functioned as a city hall. The Review itself took on a more modern appearance with new type fonts and larger headlines above articles.
Yet, when the new Edmonds Chamber of Commerce listed its 50 members, all were males. Newspaper publisher Hanna was not among them. She was, however, the only female among the several founders of the Snohomish County Press Association, which was created in March 1906 and met at least once in her Edmonds office.
In 1907 the weekly Tribune started as an Edmonds rival of the Review. Founded by the recently arrived Will H. Taylor, the Tribune passed through several hands until Hanna sold her paper to the Tribune company early in February 1910, creating the Tribune-Review. As a neighboring newspaper explained, a small community could scarcely support two competitor papers that could neither provide their owners with adequate income nor attract sufficient advertising from local merchants. In her farewell editorial, Hanna expressed sadness and even grief. The task had been strenuous, she said, and the burden heavy, but she appreciated the “hope and cheer” from townspeople and friends. She planned to continue her Edmonds residence, but would also be involved in Seattle where she had started a monthly supporting the suffrage movement. The Tribune-Review became the enduring mainstay of local journalism until the early 1980s (“Farewell”).
Meanwhile Hanna had become involved in the movement for woman suffrage, a cause increasingly reported upon in the Review. Women in Washington Territory had enjoyed the vote during much of the 1880s until it was thrown out by a court decision. The movement languished until the middle of the next decade when Emma Smith DeVoe (1848-1927) of Seattle and May Arkwright Hutton (1860-1915) of Spokane helped to reinvigorate the activity. In 1910 the legislature proposed a suffrage amendment to the state constitution to be voted upon in a general election that November, but critical events had propelled the effort during the preceding year.
That year 1909 is best remembered in Seattle for its first world’s fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Over four and a half months, festivities on the recently built University of Washington campus heralded the city’s role in regional and international commerce and social progress. It was a display of community pride and fun but also a time to appraise social situations and examine where Seattle and the region were headed. Women seized upon the opportunities that the fair offered. They acknowledged the roster of distinguished advocates of woman suffrage who attended the fair. Four special days at the A-Y-P focused on the suffrage movement, and additional events provided opportunities for participation by women and suffrage advocates.
By the end of 1909 the Washington Equal Suffrage Association, headed by DeVoe, had determined to issue a monthly magazine as its official organ. Votes for Women made its first appearance in October 1909 with "Mrs. M. T. B. Hanna" as editor and proprietor; teachers Adella M. Parker (1870-1956) and Rose Glass (1880-ca 1965), along with Mary G. O’Meara were listed as associate editors. In stating its policy, the magazine asked “the attention of the public to the general question of woman’s political enfranchisement and to the special consideration of the amendment granting suffrage to women which is to be voted on in this state in November, 1910.” It pledged to report on the progress of the suffrage campaign in Washington and “the struggle being made throughout the world to secure woman her political rights” (Votes for Women, October 1909, p. 4). Along with an extensive account of women’s activities at the A-Y-P, that first issue of Votes for Women described state and county meetings of suffragists and news of activities regionally and nationally.
Over the succeeding months, Votes for Women chronicled the strides toward suffrage in Washington and elsewhere. Articles recounted both international and national events and personalities, as well as happenings in the state including its smallest towns. The comings and goings of DeVoe and numerous other active suffragists were described, including the prominent and the obscure. Editorials by both women and men graced its pages along with cartoons and even occasional posters. Advertisements were carried from business supporters. In October 1910, as Washington prepared to vote on woman suffrage, the paper doubled its size to 32 pages.
The Magazine That Won Equal Suffrage
Apparently no issue was published during the critical month of November 1910, but the December issue heralded a victory. In the November election the all-male electorate gave over 52,000 votes for woman suffrage against almost 30,000 negative votes.
The next month Votes for Women boasted it was “THE MAGAZINE THAT WON EQUAL SUFFRAGE IN WASHINGTON” (Votes for Women, January 1911). A front page cartoon showed Uncle Sam holding the baby Washington as the fifth child in a family that included the babes Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. Hutton and two other suffragists watched as a toddler Wyoming, the first state to grant full woman suffrage, read the news. Beneath the cartoon appeared the official proclamation by Governor Marion E. Hay (1865-1933) that the suffrage amendment was now a part of the constitution. Inside pages described and praised the victory, including the part played by Votes for Women, and printed congratulatory messages from across the country.
But friction within the movement included a break between the DeVoe camp and Hanna. Adella Parker, once an associate editor of Votes for Women, had apparently been forced out and had started a rival paper.
The New Citizen
With suffrage gained, the January issue of Votes for Women admonished women "DON’T FAIL TO USE THE BALLOT THAT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOU." A month later the paper became The New Citizen. The Seattle Daily Times lightly mocked its appearance "in a new dress" of "ivory finished book paper" ("New Dress Clothes for New Citizen"). "Mrs. M. T. B. Hanna" was listed as editor and proprietor, with daughters Florence and Mercie as advertising manager and assistant editor respectively and the renowned Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915) as Oregon editor. The magazine was published weekly at Seattle with headquarters in the Arcade Building; an annual subscription cost $1.50 a year and single issues sold for 10 cents.
Immediately the paper took up a new cause during the impending recall election of Mayor Hiram Gill (1866-1919) and vigorously supported reform candidate George W. Dilling (1869-1951). This special election was heralded as “the most fortunate thing for the cause of equal suffrage that could possibly have happened since the passage of the amendment.” It brought out women who had opposed or seemed indifferent to the suffrage cause, but now appeared to be registering to vote (“Seattle’s First Election Under Equal Suffrage”). Indeed, after Dilling’s narrow victory, women could legitimately claim to have made the difference. Out of approximately 58,000 votes cast, 22,000 came from women, a point noted by Hanna and also by contemporary observers and later historians.
Also indicative of the change and likely reflected in other communities, the suffrage club in Mrs. Hanna’s hometown of Edmonds disbanded so as to form a Political Economy Club. Open not just to suffragists but to all women, the club expected to establish a course of study to “enlighten” these new voters” about the state and national constitutions as well as local municipal governments (The New Citizen, February 1911, p. 11).
Along with new of women’s meetings, the February issue was dominated by editorials and advertisements for male candidates who had the support of women for an upcoming Seattle municipal primary election. F. W. Phelps expressed a view typical of others: “I am proud of the men of the State of Washington that they have recognized the appeal of their sisters for the right to vote, and know that through the exercise of this right, the women of Seattle will be instrumental in bringing about changes so much needed in the affairs of the municipality” (“F. W. Phelps Candidate for Councilman”).
Along with a constant focus on women in the larger society, articles and editorials supported broader aspects of city betterment. Items in the March 1911 issue, for instance, included arguments supporting a $800,000 bond issue to extend the streetcar line between the Rainier Valley and Ballard, a history of the Seattle Public library, a full page plea for humane treatment of children and of animals, and a call to turn a former downtown hospital into a Museum of Arts and Sciences. April’s edition described the newly established Children’s Orthopedic Hospital. Indeed, the paper extended beyond Seattle to give news of women in the United States and world wide. A page in January 1912, for instance, related tidbits of women’s activities in Russia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Britain, France, and Canada.
But that month, Hanna announced that The New Citizen had become incorporated and would no longer be solely the activity of the publisher. Hanna claimed to have borne the entire cost of publishing Votes for Women and she found herself increasingly needed to care for her invalid daughter. The hope was to make the paper an incorporation owned and managed by women, but that issue appears to have been the final one.
Missouri Hanna continued to live in Edmonds and in Seattle and to engage in occasional journalistic endeavors until 1920. She died suddenly at “Fern Rest,” as she called her home in Hanna Park, on June 14, 1926, at the age of 69; services were held in Seattle where she was buried in Lakeview Cemetery. Her daughter Mercie had died in December 1913; the surviving daughter, now Florence Hamilton, also lived in Hanna Park.
Upon her death, Missouri Hanna was heralded in both Edmonds and Seattle newspapers as the “Mother of Journalism” in Washington state, honoring her early and lengthy role in a profession traditionally dominated by males (“‘Mother of Journalism’ Dies at Edmonds Home”).