Seattle League of Women Voters honors Lois North and Ruthe Ridder on May 23, 1991.

  • By Margaret Riddle
  • Posted 9/07/2015
  • Essay 11099
On May 23, 1991, the Seattle League of Women Voters honors King County Councilwoman Lois North (b. 1921) as its Woman of the Year and King County Assessor Ruthe Ridder (b. 1929) with its Carrie Chapman Catt Award, named for the group's founder. This is the first time the league gives these awards to local women. The award ceremony takes place at the league's annual meeting, which is held at the Seattle First Baptist Church. Lois North is guest speaker. North is honored "for her role of bringing a concept of regional governance to King County and her dedication to promoting an informed and involved electorate." Ridder is recognized for her "commitment to principles of fairness and citizen participation in government" ("Ridder, North...").

Distinguished Careers

Aside from their political parties -- North was a Republican and Ridder a Democrat -- the women had similar careers. Both were teachers, raised children, and were elected to state positions at a time when few women held office. In 1991 North and Ridder were retiring from an elective public office and were among the longest-serving civic leaders in the state.

The league's recognition came at a time when many people imagined that North and Ridder were retiring, but both continued to be active in civic issues. In 1998 North extended her career by accepting a position to head the Elevated Transportation Company board, a creation of the Monorail Initiative (for possible extension of the Seattle Monorail). In 2000 Governor Gary Locke (b. 1950) appointed her to the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board, on which she served until 2006.  

Lois North

North had volunteered with the Seattle League of Women Voters in the 1960s when she, her husband, and their three sons were a young family. She quickly rose in the league's ranks, serving as the group's president and began lobbying in Olympia for league issues, particularly a state redistricting project.  

In 1968 she was elected to the state House of Representatives where she served three terms, representing the 44th District, King County. She resigned in 1974 to run for the state Senate and served in the Senate until 1979.   

During her term in the House, North sponsored the abortion reform bill in 1970, and was a key legislator in the passage of the Washington state Equal Rights Amendment in 1972.  She also sponsored and supported many bills on environmental issues. Her Senate career in Olympia was followed by 22 years on the King County Council, from 1980 to 1991.  

Ruthe Ridder

Ruthe and Robert Ridder lived in Seattle's Rainer Valley with their five children. The Ridders became involved in politics through education issues. In 1966 Robert Ridder won a state Senate seat, representing the 35th District. Ruthe Ridder was an organizer in his campaign and worked closely with him on issues during his years as senator. 

When Robert decided to retire, Ruthe ran for the position and won. She served three terms as state senator, primarily assigned to committees on Labor, Economics, and Education.

Later she became King County Assessor. In 1991 she announced that she would not seek an additional term as King County Assessor.  Although Ridder believed she could win again, she had drawn criticism for having raised property valuations and thus property taxes to homeowners and businesses. Ruthe Ridder saw herself as representing a growing number of female heads-of-households, poor families, non-English-speaking residents, and unskilled workers. 

Sources: "Ridder,  North Honored for Their Work," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 24, 1991, p. C-3; Don Tewkesbury, "When Values Hit You in the Face," Ibid., February 13, 1990, p. C-2; "Lois North" and "Ruth Ridder," Celebrating 100 Years: Women in the Legislature, Washington State Legislature website accessed June 25, 2015 (; "Ruthe Ridder," Political Pioneers (Olympia: Elected Washington Women, 1983), 55; Eric Naider, "Hoppe, Ridder Race Hot," The Seattle Times, September 18, 1983, p. 58; Bob Lane, "Assessor Ruth Ridder Won't Run Again," Ibid., April 1, 1991, p. A-1; Bob Lane, "North Is Going Out (of Office) in Style -- County Council Chairwoman Retiring After 22 Years," Ibid., December 16, 1991, p. B-1.

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