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Equal Rights Amendment
Fifty years ago this week, on March 22, 1973, the Washington State Legislature ratified the federal Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA was approved by the Congress exactly one year earlier, but to become the 28th amendment to the nation's Constitution it required ratification by three-quarters, or 38, of the 50 states. Even though Congress extended the deadline to 1982, it fell three states short, and the national ERA still awaits final certification.
One year before Washington ratified the federal amendment, the state legislature had introduced House Joint Resolution 61, which guaranteed equal rights for women on the state level. This measure had the support of Governor Dan Evans and state Attorney General Slade Gorton. A few weeks before it was presented to voters in the 1972 election, Gloria Steinem spent two days in Seattle to advocate for "Women's Lib" and the ERA, and it passed by a narrow margin.
Steinem's visit wasn't the first time a member of her family came here to promote women's rights. In 1909, suffragists from around the nation visited Seattle to participate in the 41st Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and to celebrate Woman Suffrage Day at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Among the speakers was Pauline Steinem (future grandmother of the women's-rights luminary), who urged mothers to set pro-suffrage examples for their daughters.
This week we mark St. Patrick's Day with a look at some of the Irish-Americans who played major roles in Washington history, beginning in 1805 with Sgt. Patrick Gass, who kept his own journal as a member of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery. When the Hudson’s Bay Company opened Fort Vancouver on March 19, 1825, Dr. John McLoughlin was dispatched to take charge of the Columbia District, and more Irish came with him.
Irish-Americans were among the many immigrants who traveled the Oregon Trail. Among those who settled in Washington were Michael Simmons and George W. Bush, who both settled near Tumwater in 1845. By 1856, one in 12 land claims in Washington Territory were made by Irish-born settlers, many of whom had left their native land following the famine years of 1847-1850. Michael Cowley came to this country with no money at the age of 15 and became influential in the development of Spokane. James Purcell Comeford came to America in 1849, and later became the "father of Marysville." Jimmie Durkin and his family (including 13 siblings) arrived in America in 1868, and he grew up to become Spokane's legendary liquor tycoon
From its first days, Seattle has produced such notables of Irish descent as Judge Thomas Burke; first King County Executive and former Governor John Spellman; legendary public affairs consultants Bob Gogerty and Wally Toner; child-rights advocate Patrick Gogerty; and flamboyant couturier John Doyle Bishop, who organized the city’s first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1972. The Irish in Seattle have also celebrated their heritage with dancing, Gaelic football, and participation in clubs and organization such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
On March 22, 1778, Captain James Cook named Cape Flattery in modern-day Clallam County but failed to discover the nearby entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Captains Robert Gray and George Vancouver met near the same spot 14 years later. Vancouver left to explore Puget Sound, and Gray went on to investigate the Columbia River.
On March 22, 1886, Seattle agents of Thomas Edison switched on the first central incandescent-lighting plant west of the Rockies. Soon enough the city's streets and homes were illuminated by this innovation, which was quickly used to power streetcars as well. This led to the creation of a regional electric monopoly, which triggered the development of municipally owned Seattle City Light.
On March 16, 1891, Lynden incorporated in Whatcom County, and Marysville in Snohomish County incorporated four days later. Other cities celebrating birthdays this week are Ferndale, which incorporated on March 19, 1907, and Selah, incorporated on March 17, 1919.
On March 16, 1958, KING-TV's Seattle Bandstand debuted and became an instant hit with Northwest teens. Modeled after Dick Clark's Philadelphia-based, nationally broadcast American Bandstand, the two-hour weekly program launched the careers of several local bands and led to the creation of similar shows on NBC affiliates in Yakima, Spokane, and Portland.
On March 22, 2014, a catastrophic landslide near the community of Oso -- between Arlington and Darrington in Snohomish County -- killed 43 people, making it the deadliest landslide disaster in United States history. Besides loss of life, the disaster caused severe impacts to the local economy and environment, and damaged a half-mile section of State Route 530 that took months to repair.
On March 18, 2020, the ornate, custom-designed bronze gates created by internationally renowned sculptor George Tsutakawa were stolen from Seattle's Washington Park Arboretum. Days later, one of the gates was recovered largely intact, but the other had been cut up for scrap and was beyond repair. Tsutakawa died in 1997, but his family had the original design plans, and his son Gerard, also a metal sculptor, fabricated a mate for the surviving gate.
"If I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment. I think we have achieved that through legislation, but legislation can be repealed, it can be altered. So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion – that women and men are persons of equal stature – I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”
--Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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