"Lucile McDonald Day" is proclaimed on March 9, 1991.

  • By Eleanor Boba
  • Posted 10/01/2015
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 11122

Journalist and historian Lucile McDonald (1898-1992) is honored at the Women Making History conference in Bellevue on March 9, 1991. The State of Washington, City of Bellevue, and King County all proclaim this day to be "Lucile McDonald Day." The 92-year old McDonald has made a name for herself over seven decades as a pioneering newspaperwoman, a prominent local historian, and a prolific author of popular history works and books for children.

Three Proclamations

The women's history conference, held at the old Marymoor Museum in Redmond and at Bellevue Community College (later Bellevue College), took place on March 8 and 9 to coincide with Women's History Month and International Women's Day (March 8). On March 9, Washington First Lady Jean Gardner (b. 1938) presented McDonald with a proclamation signed by her husband, Governor Booth Gardner (1936-2013), declaring the day Lucile McDonald Day. The proclamation read:

WHEREAS, Lucile McDonald has devoted more than a half-century to documenting the heritage of Washington state; and
WHEREAS, she has brought the history of Washington people and events to life through numerous books and articles; and
WHEREAS, as a nonagenarian, she continues to enlighten and inspire her readers with fresh insights into our state's past, present and future; and
WHEREAS, March is Women's History Month, which makes this a very appropriate time to recognize Lucile McDonald for her many accomplishments;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Booth Gardner, Governor of the State of Washington, do hereby proclaim March 9, 1991, as
Lucile McDonald Day
In the State of Washington, and I urge all citizens to join me in this observance.
Signed, this 4th day of March, 1991,
Governor Booth Gardner

The proclamation from the City of Bellevue, signed by Mayor Terry Lukens, noted McDonald had written a book on the city's history (Bellevue: Its First 100 Years.) The King County proclamation, signed by County Executive Tim Hill (b. 1936) and the entire County Council, declared that "Lucile McDonald's literary and journalistic contributions have informed and inspired countless individuals."

Conference organizer and historian Mildred Andrews also praised McDonald:

"She's probably done more than anyone else to interpret and make us aware of our regional history ... women really have been the people who have done the most to research and write about local, regional history" (Brachtl).

Interest in Local History

Lucile Saunders McDonald moved to Washington with her family in 1932 after a number of years working for newspapers in locales ranging from a tiny town in Oregon to Buenos Aires to Istanbul. In 1942 she began a 23-year career as a feature writer at The Seattle Times. Her interest in local history spurred her to explore all corners of the state, interview many old-timers, and write about the people, places, and events that shaped the region. In retirement she wrote a popular weekly local-history column for The Bellevue Journal American titled "EastSide Yesterday," while continuing to publish books of history and teen fiction.

McDonald stayed active as a writer until the end of her days. Decades of interviews and collected material on a multitude of topics provided fodder for books, articles, and newspaper columns even when she was no longer able to travel widely.

McDonald passed away from pancreatic cancer on June 23, 1992, at the age of 93. Her autobiography, A Foot in the Door (1995), edited by son Richard McDonald, appeared three years after her death. The book details her struggles as a woman to build a career in newspaper work beginning at the age of 17. Her triumphs are also detailed, including an impressive list of "firsts" for a woman. Perhaps most memorably, McDonald counted herself the first non-Native woman to see the "lost" city of the Incas, Machu Picchu, in 1921.

Sources: Steve Johnston, "Writing and Making History -- Bellevue Author Among Women Being Honored," The Seattle Times, March 7, 1991, p. B-2; Barbara Brachtl, "Women's Role in History Is Meeting Focus," Bellevue Journal American, March 5, 1991, p. 8; "Lucile McDonald Day," Washington State Ceremonial Proclamation, March 4, 1991, Washington State Archives, Olympia, Washington; "Lucile McDonald Day," City of Bellevue Proclamation, March 9, 1991, copy in possession of Kathleen L. McDonald, Bellevue, Washington; "Lucile McDonald Day," March 9, 1991, King County Proclamation, copy in possession of Kathleen L. McDonald; Lucile McDonald with Richard McDonald, A Foot in the Door: The Reminiscences of Lucile McDonald (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1995).

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