The Women's Issue

In Seattle, the History Is Female Too

Five women who shaped this city.

By Seattle Met Staff January 31, 2018 Published in the February 2018 issue of Seattle Met

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Clockwise from top left: Thelma Dewitty, Kikisoblu, Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Ordway, Sylvia Hunsicker, Bertha Landes

Bertha Landes

Elected as the city’s first female mayor in 1926, Landes fought police corruption and made the first crack in Seattle’s mayoral glass ceiling—which would shatter 91 years later. 

Thelma Dewitty 

The first African American educator Seattle Public Schools ever hired—in 1947—started at West Seattle’s Cooper Elementary, where the mother of one of her students insisted the second grader be reassigned to another teacher. The request was summarily denied. Dewitty ultimately won over all her students (and their parents) and enjoyed a long teaching career and a historic (if unsuccessful) run for Seattle City Council.


Also known Princess Angeline, Kikisoblu was a Suquamish Tribe member and the eldest daughter of Chief Sealth (from whom Seattle takes its name). She remained long after white settlers claimed the city as their own—in a cabin near present-day Pike Place Market—a decades-long reminder to Seattleites of who was here first.

Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ordway 

She arrived in the 1860s as part of the Mercer Girls, a group of women invited here to balance the city’s lopsided men-to-women ratio, but ended up a teacher (the first in Seattle Public Schools), thought leader (she was elected superintendent of Kitsap County schools), and suffragette (joining Susan B. Anthony on a speaking tour).

Sylvia Hunsicker 

Hired in 1915 by the Seattle Police Department, where as a woman she was apparently expected to not don the official uniform, Hunsicker went ahead and donned the official uniform. Her recalcitrance didn’t stop there. Later suspended for, according to city archives, “engaging in work other than that assigned to her,” she enjoyed a long career as a cop and helped pave the way for female officers.

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