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BENEFITING A CITY:
WOMEN, RESPECTABILITY AND REFORM
IN SPOKANE, WASHINGTON, 1886-1910
NANCY ARLENE DRISCOL ENGLE
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Nancy Arlene Driscol Engle
Thanks, Daniel, for believing in me, and always encouraging me. Thanks, Amber, for
your beautiful smiles, wonderful hugs, and for providing a diversion during some long
days of research and writing. I dedicate this to you both.
Advising a doctoral student takes patience, time, and a lot of work, as well as
requiring an extended commitment to one person's success. Bertram Wyatt-Brown has
generously done this for me, beginning with my first interview at the University of
Florida in the summer of 1996. During the research phase he has had the added burden
of playing coach to someone living and working thousands of miles away. Besides
commenting on endless emailed drafts of chapters, he wrote many letters of
recommendation, and provided me with some much-needed financial assistance.
In 2001, Angel Kwolek-Folland graciously agreed to be cochair, when a grad
student she had never met before showed up in her office asking for help with her
dissertation. Since then her insight into women's history, along with her ability to
encourage me to look at the big picture have proved invaluable. I have often thought that
under the circumstances, writing letters on my behalf had to be more challenging for her,
but she has done so many times.
In 1999, even before I had moved to Eastern Washington, Sue Armitage, of
Washington State University, offered to help a grad student from Florida whom she did
not know. She soon agreed to serve on my committee, and has since then always made
time to meet with me when I requested it. She even wrote a letter for me, referred me to
Karen Blair, has given me opportunities to present papers, and she put me in touch with
many other grad students in the region. Because of her generosity, I have felt a bit less
Even before I became a student at the University of Florida, Louise Newman began
giving me helpful advice. I have long admired her ability and energy for working with
students. She was especially encouraging to me when I was considering changing my
dissertation topic and relocating to Eastern Washington.
Irma McClaurin has graciously served as my anthropology advisor. After visit with
her, I always felt inspired and challenged. After I moved away from Florida, she kept in
touch with me. She even read Chapter 2 in an early stage, and recommended that I
consider making "respectability" a central organizing theme for my entire dissertation.
Although the newest member of my committee, Betty Smocovitis was one of the
earliest faculty members at the University of Florida to give me her vote of confidence.
She and Ronald Formisano both made sure I felt welcomed there. Her presence on my
committee seems a very fitting way to complete my formal association with the
University of Florida.
Although not committee members, Barbara Guynn and Betty Corwin have helped
me from both near and afar. Barbara has even delivered important documents for me,
when the expense of getting back to Gainesville precluded me from doing it. They both
have encouraged me to be persistent, and have kept in touch.
Having described all that came before, I have still incurred numerous debts to
knowledgeable people in Spokane. Nancy Compau, historian and librarian in the
Northwest Room of the Spokane Public Library helped me get started on my research
when I was really new in town. Her knowledge of Spokane History has been a resource
throughout. Susan Beamer at the Eastern Regional Branch of the Washington State
Archives has been meticulous in bringing to my attention all documents that I might find
useful. She and Sherry Bays have been interested in my research, and always happy to
talk to me about my most recent discoveries and questions. Their quarters were cramped,
but they made sharing the space very pleasant. At varying times, Randy Smith, Karen
DeSeve and Rayette Wilder worked with my schedule at the Eastern Washington State
Historical Society, Museum of Arts and Culture. Dave Kingma, with the Jesuit Oregon
Province Archives at Gonzaga University, retrieved whatever papers I thought might be
useful, even occasionally letting me sort through uncatalogued holdings. Barbara
Brazington, a member of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, assisted with
many searches for obscure women, and an occasional institution. Her knowledge of
censuses, post office records, and tax documents proved invaluable to me. She even
helped me get loans of some difficult-to-locate documents. Then, when I really needed
the help of an editor, Kristi James proofread the entire manuscript on very short notice.
At the same time, I have benefited from financial assistance and awards. During
my first year at the University of Florida I enjoyed a Grinter Fellowship. In 2002, I
received the Linda Vance Award in Women's History. A help financially, these
fellowships and awards also do wonders to energize and encourage. Linda Vance even
wrote an inspiring note saying that she is looking forward to reading my book when it is
My family members, both immediate and extended, have supported my academic
aspirations for many years now. Their encouragement proved invaluable. In the broader
context, a dissertation is the product of many contributors. I remain grateful to all for
helping to enrich this work.
"Benefiting a City" is most interested in the points where women's activities
intersected with official city business. It explores how progressive women worked as
boosters to help make Spokane, Washington a respectable city. It describes a piece of the
history of the Pacific Northwest, and also provides a glimpse into part of the urban
American West. It is interpreted within the context of the New Western History. The old
version, as defined by Frederick Jackson Turner, assumed that the frontier had been
closed in 1890. At that time, Spokane was in its infancy and in the early stages of its
boom years. Thus, the city promoters who played such important political, economic,
and cultural roles in this boomtown, cannot be explained within the individual frontier
experience that Turner championed.
This circumstance was true for other locations within the Pacific Northwest as well.
As late as 1914 Turner himself conceded that the "age of the pioneer" had not fully ended
in the region.' His student and friend, Edmond S. Meany, understood that Turner's
historical model scarcely addressed the conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Meany had
once promoted the region as a writer for newspapers. Thus he had brought booster style
thinking to his job as the most prominent historian of state.2 He believed that there was
John Findlay, "Closing the Frontier in Washington: Edmond S. Meany and Frederick Jackson Turner,"
Pacific Northwest Quarterly, v. 82, no. 2.
2For an example of Meany's work see, Origin of Washington Geographic Names, (Seattle: University of
Washington Press, 1923.)
too much untapped promise in the region to be content with a frontier, which had closed
only months after Washington, had joined the union.
Although less well defined than Turner's paradigm, the New Western History
provides a context for the two branches of historical analysis that have been most useful
to "Benefiting a City." The first emphasizes the role that individuals played in municipal
promotion. Beginning in the 1960s, urban historians began to recognize the important
roles that boosters played, especially in the cities that flourished in the American West.
For example, Daniel Boorstin ascribed to this zealous band, whose members he depicted
as "upstarts," a causal role in national development.3 More recently, William Cronon's
study of Chicago gives primacy to the businessmen who defined their city as the "western
gateway" of the late nineteenth century America.4
Focusing on the Pacific Northwest, the historian Carlos Schwantes credits boosters
with selling the region to settlers who would have otherwise made their homes in
California.5 While earlier histories made it seem as though boosters had convinced
easterners to migrate in record numbers, Schwantes recognizes that external factors were
influential in creating mass migrations.6 In his interpretation, the city propagandists drew
people to the Pacific Northwest only after they had already decided to migrate westward.
Although boosters did invest much energy and money into promoting their city to
outsiders, they also helped to shape the place they called home. This is the aspect of
3 Daniel Boorstin, The Americans, The National Experience (New York: Vintage Books, 1965.)
4William Cronon, Natures Metropolis: C Ihi.., and the Great West, New York: W. W. Norton, 1991.
5 Carlos Schwantes, The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History, revised and enlarged edition, (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1996), 288.
6 For an example of a western urban history that emphasizes external factors, see Jeffrey S. Adler, Yankee
Merchants and the Making of the Urban West, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.)
boosterism that Elaine Naylor emphasizes. Her study of Jefferson County, Washington,
demonstrates that promoters played a key role in defining the region itself, and in
monitoring its reputation.7 In addition, she utilizes a broad definition of boosterism,
demonstrating that the mentality went beyond a few prominent men.
Two important historians of Spokane and the Inland Northwest have emphasized
the significant role that municipal self-pride played. John Fahey credits a relatively small
number of men who built the downtown area anew after the 1889 fire with shaping the
city for decades to come.8 Exploring the way that residents thought and talked about
their city, Katherine Morrissey identifies in territorial boundaries a mental component.
Using the promotional language evident in a wide range of such documents, as private
letters, maps and in publications, she argues that the drum-beating tendency was
widespread among Spokane residents. More fundamentally, she shows that this mindset
was central to defining the region that Spokane residents dubbed the "Inland Empire."9
"Benefiting a City," explores an additional way that promoters helped shape
Spokane internally. Defining boosters broadly, to include any group or individual that
worked to benefit the city, furnishes a way retrospectively to recognize women's
contributions. In Spokane, charitable clubwomen and social reformers infused their work
with their own interpretation of boosterism. Especially during the first 15 years of this
study, women boosters were often married to the men who styled themselves as the
7 Elaine Naylor, "It's Going to be a Place of Commercial Importance: Frontier Boosterism in Jefferson
County, Washington, 1850-1890," (North York Ontario, York University, 1999.)
SJohn Fahey, "Million Dollar Corner," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, (April 1971), 77-85. See also his
-l,1-'i,,i Spokane: Jay P. Graves and His Time (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.)
9 Katherine G. Morrissey, Mental Territories: Mapping the Inland Empire, (Ithaca: Cornell University
region's spokesmen. Besides a good measure of economic interest, they shared with them
a desire to elevate the city's reputation. Yet prevailing gender conventions influenced
their methods. Thus, their work appeared much different than the efforts of their male
counterparts. They were, nevertheless, still boosters. For example, the ones who took up
charitable causes often reminded city leaders that the alms they offered the poor boosted
the city's prestige.
Being in a boomtown that aspired to regional importance helped underscore their
argument. By the mid 1880s Spokane's leaders were verbally positioning their city to
become the economic and political heart of the area, which later became known as the
"Inland Empire." In order to achieve the urban prominence they envisioned they needed
to convince those living throughout the Inland Northwest that the city could supple a
wide array of basic services and institutions. Men dominated in politics, established
banks, and courted railroad expansion. On the other hand, women predominated in
creating social service institutions, such as hospitals, homes for children and women, and
in aiding the poor. Throughout the city's boom years, they remained mindful that internal
conditions influenced its reputation. And they further wanted the city's respectability
acknowledged by anyone living in the nearby hinterlands as well as others living further
The city's upstanding citizens wanted, for example, the farmers living and working
in the rolling land that lies south of Spokane to get the message that the city was
respectable. They wanted to reassure them that they could safely do business in the city.
Further away, relatives of people already living in Spokane and other potential
immigrants needed to know that Spokane embodied urban progress and respectability.
Finally, there were economic interests in eastern cities with which Spokane boosters
sought favorable relations.
In Spokane achieving civic respectability depended heavily on the boosters'
capacity to distance the city from the mining culture that predominated in nearby north
Idaho. The mineral wealth coming out of the Coeur d' Alene region was rapidly
becoming an essential element in the boomtown that was mushrooming in eastern
Washington. Creating a successful city required a delicate balancing act between
economic stability and social and cultural respectability.
Thus, although most were personally dependent on the region's mineral wealth,
Spokane's boosters were not content to let their city be defined by the rough mining
culture that prevailed in nearby settlements. This was especially difficult in Spokane,
because the city had a seedy side that was flourishing, to the dismay of the "respectable
in town. For instance, a lucky miner could find, in the city's red light district, plenty of
places where he might spend a day's wages and more. Less fortunate male laborers could
also while away the hours of unemployment at the city's saloons and brothels.
As used in this study, respectability provides a way to address boosters' ongoing
efforts to manage Spokane's reputation. Yet it does not tell a simple tale. As Spokane's
population became more diverse, new and different visions of respectability competed for
a chance to be heard. Shaped by individual interpretations of morality, gender
conventions, economic interest, and ethnic difference, a wide variety of people sought to
partake in the urban discussion.
But no matter what respectability meant to a person or a group, the sense that it
involved morality added significant weight to the concept. It also offered a way for
clubwomen verbally to link their individual acts of kindness and with the booster's effort
to benefit the city. If what they were doing was moral and uplifting, and, if while they
were being charitable they were relieving the city of its responsibility to care for the poor
in its midst, and elevating its reputation. Thus, in the early 1890s, when clubwomen
happily reported that their benevolent efforts ensured that the city would have no helpless
paupers, they were ascribing to their own charity an importance that went beyond the
simple act of helping someone in need. This was still the case in 1910 when others
argued that a police matron would help improve the city's reputation. They were seeking
a civic respectability imbued with their own sense of moral correctness.
While their arguments were founded on a gendered sense of what was moral, they
did not seek to have their female moral authority recognized.10 Local clubwomen had
brought Eastern ideas with them, and they may well have already decided, as Lori
Ginzberg has demonstrated, that moral suasion was an ineffective persuasive devise."
Michael Goldberg has further demonstrated, that men may have actually thought women
were more moral, yet refused to acknowledging that idea because it would have given
women more power than they were willing to allot to them. Rather than arguing that
women had a special ability to recognize what was moral, an initiative presented in terms
that held primary the city's reputation, proved much more effective.
10 Peggy Pascoe, Relations ofRescue: The Search for Female MoralAuthority in the American West, 1874-
1939, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.)
SLori D. Ginzberg, Women and the Work ofBenevolence: Morality, Politics and class in the Nineteenth-
Century United States, (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1990.) Michael Goldberg
points out that men in Kansas might have agreed that women were more moral, but they were not willing
to grant them authority because of it. Michael Goldberg, An Army of Women: Gender and Politics in
gildedAge Kansas, (Baltimore: The John's Hopkins University Press, 1997,) 45.
Beyond helping to illuminate the interests of the most prominent clubwomen,
respectability offers a way to recognize the concerns of differing economic groups.
While economically comfortable progressive women could give considerable time and
attention to promoting their style of boosterism, less well established women could and
did have their own agenda. For instance, the nuns who founded Sacred Heart Hospital
quietly demanded respect. Although not so committed to city puffery, they won some
early approbation from city leaders by constructing a handsome building. Doing so was
an important first step for the nuns in becoming an integral part of the urban progress that
Spokane's boosters sought.
Although there are some important exceptions, which help deepen our
understanding of women's contributions to Spokane, "Benefiting a City" centers on white
middle class clubwomen who created charities, built institutions and generally adopted
social and moral reforms. The most prominent of these were women who benefited
economically from the region's massive growth. In a city of immigrants, they enjoyed
privileges that many other women did not. Their business-minded husbands concentrated
on economic matters, leaving gaps of civic need that their wives filled. Surprisingly,
however, less advantaged women, including some of color influenced the most prominent
social and moral reformers. Sometimes poor women even formed their own clubs.12
Studying those relegated by society to more marginal positions points to a way for the
historian to explore the limits of the white clubwomen's efforts.
12 There may well have been clubs of black women formed before 1910, but this study identified no
documentation of their existence. Spokane's best organized, and longest lasting black women's club
would not be formed until 1913. Mamie Hagans served as the first president. Its purpose was to foster
the interest of its members in the arts, as well as the "social, economic, educational and civic life of the
community." Spokane Federation of Women's Clubs, History ofSpokane Clubs, vol. 1, 1942, 261.
Spokane's clubwomen approached their work in a way that was shaped by their
sense of proper gender conventions. Thus, this study is indebted to a long line of
important women's histories. Karen Blair's study of clubwomen in the United States
describes the general context of nineteenth century women's organizations from which
many of Spokane's women took their notions of women's work.1 Similarly, Lori
Ginzberg's study of benevolence and what she described as its "class nature" traces the
moral and economic aspects of women's work and demonstrates how it eventually led
them into progressivism.14
Many of the clubwomen in Spokane before the turn of the twentieth century had
grown up elsewhere. Thus, much of what they originally sought to do in their adopted
hometown was inspired by a larger reform context. In his study of gender and Populist
politics in Kansas, Michael Goldberg shows that populist men and women operated
within a specific political context and culture, yet they were still influenced by the
national culture.15 In the Inland Northwest, charitable ladies applied mainstream ideas
about women's work, to the needs they found in this setting of rapid urban expansion.16
13 Karen J. Blair, The Clubwoman as Feminist: True Womanhood Redefined, 1868-1914, (New York:
Holmes and Meier Publishers, Inc., 1980.)
4Lori D. Ginzberg, Women and the Work ofBenevolence: Morality, Politics, and Class in the Nineteenth-
Century United States, (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1990.) See also Mary P. Ryan,
Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790-1865, (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1981) Nancy A. Hewitt, Women'sActivism and Social ( hi,,i,. Rochester,
New York, 1822-1872 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984) and Robyn Muncy, Cj .... ,i a Female
Dominion in American Reform, 1890-1935, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.)
5Michael Goldberg, An Army of Women: Gender and Politics in GildedAge Kansas (Baltimore: The
John's Hopkins University Press, 1997.) See also Peggy Pascoe's comparison of women's charitable
work, East and West, in Relations ofRescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American
West, 1874-1939 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.)
16 Michael Goldberg had equated respectability with women's interpretation of morality. Regina Kunzel
emphasizes notions of female respectability, and how women's efforts to reform unmarried mothers
brought charitable women into establishing the social work profession. Fallen Women, Problem Girls:
They fashioned their plan how to go about their reform while remaining mindful that they
help to make their city more respectable, both regionally and nationally.
In Spokane of the 1880s and early 90s women interested in their city's
development found many opportunities in which that they could participate. Thus,
organized women had ways to contribute to the city, which their eastern counterparts did
not share.17 But the city's disorganized state could also be a disadvantage to women,
especially for those whom society had relegated to the margins. Anne Butler's important
work on women prisoners validates one example of when the lack of civic infrastructure
in Western cities placed added burdens on women. She illustrates how the inchoate
character of many western prisons imposed even more severe limits on resources that
necessary for preparing penal institutions to provide such basic things as bathrooms
reserved for women prisoners.18
Even for more privileged women the Western opportunity narrowed quickly as the
city matured. In a boomtown like Spokane, it did not take long for charitable clubwomen
to find that they were confined in a narrow sector of public life. By the 1890s they were
presiding over city-funded institutions, but they had lost most of their influence beyond
their immediate responsibilities. This result was especially evident when events outside
of their control appeared, such as the Panic of 1893. But although they could become
Unmarried Mothers and the Professionalization of Social Work, 1890-1945, (New Haven, Connecticut:
Yale University Press, 1993.)
17 Sue Armitage has made this observation. "Tied to Other Lives: Women in Pacific Northwest History,"
in Women in Pacific Northwest History, Karen J. Blair, ed. (Seattle: Washington State University Press,
2001.) For a study of women's activism in the Northwest see Sandra Haarsager, Organized Womanhood:
Cultural Politics in the Pacific Northwest, 1840-1920, (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma
18 Anne M. Butler, Gendered Justice in the American West: Women Prisoners in Men's Penitentiaries,
(Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1997.)
isolated while they managed an institution, many women branched out from the
charitable arena, to advocate more openly moral reforms.
This process brought some clubwomen in Spokane into more reformist roles, but
gaining a voice in what happened in the city proved an ongoing challenge. This was
especially true when they sought a place for women in an activity or an institution that
men thought was theirs or when women's initiatives might cost the city significant
income. For example, they confronted real opposition from the men who led the city
when they attempted to have a police matron appointed, and when they sought woman
suffrage. Thus these two reforms took longest to achieve than any of the initiatives to
build institutions did.
Spokane's boom years coincided with the early years of the nationwide movement
of progressivism, effort to achieve reform, which had its roots in the middle class. As the
city grew it saw women's organizations multiplying and their members learning valuable
administrative skills. Its clubwomen became progressive reformers, much like those
eastern women whom Lori Ginzberg has studied. They participated in this national trend
toward finding solutions for social problems, applying the ideas of progressivism to their
efforts to make the city as up to date as any Eastern urban center.
Rather than studying the Progressive political party in Spokane, "Benefiting a City"
examines one path that some civic leaders took during the early stages of that movement.
In this venture, it is indebted to a number of historians of women. In the 1980s Nancy
Hewitt argued that progressive women could and did wield power but noted that their
efforts were not always beneficial to the people whom they tried to help.19 More recently,
Robyn Muncy has demonstrated that progressive era women were seeking a public voice.
She concluded that they found one in their reform efforts during the 1890s, and in the
process they formed the roots of the American welfare state. 20 Less optimistic about
women's success in terms of their position in society, Camilla Stivers incorporated
gender into her study, to conclude that if progressive women had been more influential in
reform, public services during the twentieth century would have been more humane, less
In Spokane at the turn of the 20th Century, progressive women were creating many
of the city's social service institutions. In the process, they learned new expertise and
found a voice in the discussion that formed Spokane. By 1909 and 1910 they were ready
to help bring about two of the reforms that they had sought so many years, first the
appointing of a police matron, and second gaining woman suffrage. Yet, as an effort to
appoint women to be police officers would demonstrate only a few years later, women in
Spokane would face continuing opposition as they sought further representation of
"Benefiting a City" traces four different paths which women in Spokane took as the
sought to benefit their adopted hometown. Local charitable ladies advocated reform in a
growing and increasingly complex city. Chapter 1 provides a brief survey of the city of
19 Nancy Hewitt, "Beyond the Search of Sisterhood: American Women's History in the 1980s," in Unequal
Sisters: A Multi-Cultural Reader in U. S. Women's History, Ellen Carol Dubois and Vicki L. Ruiz, eds.
(New York: Routledge, 1990), 9.
20 Robyn Muncy, Cj ,,irn a Female Dominion in American Reform: 1890-1935, (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1991.)
21 Camilla Stivers, Bureau Men and Settlement Women: C. ,,r ,, ., irn Public Administration in the
Progressive Era, (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2000.)
Spokane during its boom years, focusing on those portions of the city's story that are
most pertinent to this study. Spokane provided the context within which local women
built institutions. Chapter 2 introduces the most prominent women's groups who created
institutions in the city, and provides a glimpse of the variety of reformers that sought to
work in the city. Once Spokane's social service institutions had been established, the
charitable minded found they had to keep working to convince city leaders that their
institutions efficiently provided legitimate city services. Chapter 3 demonstrates that
these ongoing efforts on behalf of the city were some early progressive initiatives. It also
evaluates the women's effectiveness. Institutions turned out to be the quickest route for
women to make a civic contribution, but these proved very limiting in terms of women's
broader influence on the city. Thus, some women in Spokane pursued other initiatives.
The fourth and fifth chapters examine two of the most prolonged reform initiatives led by
women in Spokane. These explore the local police matron controversy, and women's
struggle to gain the vote in Washington. Although each initiative is treated in separate
chapters, the two segments demonstrate that the initiatives were closely connect in the
minds of Spokane's voters. Each of these efforts stretched throughout Spokane's boom
years, and both encountered the most outright opposition from the men at the centers of
city power. Indeed booster men were happy to let women work in institutions designed
to help women and children, and even gave them financial support, but they were far
more reluctant, even opposed to giving women a role in sectors of city life they which
thought should be men's. Both initiatives finally found success in 1910, yet gaining a
police matron, and getting the right to vote were neither the ultimate goal that women
sought. Rather they were important steps in a continuing crusade for women to make
their voices heard in Spokane.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv
PR E F A C E ......... ...... ......... ....................................... ........................... vii
LIST OF TABLES .......... ...................... .. ................. ............... .. xxi
LIST OF A BBREV IA TION S ......... ................. ................... .................. .............. xxii
AB STRA CT ........... ................... ....................... .............. ............. xxiii
1 SH A PIN G A FA IR CITY ......................................................... .............. 1
2 MAKING THE CITY RESPECTABLE ........................................... ............... 28
3 CREATING CITY SERVICES .................................................... .... .. .........68
4 CHANGING WOMEN: CREATING PUBLIC ROLES .........................................111
5 "SO WE ARE FOR AND AGAINST WOMAN SUFFRAGE" .................. .......... 157
6 C O N C L U SIO N ............................................................................................... 2 0 0
SO U R C E S C IT E D .............. ......................................................... ...... ... ..................... 205
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ........................................... ...........................................215
LIST OF TABLES
1-1 Spokane's population grow th......... ................................................. ... ............ 4
3-1 Estimated Numbers of Children per Institution ....................................... .......... 86
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
C C M ....................................................... .................... [Spokane] C ity C council M minutes
RCCP ............. ................Record of [Spokane] County Commissioners Proceedings
JOPA, GU ............ .. ..................Jesuit Oregon Province Archives, Gonzaga University
M AC, EW SHS.............................................. ..... .............. M museum of Arts and Culture,
Eastern Washington State Historical Society
NWR, SPL ...........................................Northwest History Room, Spokane Public Library
WSAERB.............. ..............Washington State Archives, Eastern Regional Branch
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
BENEFITING A CITY: WOMEN, RESPECTABILITY, AND REFORM
IN SPOKANE, WASHINGTON, 1886-1910
Nancy Arlene Driscol Engle
Chair: Bertram Wyatt-Brown
Cochair: Angel Kwolek-Folland
Major Department: History
"Benefiting a City" examines how turn of the twentieth century white
economically comfortable women in Spokane, Washington wrestled with a fundamental
American dilemma: what to do when the land of plenty fails to provide? They were
addressing concerns arising from the national culture and using progressive clubwomen's
ideas from across the nation. But they worked within a local culture shaped by Spokane,
the Inland Empire, and the Pacific Northwest. Thus, their reform efforts interwove
elements of the national culture into a western boomtownn."
Clubwomen's attempts to help the city involved them in wide-ranging social
reforms, including charity, suffrage and a drive to have a police matron appointed.
These women combined a concern for respectability and boosterism with attempts to
protect children and women. They sometimes achieved their charitable goals, even
occasionally crossing racial, economic and cultural lines of difference. In the process of
shaping others, they changed themselves, and helped shape the city.
The upstart western boomtownn," which provided both opportunity and
challenges to economically comfortable ladies, reflected contributions made by a variety
of women. Catholics, especially nuns, had the advantage of experience and a charitable
track record in the West, but had fewer economic resources. Poor women were in a place
where they could help illuminate the limits of middle class charitable efforts. Those who
found themselves on the wrong side of the law, and the women who sought to protect
them from the harsh male prison environments, discovered that the inchoate character of
the city could be a distinct disadvantage. "Benefiting a City" examines four different
paths progressive women took as they sought to benefit Spokane.
Public documents, (such as City Directories, City Council Minutes, and County
Commissioner records,) form the bulk of the documentation. These illuminate the points
where women's activities intersected with those of city and county leaders. Newspapers,
reports of investigations, Federal Censuses, maps, oral histories, and photographs help fill
in the narrative. Private documentation includes official club minutes from two different
organizations, scrapbooks and letters, a diary, and a number of smaller collections.
SHAPING A FAIR CITY
The women who invested energy into making Spokane respectable were acting
within a larger community. Some moved to the city while it was still a small town, and
worked with it as it grew to be the largest city in the northern United States lying between
Seattle and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Although they worked within a national
clubwomen's culture, they took up specific initiatives that had been inspired by Spokane
and the missions they adopted reflected the needs they saw around them. Thus, their
story begins with a town that had its roots in the nineteenth century, yet became part of
twentieth century urban America.
Although women were viable actors in the city throughout its boom years, the city's
traditional story begins with men. The city of Spokane Falls started in the 1870s as a
fantastic dream in the minds of boosters.22 The region offered many advantages. The
Spokane River flowed westward through Eastern Washington on its way to empty into
the Columbia River.23 In addition to this potential source of waterpower for Spokane,
resources lying to the east, south, west and north, seemed to make it the perfect place for
the imperial city they envisioned. It could be the hub of an empire that capitalized on
national and international trade even though it would be located more than 300 miles
22 Katharine Morrissey, Mental Territories, Mapping the Inland Empire, (New York: Cornell University
Press, 1997.) See also Marcia O' Neill Schrapps, SNJM, and Nancy Gale Compau, Our City Spokane,
(Spokane: Lawton Printing Company, 1996), 45.
23 The river now empties into Roosevelt Lake, created in the 1940s when the Grand Coulee Dam was
inland. If the city could gain a station on the northern transcontinental railroad line it
would have all the advantages it needed to become great. The dreamers only had to look
around to see the benefits this soon to be fair and imperial city of the Inland Northwest
James N. Glover selected the site in 1873 immediately upriver from the intersection
between Latah Creek and the Spokane River, because if its spectacular falls. This
entrepreneur had accumulated some money during the two decades he had spent in the
Pacific Northwest's mining and transportation industries.24 He first encountered the falls
during the month of May when the Spokane River was swollen with spring run-off from
the neighboring mountains. With the roar of rushing water etching the beauty of the
scene into his mind forever, he interpreted the Spokane River and its falls as a limitless
source of energy, and then quickly set about to transform his dreams into reality.25
In addition to the 158-foot drop the river made over an upper and lower falls, the
area offered much that boosters found attractive. Mineral wealth abounded in the nearby
mountains of North Idaho and British Columbia. The stately Ponderosa pines, stretching
across the breadth of what is now Spokane County represented potential logging
opportunities. Then there was the possibility, one that Glover was aware of, that the
Northern Pacific Railroad would be laying track nearby. To the west of the tall straight
pines, arid channeled scablands dominated the landscape, making Eastern Washington's
trees and lakes appear more distinctive. Stretching miles to the south, fertile farmland on
the high rolling hills that locals dubbed the Palouse, offered yet another asset for
2Nelson W. Durham, Spokane and the Inland Empire: Pictorial and Biographical, volume I. (Spokane: S.
J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912), 11-16.
25 Schrapps and Compau, 21.
imperialist promoters to tap.26 Glover and other boosters interpreted all these natural
features as indications that business and commerce could thrive in Spokane.27
The city at the falls began spreading southward from the Spokane River. As late as
1884, a Spokane Falls map began at a point slightly north of the river.28 On that side,
only four buildings and two parallel streets can be seen. The heart of the city stretched
south, across seven blocks of roads and buildings.29 By the late 1880s, however, the city
began expanding northward. A homesteader on that side ensured this would happen:
David Jenkins donated two plots of land--one for the County Court House and one for
Spokane's first college.30
As early as 1886 the boosters' dream of urban progress had already begun to take
on physical dimensions. Late that year local voters finally had grown numerous enough
to give the city the right to house the County Seat.31 Spokane had grown beyond its
pioneer settlement days. By 1887 it covered an area of four square miles, and supported
a population that was nearing 7000.32
26 Partially due to challenges with transportation, Spokane did not immediately tap into the region's farming
income. It would not be until after the turn of the twentieth century that the city could do so fully.
27 For an intellectual history of the Inland Empire, see Katharine G. Morrisey, Mental Territories: Mapping
the Inland Empire, (Ithaca, New York: Comell University Press, 1997.)
28 1884 Spokane Falls Map, Spokane Public Library, Northwest History Room, future references to this
room will be abbreviate, SPL, NWR.
29 Schrapps and Compau, 41.
30 Schrapps and Compau, 31.
31 The nearby community of Cheney had taken the county records from Spokane in early 1881 after
Spokane voters had refused to give them up to Cheney following the November 1880 election. Schrapps
and Compau, 34.
3The city's population was estimated at 7000 in 1887. Vertical file folder entitled Spokane Population,
Spokane Public Library, Northwest Room.
During the next decade, this population boom would prove so large, it would place
Spokane's growth curve well ahead of that of other northwestern cities.33 In 1880
Spokane Falls had an estimated 350 residents. Only ten years later, the US census
indicated that the population was 19,922, an increase of more than 5600 percent. Growth
continued in the 1890s, but it was only 85% bigger in 1900, and 104,402 in 1910, a 183%
increase. At the end of Spokane's thirty years of boom, 1880-1910, it had become one of
the fifty largest cities in the nation. During the same decades, Seattle grew 1112%, 88%,
and 194%, respectively.34
Table 1-1. Spokane's population growth
Year Population Estimate
During the city's first decade the effects of this rapid growth were visible nearly
everywhere. As late as 1888 hastily constructed wooden buildings predominated over
unpaved streets.35 Symbolizing urban progress, the Northern Pacific Railway Depot
stood prominently at what had been the southern boundary of the city in 1884. Horse
drawn streetcars circled a four-mile route linking the business district with some of the
city's first upscale homes located a little southwest of the city center. One Catholic
33 Jef Rettmann, "Prostitution in Spokane: 1880-1910," unpublished master's thesis, Eastern Washington
University, 1995, 72-73.
34 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Census of the United States, Statistics of the Population 1910
(Washington D.C.: GPO, 1911)
35 The streets would not be paved until 1897, under the direction of Mayor E. D. Olmsted. "Death
Summons Dr. E. D. Olmsted," Spokesman- Review, 29 December 1918, 7:3
Church, twelve of the Protestant persuasion, general stores and hotels, two colleges, a
library, public school, and opera house helped round out the community. These
institutions hinted that the city was becoming more than a pioneer town.
Although less populated, the north side already showed signs of becoming part of
the city. A few newly platted additions overlooked the northern bank of the Spokane
River. Two roads, Howard and Post, linked the new development to the heart of the city.
A little to the east, lying approximately an hour's walk from downtown--or a twenty
minute rowboat ride--lay the property for a school being erected by the Jesuits under the
leadership of Father Joseph Cataldo.
Named for St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the institution had originally been meant to be
the flagship of a chain of schools for native Americans that the priest was establishing
across the Pacific Northwest.36 But the non-native population boom in Spokane that
began in the 1880s quickly transformed the institution into a college dominated by
whites. This institution eventually became what is now known as Gonzaga University.
Further afield, remnants of the fur-trade days remained visible in a mill and trading
post operated about 17 miles upstream. Managed by Michael M. Cowley from 1872 until
early 1889, it had long played the dual role of providing a trading place for natives, as
well as encouraging white growth in the region. Preferring to monopolize the trade near
Idaho's boarder with Washington, Cowley himself had encouraged whites that came his
way to settle in Spokane Falls. Less visible but still marking an important site, remains
of the Spokane House lay nine miles northwest of the city. It had been the Hudson Bay
Company's trading post before 1826, lying where the Little Spokane River empties into
36 Schrapps and Compau, 13.
the Spokane.37 Initially founded by the Northwest Fur Trade Company, it had functioned
as an important site for trade between whites, the Spokanes, and the Nez Perces.
Local natives were not the only minority with a presence in the region. Between
1870 and 1920 settlers arrived in the Inland Northwest from many different countries and
backgrounds. Katherine Morrissey has shown that during the city's boom years the
region's residents represented more than thirty-three countries, thirty states, and ten
provinces. Scandinavians, Germans, Russians, and Italians were the largest groups of
foreign-born residents, but Chinese and people from the British Isles also migrated to the
Blacks began arriving near the falls as early as 1878, only seven years after the first
whites appeared there.39 The black community that developed in Spokane was always
small, hovering at about 1% of the population."4 At the turn of the century, however, it
was larger than Tacoma's, and even near the size of Seattle's. Spokane's blacks managed
to create a solid community centered on family, friends, churches, clubs and
organizations, despite limits imposed on them by the white-controlled city.41
37 Schrapps and Compau, 6.
38 Morrissey, 7.
39 Northwest Black Pioneers: A Centennial Tribute, compiled by the Centennial Committee, (Seattle: Bon
40Quintard Taylor has argued that black urban dwellers were the first to create black communities in the
West. Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-
1990, (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1998), 196.
41 Census data from Spokane in 1890 was destroyed in a fire. Nevertheless, Joseph Franklin estimated that
black families were as stable in 1890 as they were in 1900 and after. Joseph Franklin, All Through the
;in The History ofSpokane BlackAmericans, 1860-1940, (Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press,
The first African American settler was Daniel K. Oliver, a mulatto who was
married to a white woman. He was a carpenter by trade who bought a partnership in a
wood planing business, then later branched into the white-dominated occupations of
mining and real estate. He prospered, perhaps aided by his light complexion and his
white wife and child. He even played a role in local politics by serving a two-year term
on the Spokane City Council beginning in 1896.
Henry W. Sample, became the first black member of the city's police force in 1892.
In 1900 Emmett Holmes began serving as deputy treasurer of the city, and eventually
went on to serve as postmaster for the Washington State House of Representatives and
Senate.42 In 1901, a group of black men formed the Inland Empire Lodge No. 53, A. F.
and A. M. of Spokane.43 Excluded from other secret societies, they created the Prince
Hall Masons, designed to practice traditional rituals and secret procedures, but they also
contributed to the city and county by looking after local black interests.44
Less recognized for their contributions to the larger community, black women still
played important roles in Spokane.45 In 1890 the cook, known to whites as Grandma
Hicks, was the only caterer in town.46 So much in demand were her services that white
42 Franklin, 22-3.
43 Franklin, 88.
44 For a useful study of secret societies in the 19t Century see Mark Carnes, Secret Ritual and Manhood in
Victorian America, (New Haven: Connecticut), 1989.
45 Juliet E. K. Walker's study of black owned businesses, both men's and women's, emphasizes the most
lucrative business enterprises. Her point that antebellum Black women found success in menial
occupations, similar to those their sisters in slavery were in, seems to be largely descriptive of the kinds
of jobs black women were doing in Spokane at the turn of the 20th Century. Juliet E. K. Walker, The
History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship (New York: Twayne
46 "Spokane Society of 25 Years Ago," Spokesman Review, 14 June 1917.
hostesses were careful to schedule parties for nights when she would be available to
work. Similarly, from the middle 1890s until she died in 1902, Celia Rogers was the
city's best-known and most colorful laundress.47 In 1908, Dora Alice Freeman, mother of
six boys, worked as a sales clerk for a department store, Miller, Mower and Flynn.48 She
did not maintain that position long, however, because white customers complained. But
discrimination did not stop her, and she had the courage to join forces with Spokane's
preeminent suffragist, May Arkwright Hutton, at a time when many white women would
The Chinese ethnic community played a prominent role in Spokane during the last
decades of the nineteenth century. Some were miners, the likes of which had been in the
Pacific Northwest since the 1850s. When mining and railroad jobs ended, they turned to
building, manufacturing, and farming. By the 1890s anti-Chinese campaigns in the city
and discriminatory acts by labor unions had forced many into laundries and other jobs
that white men associated with women's work.50 At the turn of the twentieth century,
Spokane's "Chinatown," anchored by successful merchants and their families, was
located near the center of town. This community offered immigrants from China cultural
continuity and some protection from white oppression.51
47 "Their Toil is Ended" Spokane Daily Chronicle,8 July 1902, 1:5.
48 Northwest Black Pioneers, 19.
49 Dorothy Powers, "All of Us: Spokane Blacks Helped Build City in Many Ways", Spokesman-Review,
series part 13, 7 February 1985, 1:1.
50 Judy Nelson, "The Chinese in Spokane, 1860-1910" an unpublished masters' thesis, 1994, Pacific
Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library, 29, 237.
51 By the turn of the twenty-first century, Spokane's "Chinatown" was gone. Some of the fortunate had
returned to China. The few descendents of pioneering Chinese who still resided in Spokane, had settled
in suburban Spokane.
Immigrants to Spokane Falls from Scandinavian countries were numerous and
varied. As early as 1890, the first year that City Directories listed churches under their
own subheading, three of the four Lutheran churches listed were Norwegian, and
Swedish.52 A Methodist-Episcopal church served a mixed group of Norwegians and
Danes. Its pastor, Rev. E. M. Stangeland, edited a weekly English language newspaper
for Scandinavians, entitled, the Spokane Falls Echo. Stangeland managed the Echo
Publishing Company, which produced the paper, and he proudly listed in city directories
that the paper was "independent in politics."53
A group of Finns settled a low-lying area on the south bank of the river at the
western edge of town; a place called peaceful valley, that had been previously known as
poverty flats.54 Separated by a steep cliff from an upscale addition named for the
businessman J. J. Browne, it was a working class neighborhood. Many of the first
Finnish immigrants were bachelors who had been attracted to Spokane by the region's
timber industry. Others found employment in the city's construction industry.55 By 1910
this working class community was well established. For example, the Finnish Socialist
Club of Spokane had just completed the construction of a social hall in the neighborhood,
and it was quickly becoming an important meeting place for local Finns.
52 The fourth was German. Of the thirty churches listed, three German, two black, and three Scandinavian,
served Spokane's ethnic and other population. Three additional Catholic congregations served additional
Europeans. Spokane Falls City Directory, (R. L. Polk & Co., 1890), 67.
53 The Echo Publishing Company had paid to have its entry bolded in the Directory. Spokane Falls City
Directory, (R. L. Polk & Co., 1890), 207. This study found no extant copies of the paper.
54 Nancy Gale Compau, "Peaceful Valley and the History of a Neighborhood," unpublished masters thesis,
Eastern Washington University, 1985. Held in the Northwest History Room, Spokane Public Library.
55 Compau, 28.
Back in 1890, a small band of non-treaty Spokane Indians still lived southwest of
the city, a little beyond the area that had been popularly dubbed "poverty flats." Earlier
they had pitched their teepees along the River, but by the late 1880s, they had been
pushed away.56 They lived on low ground, near where Latah Creek empties into the
Spokane River.5 They depended on the creek, which they called "Sin-too-too-ooley, the
place where little fish are caught".58 Although they lived out of the sight of city residents,
the Spokanes maintained a visible presence in the town until the small band signed the
treaty and moved to the Couer d'Alene reservation in 1892.
From Latah Creek, the most direct path natives could take into the city followed a
dirt road that brought them up a hill near the first homes built in Browne's addition.
There they sometimes worked odd jobs. If they were not working, however, they still
took that route into the city. On their way, they frequently encountered white children
playing nearby. Passing beyond the children and the upscale houses, the natives arrived
at the city's center where they participated in the town's economic interchanges.
Mary K. Todd, an immigrant to Spokane, remembered years later her surprise at
having seen natives walking the streets in 1884 wrapped in blankets.59 In 1976
56 The Spokanes were Salish people, who had been using teepees for more than a century. After they had
acquired horses, they gained the ability to travel to the Great Plains. There they learned how to build
teepees from natives living there.
57White immigrants to the inland northwest named this creek Hangman's, because in 1858 Colonel George
Wright had executed several native leaders near its shores.
58 Edmond Meany, Origin of Washington Geographic Names, (Seattle: University of Washington Press,
59 Mary Todd, the daughter of an Irish immigrant, was divorced from John Todd, also an Irish immigrant,
sometime after moving to Spokane. United States Census, 1900, Spokane, Washington, vol 17, sheet 4,
enumeration distrcit 66, line 96. She later married William H. Ludden. Mary Ludden will be discussed
again in Chapters 2 and 3.
Marguerite Newman Powell looked back on the time and described the moccasin-clad
natives that she had encountered as a child while sledding down the hill near Browne's
Addition.60 Clearly, natives participated in the city despite being relegated to spaces that
the whites thought were least desirable.
Still a visible, and sometimes dramatic, presence in the city, the aging Spokane
Garry personified the early cooperation between whites and natives in the region.61 In the
1820s his father, Illim-eekum-Spokanee, a Middle Spokane's Chief whom the white fur
traders had respected, had sent his thirteen year-old son, Garry, with the traders when
they had closed up shop and gone East. This young son had attended for several years a
white man's school near Winnepeg, Manitoba. There he had learned much about white
practices and customs and had converted to Christianity. From about 1830 he was made
chief of all three tribes of the Spokanes, had attempted to balance the white man's
religion with his own native interests. By the time the city's boom began in the late
1880s, Chief Garry's etched face presented a visual reminder of ups and downs of the
cross-cultural interactions that had shaped his entire life.
But if Garry, who died in 1892, was a tragic symbol of the changes in the region,
urban-minded white boosters took pride in representing Spokane's future.62 They were
predominantly Protestants with roots in the Midwest or Eastern United States who had
60 Marguerite Newman Powell, oral history record #373, MAC, EWSHS.
61 The Spokanes pronounced Garry as "Jerry."
62 For a biography of Spokane Garry, see Thomas E. Jessett, ChiefSpokan Garry: Christian Statesman,
Friend of the White Man, (Minneapolis, Minnesota: T. S. Denison & Company, Inc. 1960.) See also,
Robert H. Ruby, and John A. Brown, The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun, (Norman, Oklahoma:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1970.)
begun arriving in Washington Territory during the 1870s.63 Of course, Catholics, most of
them European or Canadian had been in the region for many years. A few Catholic men,
such as M. M. Cowley and even Father Cataldo, had successfully made their contribution
to the city through real estate and business. More generally, Catholic contributions to
urban life in Spokane were much more indirect and thus they played less central roles in
the city than did more traditional boosters.
Non Catholic men were the most prominent city leaders. At the top was James N.
Glover, the man recognized as the father of the city. In the 1870s and throughout the
1880s, he worked as merchant and real estate agent, encouraging business development,
and serving as one of the city's first mayors.64 Close beside him were other white male
boosters, such as Anthony M. Cannon and John J. Browne, who both had purchased one-
quarter interest in the city's original townsite. They were all businessmen in the broadest
sense of the word, respectfully referred to in city directories as "capitalists." They
developed property, established banks; and sold land that they had both financed and
insured. These male boosters concentrated on increasing the city's material interests as
well as establishing themselves economically.
Many of Spokane's leading businessmen found personal success. They have been
recognized both by their contemporaries and by posterity as the City's Founding Fathers.
But their personal success should not obscure the difficulties that the city faced as they
tried to create urban services while the city was experiencing such phenomenal growth.
63 For a study of a small number of white male business entrepreneurs who have been dubbed the city's
founding fathers, see John Fahey, "The Million-Dollar Corer: The Development of Downtown Spokane,
1890-1920" Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 62: (April 1971,) 77-85.
64 Spokane City Directory, Polk, 1885.
For example, throughout the 1880s and 1890s, city leaders struggled to create and refine
Spokane's law enforcement arm, despite budget constraints that constantly hampered.65
During the early years a town marshal worked independently or with a posse of volunteer
men doing odd jobs such as getting cattle off the streets. In 1910 law-enforcement
personnel were part of a police department, but the chief still thought the department
Not only was Spokane experiencing problems creating city services that could keep
up with the city's growing needs, but city leaders faced a more basic problem, the
condition of the streets. They could be muddy, icy, slushy, or dusty, depending on the
weather and the season and during its earliest period uncollected horse manure and other
garbage multiplied the mess. Most traffic routes had simply evolved instead of having
been planned, and intersections were dangerous. Horse drawn carts, street railways,
buggies, wagons and pedestrians competed for the streets.
The physical problems Spokane encountered with its roads finally began to
improve when the city started paving streets in 1896. At about the same time a street
railway began serving the north side, which was the first successful electric powered line
in the West.67 But that was years after the proud commercial buildings had gone up.
Another striking feature of the city was its saloons. Drinking establishments were
so much a part of the urban scene that a descendent of one of the pioneer families
65 Police Scrap Book 1, MAC, EWSHS.
66 Howard S. Arnold. Spokane Police Department, Spokane, Washington, 99201, 1879-1976, a centennial
volume, (Walsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1977.)
67 Shrapps and Compau, 47.
estimated that Spokane had had one saloon for every 20 people in 1890.68 That may have
been a bit optimistic, but Spokane's saloons were prominent both socially and politically.
In 1910 the Federal census listed 186 businesses that sold liquor by the drink, or
one for every 729 people. Although some cities, (such as any of those listed in this report
from Wisconsin,) had even more saloons per person than Spokane did; still this inland
city had more saloons per capital than any other in Washington. Tacoma had a saloon for
every 796 residents, Seattle for every 951, and Everett had the fewest saloons per capital
with one for every 1,187 people.69
In August 1889, a great fire swept thirty-six blocks of the city's business district.70
It was the event of a lifetime for many of the people who witnessed it. Afterwards local
residents determined that the conflagration should become a stepping stone toward urban
growth and progress, thus transforming the tragedy into a formative step.71
The fire leveled saloons, stores, hotels, and dwellings. But it also cleared out
streets congested with wooden or wooden core buildings, and provided room for
handsome edifices made of brick and stone. Boosters immediately began construction.
They changed the orientation of the city, moving the commercial district from Howard, a
68 Transcription of a Lecture presented by Margaret Cowles, 7 Jan 1989 before the Eastern Washington
Genealogical Society, MAC, EWSHS. Cowles was a granddaughter of Henry M. Cowley, the
Congregational minister who came as a missionary to the Spokane Indians in the 1870s. Her
grandmother was Lucy P. Cowley, a leading member of the local WCTU. Cowles was a daughter-in-law
of W. H. Cowles, who had became Spokane's preeminent publisher soon after he purchased the Morning
Review in the 1890s.
69 U. S. Census Bureau, General Statistics of Cities, Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office,
70 C lupli i\ o will have a more lengthy discussion of the fire and its impact on charitable efforts.
71 For an example of some boosters' optimistic determination to rebuild after the fire see, Chronicle, 6
August 1889, 1.
north/south road, to Riverside Street, paralleling the river. With a considerable amount of
money, most of it borrowed from deep-pocketed branches of Dutch-owned banks in the
city, the boosters quickly set out to create the fair and imperial city they envisioned for
But the city fathers were not the only ones to help Spokane arise from the ashes.
The restoration involved the labor of thousands of residents plus many more that
immigrated to Spokane after they had heard about the big fire. A reporter for the
Northern Pacific Railroad sent to write about the conflagration and its aftermath assumed
he was the only idle man in town when a stranger who saw him standing still asked him if
he was looking for a job.73 Later, this same visitor talked to a laborer who informed him
that 3,500 men were helping to rebuild the city, and they intended to put up $4 million
worth of brick and mortar in less than a year's time.
Women responded to the fire as well, even though they were pushed to the margins
of the city, both literally and symbolically, in the days following the fire. A few, such as
three who may have been employees of the Western Union Telegraph Office, posed for a
photograph in front of a hastily established branch office.74 Hundreds of others lost their
residences or places of employment, and many of these returned to the scene, at least
temporarily. Countless more revisited the region as retail businesses opened temporary
quarters, but the local press made light of these shoppers. For example, one newspaper
72 "Plenty of Money" Spokane Falls Review, 9 August 1889, 1. For a scholarly exploration of the attitudes
in Spokane after the fire, and the measures residents took to create a particular future for the city, see
Katharine Morrissey, Mental Territories: Mapping the Inland Empire, (New York: Cornell University
73 Edward W. Nolan, A .f rit of Terror, Devastation, Sittering! andAwful Woe, (Spokane: Eastern
Washington State Historical Society, 1989) p.57.
74 Nolan, 41.
article made women appear hopelessly out of touch with what the fire had done to the
city. Its detailed description gently mocked a genteel woman's attempt to navigate the
burned out area while searching for temporary stores, i.e. tents, in which she could
purchase black silk untainted by the fire.7
More broadly demonstrating that women were not officially viewed as part of the
rebuilding effort, only a handful of them appear in the numerous "fire photos" that have
been preserved in archives.76 In contrast, a number of men appear in the photos. Clearly,
during a few weeks in 1889, the six square blocks that had been burned on the South side
of the River were popularly thought to be almost strictly a male domain.7
But women's lives were disrupted as much as men's were by the Great Fire, and
many were part of the effort to make their fair city even better than it had been before.
Economically comfortable white clubwomen sought to help through charitable efforts,
and thereby worked to restore the city's respectability.78 Others also sought to participate
in broad discussions that arose following the fire. For example, members of the local
WCTU criticized the mayor for letting saloons open for business only two weeks
following the fire.
One of the larger discussions these women were participating in concerned how to
maintain law and order. Immediately after the fire, the City Council closed all saloons
75 "Woman's World" Spokane Falls Review, 25 August 1889.
76 The Eastern Washington State Historical Society holds the largest collection of post fire photographs.
77 Even a year later than the fire, while Spokane was proudly sponsoring an industrial exposition, boosters
envisioned the city to be male. A souvenir program bragged that the city was not a "tottering infant," but
"full grown" in "manhood." Nolan, 58.
78 For more indepth discussion of charitable women's reaction to the fire, see chapter two. For women's
lengthy campaign to protect incarcerated women see chapter 4.
and enlisted military assistance for its Police Marshal. A local paper reported that these
men had been spending long hours patrolling the suburbs.79 Women and men alike feared
disorder would arise.
The tremendous effort by thousands of people to recreate their city paid off, at least
in the short run. In October 1890, less than fourteen months after the fire, proud Spokane
boosters hosted the Northwestern Industrial Exposition. This was the first industrial
exposition, they proudly announced, to be staged in the state of Washington.80 Housed in
a magnificent hall specifically constructed for the event, it was Spokane's first
commercial, rather than agricultural, fair. It introduced the newly rebuilt city, asserted its
regional dominance, and encouraged investment in its newly established Board of
Soon after the fair, city residents decided they no longer wanted the falls to
dominate their urban identity. In 1891 they dropped "Falls" from the city's name.82 The
river remained a symbolic source of power, however, as evidenced in the name of the
regions' first power company, Washington Water Power. This popular decision to
change the city's name demonstrated a symbolic path the local boosters were taking away
from emphasizing its environmental advantages. They were using the falls for power, but
they did not want their city name to be tied too closely to its surrounding geographic
features. City development followed suit, so that it would eventually have so many
79 For an insightful discussion of law enforcement's reaction to the Chicago Fire, see Karen Sawislak,
Smoldering City, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
80 Nolan, 58.
81 Katherine Morrissey, Mental Territories: Mapping the Inland Empire, (Ithaca, New York: Comell
University Press, 1997, 57.
82 Schrapps and Compau, 45.
bridges and trains crossing the river that the water had almost disappeared from the visual
By the end of 1891, Spokane boosters had dramatically demonstrated their focus on
urban progress. Rebuilding continued during the following year, transforming Spokane's
appearance and putting the booster's dreams into brick and mortar. The process also
placed a handful of men in prominent positions. Although his focus on elite white men
excludes other important actors in the drama, John Fahey has argued that a small number
of men who had resided in the city before the fire rebuilt the city, giving urban Spokane
its determinative characteristics.84
The defining buildings were set in eight blocks near Riverside Ave. These were
imposing granite or brick structures standing six to seven stories high and built to house a
number of businesses.85 Banks, attorney's offices and retail establishments all took up
residence there. One Dutch banker who visited Spokane in the early 1890s thought he
had never seen a town with such overwhelmingly monumental buildings. The scene
made him wonder if Spokane's leaders had been too extravagant, perhaps overreaching
However the effort to make Spokane grow might impact individual developers, the
post fire reconstruction became an important part of what the city would be for the next
83 J. William T. Youngs, The Fair at the Falls: Spokane Expo '74: Transforming an American Environment
(Cheney, Washington, Eastern Washington University Press, 1996.)
84 John Fahey, "The Million-Dollar Corner: The Development of Downtown Spokane, 1890-1920" Pacific
Northwest Quarterly, 62: (April 1971,) 77-85.
85 Retmann, 73.
86 I. Jolles, quoted in John Fahey, "When the Dutch Owned Spokane" Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 72:1,
(January 1981): 3.
century. Immediately after the fire businessmen recreated a commercial center for the
city. Many of the buildings they erected still exist at the turn of the twenty-first century.
But their version of Spokane was not the only one to be reborn after the fire. In
essence, the city's commercial region encompassed two economic systems." Within a
few blocks of these grand edifices, resting in the same commercial zone, Spokane's red
light district, which locals dubbed the "tenderloin," flourished.88 These were separate, yet
overlapping systems, fed by some of the same factors. The trains that intersected the city
along with the money, wealth and people they brought in. Immigration helped increase
the personal commercial interests of many a booster. At the same time, other people who
came to the city preferred to participate in the informal economic system. At times, the
alternative economy and culture that went along with it could masquerade as if it was
Spokane's most prominent.89
This group could include people with less formal ties to the city. Many came into
the city from the region's mining and agricultural sectors. From the 1880s on semi-
skilled migrant workers, sometimes colorful outlaws, and temporarily unemployed
people flocked to Spokane for entertainment, possible job opportunities, or to spend the
8Marion Goldman, Gold Diggers and Silver Miners: Prostitution and Social Life on the Comstock Lode,
(Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1981.)
88 Retmann, 74.
89 The railroad magnate, James J. Hill described the city in 1898 as the "worst old hole" in the West. Carl
H. Trunk, History of the City ofSpokane, from 1880 to the Lilac Parades, (Spokane: M. Kienholz, 1968),
90 Retmann, 76.
Spokane's alternative economy featured peddlers who sold wares on every corner.
For example, a patent medicine man known as Eve would take an open carriage to the
corner of Stevens and Main and lecture on medicines. Similarly, "Painless Parker" set up
a dental practice on the streets and pulled anyone's tooth for free, just to prove his dental
procedures did not hurt.91 It also featured many madams, some of whom were quite well-
known, such as one who extravagantly dressed her newest recruits then drove them
around town in a luxurious open carriage giving local men a glimpse of the delectable
treasures that awaited them at her brothel.92
Spokane outlawed prostitution in 1889, but city leaders tolerated a fine system that
regularly put money into the city's coffers, and allowed prostitution to continue
throughout the city's boom years. In a testament to the importance of this alternative
economy to the city, for many years local politicians and business leaders staunchly
defended the system because it put so much money into the local economy.
Reformers, such as church groups and clubwomen would eventually convince the
businessmen to listen to their concerns. But this would take years. In 1910 the city
finally stopped endorsing the official acceptance of fines that allowed prostitution to
continue. By that time opponents of the reformers were quiet at least publicly.93
But in the years immediately following the Fire of 1889 the eventual political and
moral reform of the city was still decades away. Other problems took precedence in the
intervening years. For example, the nationwide Panic of 1893 hit Spokane especially
91 Trunk, 9.
92 Jay Moynahan, Red Light Revelations: Unveiling Spokane's Risque' Past, 1885-1905, (Spokane:
Chickadee publishing, 1999.)
93 Retmann, 110-113.
hard. Hitting just as Spokane's all-out effort to rebuild was finishing, it brought painful
losses to the city. Business leaders who were heavily mortgaged struggled to keep their
financial interests afloat. Some of the elite boosters survived, but the experience of one
man demonstrates the difficulties that they and the city experienced. A. M. Cannon, one
of the city's four original investors, had enjoyed a measure of wealth as early as the
1880s. In 1893, the bank he owned, which had been mortgaged heavily to Dutch
financiers, was the first to be foreclosed.94 He died in New York two years later, a lonely
and nearly penniless man.
The depression had an impact on Spokane's politics, as well. It helped ensure that a
range of Spokane voters would be more favorable to alternative political parties than they
were at any other time during the city's boom years. For example, in 1891, Horatio N.
Belt was first elected to City Council. By 1894 this member of the People's Party was the
mayor, having been nominated during the first local Populist convention.95 Under his
leadership the city wrestled with the economic downturn and watched apprehensively as
a faction of Coxey's Army camped out in Spokane during May and June. He narrowly
avoided a serious riot in July when the nationwide strike of the American Railway Union
prevented trains from arriving for ten days on the Northern Pacific Railroad line.96 Belt
would serve again as Spokane's Mayor beginning in 1896, and might have been
94 John Fahey, "Requiem For a High Roller" Spokane Magazine, October 1979.
95 "Horatio and Pat Return" Spokesman-Review, 6 July 1894, 3. The City Council remained controlled by
Republicans. See also N. W. Durham, 458, 59.
96 Durham, vol. 2, 426-27. Coxey's representatives recruited more than 400 to their ranks from Spokane.
Spokesman-Review, 17 April 1894, 3:2, and 17 May 1894, 1:7.
nominated for Governor of Washington if Spokane had not already had an U.S. Senator,
John L. Wilson, Republican, and an Attorney General.
Belt found a political ally in one of Spokane's most prominent attorneys, Leander
H. Prather, who had first arrived in the city in 1884. By 1894, he and Belt were willing
to stand up as members of the People's Party even though they had suffered a political
defeat at a regional convention. In 1897 he was elected Spokane County judge.
The 1896 fusion ticket of Silver Republicans, Democrats and Populists gave to
Spokane both of the State of Washington's U.S. Senators.97 One of them was George
Turner, who served from 1897-1903. He was an attorney who had previously played a
prominent role making sure that woman suffrage would not be a part of Washington
Nevertheless, the broad spectrum of support for political alternatives that had put
Turner in as a Senator waned as the local economic situation began to rebound. As it did
so, the potential for cross-class alliances in local politics ebbed. Spokane's diversity of
political interests did not go away, but these were pushed into the background by an
imperialist city intent on making up for lost time after the depression. Their voice would
be heard again, however.
In the meantime, Spokane's corporate leaders had been busy increasing the city's
status as a railroad center. Their success on that score convinced male boosters their
empire was intact. They could argue that it was the imperial city because all regional rail
lines stopped there. For example, in 1900 the Reverend J. Edwards enthused that the city
97 "Former Senator George Turner Dies at Spokane," Seattle Times, 26 January 1932.
98 For more information see Chapter 5.
was being served by five transcontinental railroads. The three most prominent branches
were the Union Pacific that had reached Spokane in 1889; the Great Northern that had
arrived nearby in 1892; and the Canadian Pacific. Two more lines shared the Northern
Pacific tracks with the Great Northern Railway. Finally two shorter systems connected
Spokane with eastern British Columbia, and with the mining region around Lake Coeur d'
Other large corporate interests found the region attractive as well. In the early
1900s, big lumber companies took interest in Spokane, having used up the forests in the
Midwest. They came to town and bought many of the small lumber companies and mills
that had dotted eastern Washington and north Idaho. Railroads sold them huge tracks of
land, and they built large sawmills, offering employment to many.
Another of the things that brought Spokane out of the economic doldrums of the
1890s was renewed mining productivity. Longtime residents of the city, such as James
Monaghan, and Charles Sweeney acquired new wealth from their investments in
minerals. At the same time individuals who had lived elsewhere in the region and had
won the mining game often found it politically and socially expedient to move to
Spokane. Two of the newly wealthy arrivals were May Arkwright Hutton and her
husband Levi, who had been were working class but had become wealthy off a moderate
investment in the Hercules Mine.
By 1907, the year that the Huttons arrived in Spokane, the city had become opulent,
and was participating in its own "age of elegance."100 One historian has described it as
99 Jonathon Edwards, Rev., History ofSpokane County, (Spokane: W. H. Lever, 1900), 107-110.
100 Shrapps and Compau, 53.
metropolitan.10' For example, leaders brought the city beautiful movement to Spokane by
inviting the Olmsted brothers to come and make recommendations. While the Olmsteds
stuck true to their previously established formulas, suggesting the city create wide
curving boulevards, and spacious parks, the elite citizens were moving into fine houses.
Some of these mansions were in Brown's Addition, where the 1880s elite business
leaders had built homes. An architect and a nephew of a local banker, Kirtland Cutter
helped to give the visual element to Spokane's newly upscale image. Cutter's designs for
the homes of prominent leaders helped the city take the last step away from its frontier
town image and assume that of a lovely and gracious city.102
However, all citizens did not share equally in the gracious new Spokane. Signals
of discontent had been evident in 1902, when railroad officials met in a nearby town in an
attempt to talk with the region's farmers. Local agricultural interests were upset over the
railroad lobbying of state and national politicians, and they were seeking lowered
shipping rates. The tracks had not been laid in the interests of farmers, and it could be
expensive to ship produce to markets in Spokane and beyond.
Then an economic malaise that settled on the country in 1907 hit Spokane's
working class. Laborers flocked to the city seeking jobs, because boosters and promoters
had long described it as a place where one could find work. Once there, they found out it
was not that simple. Employment agents charged prospective employees a fee, then
promised them ajob at a mine or at some other distant location. Applicants would go
there only to find out that the job did not exist. In 1906 the city had attempted to crack
101 Durham, 531.
102 Schrapps and Compau, 55.
down on such practices, but agents still were not providing the numbers of jobs that
seekers in Spokane needed. They preferred working for private corporate clients, rather
than helping individuals.
Thus, a number of unemployed stayed in Spokane with little or nothing to occupy
their time. They soon became potential audiences for stories, such as those that had been
appearing in local papers describing worker unrest throughout the region. This theme
had been recurring with some regularity since 1893. Employed or not, workers in
Spokane heard of dynamited property, vandalism in mines, and other signs of unrest.
At the same time conservative progressive reformers saw what they thought were
the first good results from their efforts to move the city away from the political influence
of saloons and other special interests.103 Democrat Nelson S. Pratt, elected mayor in May
1909, campaigned on a morality plank. He immediately began working to clean up city
hall, and set the city on track to function in a moral and business-like way. Supporters,
such as clubwomen interested in appointing a police matron, also assumed that Pratt's
morality campaign would reach beyond City Council.
At the same time, members of the Industrial Workers of the World were taking note
of the numbers of restless unemployed in the city, and came to Spokane. The IWW's
primary recruiting tactic, which had already been used locally by the Salvation Army,
was to stand on street corners urging restless workers to consider their cause. Spokane
had responded by strengthening local ordinances against speaking on the streets. The
ranks of restless workers and members of the IWW tried to force the city's hand by
103 In 1904, Republican Albert Mean, a handpicked railroad candidate, became governor. Independent-
minded Republicans rebelled. Spokane's conservatives were among the rebellious, and that is when they
began working toward political reform, both in the city and state. Knight, 22.
recruiting more speakers than the city jail could hold. After five months of overcrowded
jails, the labor activists met with a measure of success in Spokane. City officials revoked
the licenses of nineteen employment agencies.104
Nationally known IWW leaders such as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and James P.
Thompson led the effort in Spokane.'05 Besides the limited success in reaching union
objectives, their campaign brought to light corruption in the local police department.
Members of several different interest groups in Spokane, including socialists and the
Woman's Club, worked to ensure that their reform interests could be addressed. Not a
united coalition of reformers, these various efforts nevertheless simultaneously put
pressure on city leaders and won the appointment of resident police matrons employed by
the city police department.106 That victory helped pave the way for local support of
giving women in Washington the right to vote in 1910.
But first, Spokane would go from being a western frontier settlement of the
nineteenth century to becoming an urban center of the twentieth. Along the way it would
be shaped by a variety of people. True, the businessmen who constructed the downtown
after the fire gave the city a look and a characteristic that would be influential for more
than a century. But a large and varied number of individuals and groups helped form the
city's character. Among the religious, ethnic, and cultural groups who participated in
shaping Spokane were white clubwomen, who would go from a "do-everything" style of
reform to being some of the city's earliest progressives. At the same time, the maturing
104 Carlos Schwantes, The Pacific Northwest, revised and enlarged edition, (Lincoln, Nebraska: University
of Nebraska Press, 1996), 340.
105 For more information on Flynn and the police matron controversy in Spokane, see chapter 4.
106 Knight, 211.
city would allow some of them to branch into self-improvement groups. These were the
clubwomen who would be most effective when seeking changes at the city level. The
efforts to gain a resident police matron and convince Spokane's voters that women should
also have that privilege faired better under a progressive guise of civic-improvement.
The Boomtown's window of opportunity left open for enterprising and sometimes
privileged women the possibility of creating a number of social service institutions. But
that window had already shut by the first decade of the twentieth century. In the mature
city progressive white clubwomen took a leading role in expressing to city leaders
women's perspectives on civic matters. However, to look more closely at the ways that
women benefited the city of Spokane we now turn back to the "do-everything women" of
MAKING THE CITY RESPECTABLE
In Spokane Falls of the late 1880s, charitable-minded white middle class women
found that the inchoate city provided them with a myriad of needs that they could aspire
to meet. If across the nation clubwomen were attempting to "Do Everything," those in
this boomtown found that the options for them to get involved were even more numerous
than they had been in their previous homes, this was especially so if they had lived in
better established cities back east. Yet if their opportunities were great, so was the
variety of people who responded to them. Reform minded Protestant women discovered
very early in their quest make the city respectable that the right to "Do Everything" was
not automatically theirs, it was contested terrain. Although the competition had been
evident during earlier years, the Great Fire of August 1889 intensified many charitable
efforts to contribute to their city.
On the hot, dry evening of August 4, 1889 Harriet Ross stood in her yard a mile
north of the Spokane River looking down on a huge fire engulfing six square blocks of
wooden buildings that lined the streets of Spokane's business district.107 The river and the
relatively undeveloped nature of the steeply sloping land between them and the
downtown area made her believe that her home would not be endangered. She and some
female friends watched in stunned silence as high winds propelled the inferno onward. A
sawmill crumbled, explosions rocked the air, and one of the three bridges linking the
107 "Those were Happy Days," Spokesman-Review, 24 July 1914.
north side to downtown collapsed. Horses and wagons headed up the hills in both
directions away from the river, carting goods away in an attempt to save valuable
possessions.108 Then at 9 p.m. the winds died down, and the conflagration stopped almost
as abruptly as it had begun. The city had been fortunate that no one died in the fire, yet
the devastation it wrought proved painful.
Already active in local charitable efforts, Ross no doubt grieved over what she saw
happening to the city and quickly began contemplating what she could do to help
alleviate the suffering. She and her husband, the businessman Andrew J. Ross, had
migrated to Spokane in 1884. Since that time, both had invested energy into their
adopted hometown. Among other things, he developed the subdivision from which his
wife had viewed the conflagration. She had worked to benefit individuals in the
community both by herself and as a member of women's organizations.
As early as 1886, Ross and other white economically comfortable women in
Spokane had begun conferring among themselves regarding Spokane's increasing societal
problems.109 They were seeing poverty and sickness among many recent immigrants, and
children who had neither families nor homes. They were responding to suffering not so
much different from urban conditions elsewhere in the United States. But in this inchoate
boomtown, there were limited means of addressing such problems. The city fathers were,
108 Marcia O'Neill Schrapps, SNJM and Nancy G. Compau, Our City Spokane, (Spokane: Lawton Printing
Company, 1996), 41-2.
109 The earliest extant health statistics on Spokane were published in 1893. That year Spokane recorded
523 deaths, or 13.9 deaths per thousand. While this was less than 2 % of the total population, it was a
sharp contrast to a statewide average of 3.5 deaths per thousand. State of Washington, SecondAnnual
Report of the Board of Health (Olympia: O C. White, 1893) 19. However, comparing the data on deaths
in Spokane with those from other cities in Washington for the decade beginning in 1893 suggests that
while 1893 was a difficult year for Spokane, the city was not much more deadly than others in
Washington throughout the decade.
as one historian has described it, "reluctant citizens.""1 They concentrated on economic
growth, both civic and personal, and had little time left over for more humane matters.
Women, often those like Ross who were married to city leaders, noted these limits in
official policy and believed they made Spokane less respectable.
Throughout most of the 1880s Spokane County Commissioners had given small
sums of money to private citizens, reimbursing them for the expenses they had incurred
while caring for needy children."' But that was the extent of official poor relief. The
lack of human service facilities in the city dismayed charitable-minded women. The
benevolent ladies believed their adopted hometown should not only prosper, but should
also address the problems faced by the region's most destitute residents. Their efforts to
right these wrongs even occasionally put the women at odds with the men at City Hall.
The well-to-do white Protestant women who promoted themselves as Spokane's
authorities in caring for the poor imported their notions of order and respectability. Many
had migrated from mature urban areas further east, and sometimes South, where the
middle class concept of women's responsibility for "municipal housekeeping" had been
established earlier in the nineteenth century.11 This notion seemed particularly appealing
110Gunther Barth, Instant Cities, Urbanization and the Rise of San Francisco and Denver (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1975. More recently, Peggy Pascoe has argued that these attitudes by the men
who led the city became a source of conflict between Home mission women and city leaders. Peggy
Pascoe, Relations ofRescue, the Search for Female MoralAuthority in the American West, 1874-1939,
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1990) 12, 13.
'11 For an example of an early case where the county took charge of the fate of a poor woman and her three
children, see Probate Court of Spokane County, Record of Letters Spokane County, Book A, 17 June
1880: 3. WSAERB.
2The classic work on this subject is Mary P. Ryan, Cradle of the Middle Class, New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1981. For a more recent studies of how progressive women used a sense of women's
nature to reform efforts see, Lori Ginzberg, Women and the Work ofBenevolence: Morality, Politics and
class in the Nineteenth Century America, (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1990,) and
Nancy Hewitt, Women's Activism and Social ( ii,, i. Rochester, New York, 1822-1872, (Ithaca, New
York, Cornell University Press, 1984.). See also Robyn Muncy, C, .. -,,i, a Female Domain In American
to clubwomen in Spokane. The inchoate city, which they now called home, had few
human service institutions.
The women who were interested in cleaning up Spokane further interpreted their
philanthropic responsibilities through lenses shaped by their own religious, ethnic, and
economic backgrounds.113 Their biases were especially evident when they were offering
aid to children. For example, both Protestants and Catholics were convinced that the
youngest poor should be educated to share their own religious beliefs, and not be cared
for by adults who adhered to other tenets."14
Although the white benevolent ladies considered themselves to be "western," they
were most likely to model their voluntary organizations after those they had participated
in elsewhere in the United States. For instance, a branch of the Women's Christian
Temperance Union had been active in Eastern Washington in the late 1870s, even before
Spokane's white population had grown beyond a handful of settlers."5 Like the
temperance ladies, most of the benevolent ladies did not consider the possibility that
western women's work might be different in nature from what they had done elsewhere.
Nevertheless western women, including those in Spokane, enjoyed what one
historian has described as "unusual opportunities", allowing them to "start from scratch"
Reform, (New York, Oxford University Press, 1991). Peggy Pascoe explores women's reform efforts in
the context of western towns in Relations ofRescue, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.)
113 Numerous studies have discussed how economic and cultural values influenced reform efforts in the 19th
century US. Especially good on this is Linda Gordon, Heroes of their Own Lives, The Politics and
History of Family Violence, Boston 1890-1960, New York: Viking, 1988.
114 For a study of the connection between reform and religion, see Elizabeth Hayes Turner, Women, Culture
and Community: Religion and Reform in Gaveleston, 1880-1920, (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
115 Spokane was originally named Spokane Falls, but the falls was dropped in 1890. For simplicity sake,
this chapter refers to the city with its post 1890 nomenclature.
in their reform efforts.116 Women could contribute to the boomtown by doing a number
of things, ranging from establishing hospitals and orphanages to playing an occasional
official role in municipal and county philanthropy."' But in Spokane the window of
opportunity would narrow quickly.
While it lasted, the city's exponential growth gave energy to the women's reform
efforts as well as providing them with a lot of work to do. This was as true for the
benevolent ladies as it was for many other women. Catholics were the most notable
group of other charitable women, partly because the church had already enjoyed an
extended presence in the region, as well as throughout the American West. They played
an important role in establishing Spokane's human services sector. This meant that
Catholic charitable and educational efforts were directly opposite those of the socially
prominent white women.
During Spokane's earliest boom years, the mixture of charitable agents proved
volatile, and the lack of human service institutions raised the stakes. Since a variety of
agents were working to do the same thing, a conflict over the power to define and meet
needs occasionally reached scandalous proportions. Each group participating in the
"discussion" had their own interpretation of respectability.
White protestant women were interested in increasing the region's respectability.
Their sense of what would make Spokane look good was based on what one historian has
described as the version of moral order, that Victorian women advocated."8 Yet they
116 Pascoe, 11.
17 Fannie W. Cannon, an officer of the Ladies Benevolent Society, also served as County poor agent in
1893 and 1894. For example see RCCP, Book F, 27 September 1893, p. 534, WSAERB.
18 Pascoe, 10.
only indirectly appealed emphasized their female moral authority when talking with city
leaders, but they were quick to argue that their charitable efforts relieved the city of
having to be burdened with paupers. Their sense of moral authority was more likely to
surface in their cross class relations, when dealing with people they thought were both
poor and morally deficient.119 On the rare occasions when they felt the city leaders were
directly questioning their moral authority, the benevolent ladies made primary their
concerns for their personal morality and respectability.'20
If the benevolent ladies positioned themselves at Spokane's socio-cultural center,
the nuns who spearheaded Catholic charitable efforts played a more marginal role in
making the city respectable. They were outsiders. In terms of respectability, their
primary concern was in establishing a position for themselves that would allow them to
interpret and carry out their specialty.
Even more illusive to historians, the people who were the potential beneficiaries of
charitable efforts in Spokane had their own definitions of respectability. Their concerns
had little to do with the city's reputation, but centered on the need to survive. Immigrant
families were arriving in town without the resources they needed to pay for such basic
necessities as food and housing. Disease and malnutrition exacted an especially hard toll.
Their definitions of respectability varied the most from that of the economically
comfortable benevolent ladies. This distance between themselves and the more
prominent citizens would become evident as the benevolent ladies attempted to carry out
119 Gordon, 62.
120 "Were Hopping Mad," Spokesman Review, 5 February 1897, 5:1.
their charitable mission.121 Evidence of a problem that disproportionately affected the
city's poorest women can be found in local health reports.122 As late as 1893, twenty-
seven percent of infants succumbed to some disease before their first birthday. If a child
managed to survive a year, it was not unusual that at least one of her parents would not.
Nevertheless, the options for poor babies and needy adults began looking brighter
in June of 1886. It was then that the Sisters of Providence came to town, and began
constructing the city's first hospital.123 Experienced in the nineteenth century's version of
medicine, the nuns came at the invitation of the region's ranking Catholic, Father Joseph
Cataldo, Society of Jesus.124 Since their order's founding days, its members had been
especially concerned with helping the poor.125 The nuns provided medicines, food,
housing, and work for many local indigents, as well as hospitalization for anyone who
Harriet Ross and other local Protestant women, who were already engaged in poor
relief, at once eyed the nuns as rivals. They believed Catholic institutions could not
fulfill the benevolent ladies' vision of moral order neither could it fully enhance the city's
121 The frustration the ladies expressed over maintaining help in 1889 is evident in their annual report for
that year. "Ladies Benevolent Society" Spokane Falls Review, 17 November 1889, 6:2.
122 Annual Report of the Board of Health of the City ofSpokane Washington, Shaw-Borden Company,
1894, 11, 17.
123 As early as 1882, Mother Joseph had begun considering the possibility of building a
hospital in Spokane, but the order's superior, Mother Amable, waited until 1886 to decide
they could spare the resources. Mother Amable, Montreal, to Sister Joseph of the Sacred
Heart, Washington, Territory, 26 August 1882. Sisters of Providence Archives, Mother
Joseph Province, Seattle, WA.
124 Cataldo was a Jesuit. Members of this order use the initials, S. J. to connote their affiliation. Future
references to Jesuits will identify their membership in the society with these initials.
125 The founder, Mother Gamelin, first began working on behalf of poor people in Montreal, Canada. Fifty
Golden Years: A Short History of Sacred Heart Hospital, (Spokane: Acme Stamp and Printing Company,
respectability. For example, soon after the Sisters arrived, Ross and several other
prominent white women met in Mrs. William Butterworth's millinery shop.126 They
organized the Ladies Benevolent Society, which they initially designed to address a wide
variety of different needs. Together these ladies tried running a hospital, caring for
elderly women, and providing services designed for poor children and their families. So
multifarious were their earliest charitable efforts that the undertaking proved awkward.
But after an extended refining process the institution they created would continue to serve
the region's children until the 1950s.
In early 1889, echoing the Protestant benevolent initiative of two years earlier, a
small number of Catholic laywomen organized the Catholic Ladies Benevolent
Society.127 At least two of the founders were Irish immigrants, and although few in
number, they had already provided an effective support network for the Sisters of
Providence. These women would prove to be valuable assistants for the other orders of
nuns who later came to the city. This alliance of Catholic women would be instrumental
in providing Spokane with schools at every educational level, as well as a hospital and an
Despite their eventual success in Spokane, in 1886 when the Sisters of Providence
began their work they quickly encountered challenges. For one thing, most of the nuns
126 The earliest historical account of the founding of the Ladies Benevolent Society comes from Edwards,
Jonathan, Reverend, An Illustrated History ofSpokane County, (W. H Lever, 1900) 244. Edwards says
1885. If they did, the extant evidence indicated that they may have organized in 1886. The city directory
first lists the organization in 1887, but the data in these was often as much as a year behind. Similarly,
the directory suggests that Butterworth had her millinery shop less than two years. Her shop appeared in
1887, but was not listed in 1885 nor in 1888. Spokane City Directory, (Polk, 1885, 1887, 1888.)
Butterworth was also active in the local WCTU. See Charlotte Pinkham Hamblen Diary, 28 December
1887, MAC, EWSHS.
27 City Directory entries indicate the Society had been founded in 1889. Spokane City Directory, Polk:
1889. "Notice of Meeting" Spokane Falls Review, 5 February 1890, 6:2.
were Canadians and their Motherhouse was in Montreal. They still used French as their
primary language, even though the members in the Pacific Northwest could also converse
in English.128 In addition to the nuns' accent, their ties to Catholics distanced them from
the city's most prominent boosters. Local church officials, predominantly Jesuit priests,
had a long tradition in the Pacific Northwest, but they had focused on the natives.129 Thus
in 1886 Spokane, Catholics were a minority.
The nuns, of course, were interested in meeting the spiritual needs of the people
with whom they came in contact, and thus were happy to win converts. They even
thought they could do more good for the spiritual condition of their patients than could
their Protestant competitors.130 This similarity to other Catholic leaders, however, should
not be interpreted as a sameness of daily objectives. The sisters' work required that they
cooperate closely with city and county officials. The success of their hospital depended
on their ability to forge a cooperative relationship with local leaders.
In order to achieve this goal the Sisters of Providence had to become "boosters" of
sorts. This meant agreeing on the broadest levels with other progressives in the city
about what would improve Spokane's respectability. It required, at least tangentially,
buying into the prevailing values of urban prosperity.
128 Mother Joseph, and her administrative counterpart, Sister Joseph of Arimathea were bilingual, and it is
likely that the other nuns who came to Spokane from Vancouver, Washington knew English.
129See Chapter 1 for a brief description of Catholic contributions to the Pacific Northwest before 1886.
The Sisters of Providence had come to the Pacific Northwest years earlier, but they had settled on the
Western side of the region. Two other orders had sent members to reservations in North and Central
130 For example see trans, Sr. Emerita, S. P. Spokane to Rev. Sr. M. Olive, Vancouver,
WA, 8 October 1906. Sisters of Providence Archives, Mother Joseph Province, Seattle,
They took the first step toward doing so by simply moving to Spokane. The six
members of the order who came during the summer of 1886 more than doubled the
number of Catholic officials who made the city their primary place of residence and
work. Prior to their arrival, the regionally based Father Joseph Cataldo and a parish
priest, who presided over mass in a downtown shanty but ministered to a far-flung flock,
were the most visible church officials in Spokane.
Once there, the Sisters of Providence positioned themselves strategically. The nuns
decided that a piece of ground north of the Spokane River which had been offered to
them by "the Reverend Jesuit Fathers was not suitable because it was located too far from
the city."131 They had no objection that Father Joseph was erecting a school there, but
they required a more convenient location for their hospital. As a result, the Sisters of
Providence spent $2000 of their own money on a "more beautiful and central site,"
situated near the city center on the south side of the river.132
Playing a key role in this decision, the legendary Mother Joseph had been one of
the first two nuns to take up residence in Spokane. She thrived in this fledgling
boomtownn" where she could apply her considerable architectural skills, and make sure
that her fellow nuns had a home in which to live, work, and serve the Inland Northwest's
poor. So suited was she for this vein of work, Mother Joseph would move on to another
131 M. Godefroy, S.P., "Circular Letter 11" 1890, Sisters of Providence Archives, Mother Joseph Province,
132 M. Godefroy, S.P., "Circular Letter 11" 1890, Sisters of Providence Archives, Mother Joseph Province,
construction project soon after completing Sacred Heart Hospital, leaving the
administrative and nursing tasks to other members of the order.133
While she was in Spokane Mother Joseph oversaw the construction of a beautiful
and distinctive edifice. In this way she helped the nuns make great strides toward
establishing a respectable presence in the city. The building was constructed of wood,
like most of the others in the city, but she had it faced with bricks and added a
fashionable cupola to the roof. Inside it featured a state of the art heating system and the
most up-to-date operating rooms.134 It was a project destined for success. Long after the
Sisters of Providence had moved away from the original facility, city residents continued
to commemorate the skills of the legendary nun who had walked the streets of Spokane
carrying a hammer in her belt.'35
With Mother Joseph's help the Sisters of Providence quickly pulled away from the
traditions that had been established during the many years that the Jesuits had been in the
region, and they soon began playing a role in Spokane's progressive reform scene.136
Their first chaplain's experience illustrates the contrast between the nun's daily objectives
and routines, and those of many of the local priests. When Father Peter Barcelo, S. J.,
arrived at Sacred Heart soon after the sisters had opened their doors, he found the nuns
133 When she died in 1902, Mother Joseph had founded eleven hospitals, seven academies, five Indian
schools, two orphanages, and one old-age Home. James J. Kenneally, The History ofAmerican Catholic
Women (New York: Crossroads Publishing Co., 1990), 78.
134 Spokane Falls Review, 1 January 1887, 2:2
135 "That Hospital in 1886 Made a City of a Town" Spokane Daily Chronicle, 25 December 1967. The
Sisters of Providence sold their property near the River to the Great Northern Railroad and moved into a
building on their current location on Spokane's South Hill in March 1910. See Fifty Golden Years, 27.
136 Father Schoenberg contrasted Mother Joseph's object, the poor, with Father Cataldo's, the Indian.
Wilfred P. Schoenberg, "The Drama of Four Holy Joseph's, and Other Sundry Characters," in a speech
presented to the Spokane Club, 17 November 1986.
urban-centered routine already underway. But Barcelo had spent most of his career on
far-flung missions to the Cheyenne.137 When his health had finally broken, he left the
reservation and headed for Spokane where he spent his last days. Everything was so
different there from what he had been used to that he felt isolated and alone. In their
"Chronicle," the Sisters of Providence's collective diary, one nun explained the chaplain's
predicament: "This assignment caused him much daily suffering having been in the habit
of living with his dear children of the woods; his only happiness was to live in their
The nuns were meeting needs in the city, but this did not make it easy for them to
garner the necessary funds.139 Their plans required raising significant amounts of money
even before they could open the hospital doors. Although Spokane did have at least one
resident who had amassed a fair amount of wealth by 1886, they found no one willing to
provide the level of funding they required. On the one hand, there were no Catholics
living there who possessed any considerable cash reserves. For example, Father Cataldo
owned land, but he had invested his financial resources into developing Gonzaga College.
The Irish immigrants, James Monaghan and Charles Sweeney, who would later become
the mainstays of Catholic charitable efforts in the region, had not yet been established
among the city's well to do. On the other hand, the non-Catholics who could have
afforded to help the Sisters of Providence were investing heavily in developing
137 Wilfred P. Schoenberg, S. J. "The Drama of Four Holy Joseph's, and Other Sundry Characters," in a
speech presented to the Spokane Club, 17 November 1986, Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph
138 Chronicles, Sacred Heart Medical Center, 1886, Spokane, Washington. Sisters of
Providence Archives, Mother Joseph Province, Seattle, WA.
139 Sister Joseph of Arimethea, the first superior of Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, had begun going into
people's home's to tend the sick as soon as Mother Joseph commenced construction on the hospital.
businesses and buying property. They had a boomtownn" mentality that could celebrate
Mother Joseph's beautiful building, while reserving their discretionary money for
economic development and giving an occasional nod to Protestant benevolent efforts.140
To help meet their budgetary requirements, the nuns held local bazaars, relying on
a number of small donations from city residents. Protestants enjoyed these fair-like
events and supported them. But these provided only a fraction of the funds that the
Sisters of Providence needed. So the nuns turned to what regional church officials called
"begging tours." This usually involved going to nearby mining regions mostly located in
northern Idaho, where many immigrant Irish Catholics lived and worked.141
During these regional fund-raising excursions, the nuns placed mining gear over
their habits and headed underground to solicit the small sums that the laborers could
provide. Sacred Heart memoirs fondly describe one trip after which Mother Joseph tried
to board a train with a cow in tow. The conductor asked her to pay for transporting the
animal, but she insisted that the bovine qualified as the unspecified guest which her train
pass allowed. Tradition says the animal got a free ride.
Such colorful descriptions provide strong visual images of Mother Joseph and the
determination that fueled her quest to give Spokane its first hospital. While these may
have been embellished over the years, they demonstrate that fundraising in Spokane's
hinterlands played a significant and ongoing part of the nuns' early efforts in the city.
140 For the thought processes behind this imperial boomtown, see Katherine Morrissey, Mental Territories,
Ithaca: Comell University Press, 1997.
141While not pertaining to the specific begging tours the Sisters of Providence took, Father Charles
Mackin's memoirs provide several references to the Catholic's ritual of going out into the Inland
Northwest seeking donations. Father Charles Mackin Personal Papers, Jesuit Oregon Province Archives,
However, local leaders were impressed with what the Sisters of Providence
contributed to the city, and eventually began providing a measure of economic assistance
to the nuns. For example, in January 1887, approximately two weeks after they had
opened the hospital doors, they signed a contract with Spokane County administrators to
care for the indigent sick under its jurisdiction through February of the following year. In
exchange for these services, they would earn $1.00 per person each day.142 About that
time, city leaders gave them a small measure of support in the form of property tax
waivers.143 A short time later, city council members contracted, somewhat grudgingly,
with the nuns to care for the sick poor for which the city was responsible.144
The occasionally cooperative relationship the sisters developed with the
businessmen who controlled local governments was mirrored in their associations with
Spokane's charitable women. Of course, Catholic ladies were their allies and partners,
assisting the nuns in many ways. Protestants even sometimes helped them, but most of
the sisters were foreigners and all were religious outsiders making inroads into creating
human service institutions--that sector of Spokane, which the Protestant benevolent ladies
wished to control.
The nuns did, nevertheless, enjoy a few advantages in the contests among
Spokane's charitable individuals. The Sisters of Providence had arrived in Spokane as
members of an organization that had years of practice with tending the sick, as well as
helping the poor. If relevant experience had been the most important factor in
142 RCCP, Book C, 14 February 1887, 200, WSAERB.
143 CCM, 12 March 1888, 163-165. Washington State Archives, Eastern Regional Branch.
144 See Chapter three for a further discussion of how city and county leaders determined which indigent
sick they were responsible for.
determining which faction would establish and control Spokane's human-service
institutions the nuns would have won before any contests had begun.
But nursing and hospital administration were not yet defined by consistent
professional standards. At the time social service occupations were even less well
established. For example, the prevailing assumption about nursing held that women's
familial roles qualified them to be nurses in public situations.145 Spokane's socially
prominent white women regarded themselves as qualified by nature to care for the sick
and poor as the nuns were. More importantly, white native-born Protestant women
feared that allowing Catholics too much of a foothold would be a step toward taking
social control away from themselves and placing it in the hands of foreign immigrants.
They could see merit in--even benefit from the nuns' charitable efforts--and at the same
time, work to limit the sister's influence in the city.146
Even as Mother Joseph was overseeing the construction of Sacred Heart Hospital, a
number of Harriet Ross' associates were discussing what they could do to help meet the
needs they saw around them. Although they first planned to offer a wide range of
services, they placed a high priority on providing assistance to the region's indigent
sick.'47 As they saw it, the Sisters' hospital would be a Catholic institution and they must
provide a Protestant alternative.
145For an example of American women's path toward nursing in a public setting see Nancy Driscol Engle,
"We can't be the Women we were Before:" Mary Livermore, Chicago Women, and the American Civil
War" unpublished master's thesis, University of Central Florida, 1996.
146 Linda Gordon's study of child-protection efforts in Boston provides a valuable discussion of the
motivations of white, native born Progressive Reformers. Gordon, 29. See also, Peggy Pascoe's summary
of home mission women's Protestant positions, Relations ofRescue, 43-44.
147 At least two different women claimed to have been the founding president of the Ladies Benevolent
Society, Primary documentation of the organization during its first six years of operation is limited to
newspaper articles, and some brief comments in one woman's diary.
These various women were all responding to needs in Spokane. In 1886 a
population boom was bringing scores of immigrants to the city. In turn, this multiplied
the numbers of people requiring help. But the increasing need did not change the
procedures of the men at the centers of political power. They were more likely to give
poor people one way tickets out of Spokane, than they were to try to effect any real
change in the lives of those who were suffering.148 In their opinion devoting resources to
help the poor took away from their own advancement.
The benevolent ladies appreciated the opportunities that their husbands found in
Spokane to provide for their families' material advancement. But the ladies wanted their
husbands and other city leaders to support their efforts. In asking them for funding they
often found their interests lay beyond where men cared to go.149
These women adhered to a feminine version of booster thought, as demonstrated by
Mary Todd Ludden, several years later. She and her associates celebrated the material
successes of their city, but they also responded to the plight of immigrants in Spokane.
Ludden recalled being especially drawn to babies with "half-starved" looks on their faces.
In response, she and her associates had tried to solve the problems that immigrant
families faced by supplying basics such as bread and milk.150 And this was only a
148 Long lists of people's names and the destination to which their train tickets took them are frequent in the
poor expense sections of city council records and those of county commissioners of the time. For an
example see RCCP, Book E, 7 June 1892, 350, WSAERB.
150 "Early Day Settlers Found Much Charitable Work was Necessary" The Chronicle, 29 July 1914.
Ross, Ludden and the benevolent ladies formalized their charitable efforts by
establishing a new organization on January 17, 1887. They planned to offer various
kinds of aid to a wide range of people.151 Among other things, they wanted their city to
have a hospital. The timing of their meeting, however, indicates that these white
Protestant women had other motives. Two days before they met, Ludden and a friend
had helped a young man who had been found in a local tavern, alone, destitute, and
gravely ill.152 The ladies had assessed his condition and had decided that he needed
further medical help. They had done what they could for him, then turned to the Sisters
of Providence. The hospital would not officially open for twelve more days, but she
recalled that "Sister Joseph [Arimethea] and little Sister Peter" had graciously cleared one
of the rooms of extra bedding and supplies, and cared for the young man until his death
three days later.153 After recounting the story of the transient's last days, Ludden noted
that a wealthy family from Oregon had eventually claimed his body and had reimbursed
the hospital for his expenses.
Sacred Heart historians remember the incident with a measure of self-deprecating
humor, admitting that their first patient died while under the nuns' care. But they do not
mention that a group of Protestant women had been involved in the case. Instead, they
say that "someone" had found a Protestant man ill and alone in a shed. They go on to
151 "Early Day Settlers Found much Charitable Work was Necessary" The Chronicle, 29 July 1914.
152 At the time, Mary K. was married to the Irish immigrant, John Todd, a local distiller. She went by the
name of Mary K. Todd. In order to simplify this written account, she has been referred to throughout as
153 This was Sister Joseph of Arimethea, the first Superior of Sacred Heart Hospital. She had arrived in
town with Mother Joseph, and had spent the months while the hospital was under construction visiting the
sick in their homes and raising money.
explain that the nuns had freely opened their hospital to him, nevertheless they had been
unable to prevent his death.154
Ludden's glowing story about the cooperation between the Protestant benevolent
ladies and the nuns masks the competitive nature of Spokane's charitable scene between
1887 the mid-1890s. In retrospect she could tell how she had brought them the hospital's
first patient without revealing the contested relationship the Protestant ladies had had
with the nuns. In the intervening years between the opening of the hospital and the time
that Ludden told this story, the two charitable groups had indeed carved out
complementary initiatives and the passage of time made it seem that this had always been
Nevertheless, when the Sisters of Providence had signed their first contract with
county commissioners, the benevolent ladies were carefully looking over their shoulders.
In February 1887, two weeks after they had opened the hospital's doors, the nuns agreed
to care for the sick poor which the county was responsible for a year. Only seven months
later, however, members of the Ladies Benevolent Society decided to establish an official
home in which they could take care of the sick.
In November 1887, the members discussed the preparations they would have to
make in order to get the contract for the following year. On the 7th of that month, after
attending one of the society's meetings, Charlotte Pinkham Hamblen noted in her diary
that the ladies had discussed founding "some kind of a hospital or a home." This was not
a wild notion; the ladies had some quasi-official support in their scheme. She went on to
explain, "if it can be done in a week, the ladies have the promise of all the county
154John C. Shideler, A Century of Caring: The Sisters of Providence at Sacred Heart Medical Center
(Spokane: Ross Printing Company, 1986), 9.
patients."'55 Hamblen did not say, however, who had told the ladies that the county
commissioners would prefer having Protestant caretakers for the local indigent, but they
clearly believed the patients would be theirs if they could only make provisions for them.
She also did not explain why they wanted them.
Nevertheless, it is possible to speculate on the benevolent ladies' motivations to get
the county patients. In 1887 members of the Society had concentrated on distributing
food and other provisions to poor families. They were not formally caring for patients
and would not do so until 1890 after they had built their permanent home. At this early
stage getting the money that went along with the contract would not have been the ladies'
primary motivation. Instead, the ladies were beginning to form a list of requirements that
they wanted to have in place before they could open a hospital. They would need a
building in which to house patients, as well as accommodate the help. They planned to
hire nurses, because although society ladies were willing to visit the sick in their homes
and informally nurse the less-serious cases, they were not interested in being employed.
They did not seek to be nurses so much as they wanted to manage a hospital. And, as
revealed in repeated later claims about the neutral impact of their own charitable efforts,
they viewed the institutions their Catholic competitors established as biased and
sectarian.156 In the early days of the Ladies Benevolent Society, the members' desire to
get the county patients was probably an effort to free the city's residents from having to
patronize a Catholic institution.
155 Emphasis mine. 7 November 1887, Charlotte Pinkham Hamblen Diary, MAC, EWSHS.
156 For example, see "In Charity's Name" The Spokane Falls Review, 4 March 1890, 9. See also, "Were
Hopping Mad" The Spokane Review, 5 February 1897, 5:1.
Despite their demonstrated interest, the benevolent ladies may not have put much
effort into getting the county patients in late 1887. At least Hamblen made no mention of
any such activity in her diary. At any rate, it was a formidable undertaking, and members
of the society did not meet that initial deadline. They did not abandon the idea,
In April 1888, only five months after the first time the ladies had discussed getting
the county's business, they incorporated their society for the purpose of erecting a
building, and set out to raise the money they would need for the project.158 In the
meantime, they sent their sick charges to Sacred Heart Hospital. Throughout the year of
1888 they aided 280 people, increasing the number to 450 during the year immediately
following. These early charitable efforts involved distributing food, as well as providing
clothing and a limited amount of housing.159
By June 1889 members of the Society had grown more energetic about their fund
raising. Anna Stratton, the aging mother-in-law of the prominent booster J. J. Browne,
noted in her diary on several different occasions that her daughter, Anna Stratton
Browne, had been out soliciting contributions. She had raised $2150 during four half
days of work.160 At that rate, it seems reasonable to assume that she and the other
157 In February 1888, The ladies held another special meeting to discuss if they could take the county
patients during the 88-89 year, but decided against it. 11 February 1888, Charlotte Pinkham Hamblen
Diary, MAC, EWSHS.
158 "Early Day Settlers Found much Charitable Work was Necessary" Chronicle, 29 July 1914. For
documentation on one member's efforts to raise money for the Home of the Friendless, see Anna Stratton
Diary, 18 June 1889, MAC, EWSHS.
159 "Ladies Benevolent Society" Spokane Falls Review, 17 November 1889, 6:2.
160 Anna Stratton Diary, 18 June 1889, MAC, EWSHS.
members of the Ladies Benevolent Society did raise the $20,000 in pledges that they later
Then the Fire of August 1889 swept through Spokane's business district. While no
one was killed in the fire, it injured some and left many others in need.162Both the Sisters
of Providence and the benevolent ladies responded. The nuns, whose centrally located
hospital had narrowly missed being destroyed by the blaze, took in the handful of people
who had been injured. They provided, in addition, housing for thirty-seven individuals
who had been sick abed when their homes had been burned, and distributed meals to
many newly homeless.
Meanwhile the benevolent ladies decided that they would need a facility before
they could have a building of their own constructed. Thus, they began searching for a
house they could rent and use for temporary quarters.163 At the same time they
announced publicly that they were looking for ways to help victims of the fire, carefully
stressing their desire to cooperate with the official Fire Relief Committee.164 Then,
sensing that every available dollar in Spokane--plus hundreds of thousands more in
borrowed funds-- would be devoted to rebuilding, the ladies began rethinking their plans
to raise money.
After the conflagration, the city's Fire Relief Committee controlled the only
significant source of charitable funds. Appointed by the City Council, and chaired by A.
161 "For Charity's Sake" Spokane Falls Review, 9 November 1889.
162 For more detail on the fire, see chapter 1.
163 "For Charity" Spokane Falls Review, 26 January 1890, 12:1.
164 "Ladies at Work" Spokane Falls Review, 8 August 1889, 4:1.
M. Cannon, a wealthy pioneer and prominent businessman, the committee was packed
with well-known citizens. One was William H. Taylor, an attorney who had previously
served as mayor of Spokane. Another was Frank A. Bettis, a judge who was currently
serving as a council member.
Besides being some of the key players in the city, the members of this group had
close, and sometimes personal, ties to the benevolent ladies. For example, the former
Acting Mayor of Spokane, William H. Taylor was married to a vice president of the
Ladies Benevolent Society in 1890.165 Cannon's and Bettis' wives were not active in
women's clubs at the time, although Jennie Cannon maintained connections to the
benevolent ladies.166 Between 1890 and 1910, however, it was not uncommon to have at
least one husband of a benevolent lady serving in an official capacity for the city or
county. The Ladies Benevolent Society did recruit some elite women, as Anna Browne's
early fund-raising efforts illustrate. Less well-to-do women, however, were the most
active in leadership positions in the organization. Whatever their personal economic
circumstances, the members were socially prominent enough that they were all society
165 Spokane City Directory, (Polk, Spokane,) 1890.
166 Jennie F. Cannon died in September 1893 after a prolonged illness. "Mrs. Cannon is Dead" The
Chronicle, 8 September 1893. See also "A Good Woman's Funeral" Spokane Falls Review, 11
September 1893. City directories listed only the officers; it is quite possible that Bettis and Cannon were
members of the society, although they did not serve in official positions. In 1893 the Society had 175
members. Spokane City Directory, Polk, 1893.
167 Mrs. William Butterworth, who was active in the organization for at least 10 years, illustrates that there
was a fairly broad range in the economic status of women who were members of the Ladies Benevolent
Society during its earliest years. She was married to a tailor in the 1880s, and she worked for a short time
as a milliner. Likewise, Mrs. W. A. Cannon was president of the Society in the late 1890s, although she
also served as Matron of the Home. Spokane City Directories, Polk, 1885, 1887, 1888, 1897-98, 1899,
1900. Cannon may have been so active in the society because she was married to William A. Cannon, a
younger brother of A.M. Cannon, a well known and wealthy city father, before he lost it all in the panic
The benevolent ladies quickly set their sights on the $34,000 in donated funds that
Cannon and the Fire Relief Committee members had charge over. They probably sensed
that the city fathers would be more forthcoming with funds that had not come from the
city budget. Two weeks after the conflagration, the members received their first $1000
from the Committee.168 Upon hearing that they would receive the money, they met to
"earnestly discuss the best manner of disposing of it." They were sincere, of course, in
their desire to use the contribution efficiently. But it is clear that they enjoyed a
privileged position in the eyes of local political leaders. Their religious affiliations, their
family ties and their social prominence all gave them an initial advantage in the charitable
At the time the committee announced its gift to the benevolent ladies, it had
distributed $6,353.81 in free meals, cash, supplies, and transportation expenses. The
men's handling and distribution of relief money provides an interesting glimpse of their
priorities. First, they celebrated growth selectively. For example, they spent $283.30 on
outbound train tickets, but only $208.08 on free meals.169 Second, they preferred to aid
the charitable efforts of the white Protestant women. For example, the committee gave
only $500 to the Sisters of Providence even though the nuns had been caring for fire
victims on a daily basis. They may have justified this discrepancy because the city was
already paying a quarterly sum to the hospital for the care of the indigent sick. The
amount the municipality was paying had been based on a very low estimate of quarterly
168 "The Helping Hand" Spokane Falls Review, 21 August 1889, 3:1.
169 Spokane Falls Review, 21 August 1889, 3. At the time Spokane County probably got discounted
railroad rates. The first documented time the County got special rates was in 1892. RCCP, Book F, 4
October 1892, p. 58, MAC, EWSHS.
costs, however, and it had not been designed to cover an event with the proportions of the
The nun's problem was not in determining the best way they could use the money,
but in stretching it to cover the many services they were already providing. Clearly they
simply did not enjoy the insider position that the benevolent ladies did. Despite their
beautiful building, their continued distance from the local power centers resulted in less
official financial support.
The Sisters of Providence also played a more marginal role in Spokane's
progressive reform scene, in part because of their perspective on the poor. Their critics
thought them overly generous. For example, in distributing meals, they found more
hungry people than local officials cared to recognize. An article that appeared in print
three days after the fire illustrates the matter. Among other things, the sisters reported
having given 40 meals to poor men. But an editor scoffed at the nun's assertion that the
men really needed such assistance. "Poor men Forsooth! Young, healthy fellows who
ought to be ashamed to beg from the sisters.""17 Clearly the most powerful men in the
city believed that a man who was capable of holding a paying job did not need free food.
The men were probably noting that in the immediate aftermath of the fire, construction
jobs were plentiful.17 For their part, however, the nuns recognized there might be
mitigating circumstances in these men's lives. For example, some jobs might well have
come with wages that were below subsistence level.
170 "Sacred Heart Hospital" Spokane Falls Review, 7 August 1889, 3.
171 Jobs probably were not so plentiful in the immediate aftermath of the fire, and it may well have been the
spring of 1890 when a plethora of new construction jobs began in earnest.
However, the nuns did have at least one sympathetic official on their side. The
acting Mayor, Fred Furth, wrote an eloquent letter in September 1889 urging the City
Council to increase the money they were giving to the hospital. He described the
"unsatisfactory workings of the present manner of caring for the city sick ." explaining
that the current appropriation "has long since been short of the requirements owing to the
large increase in our population .."172 The mayor had been consulting with the nuns,
and he asserted that the current rate of $1200 per year provided for the expenses of only
three patients at a time. But, he insisted, the nuns had been consistently treating at least
twice that many indigent sick. Since the fire a month before, Furth observed, he had
approved eleven requests for city-sponsored medical care. The clerk transcribed the
Mayor's letter in the minutes, but council members failed to act on it.
In contrast to the Sisters of Providence, the benevolent ladies were much more
careful to dispense their charity to those whom they deemed to be "deserving." In their
assumptions about which poor individuals were worthy they most closely corresponded
to those of the business-minded city administrators. They believed able-bodied men
should provide for their own subsistence needs. The ladies were more willing, however,
to reach out to women and children.173 But they still needed a home base from which to
On November 2, 1889 the ladies formally presented a less ambitious building plan
to Cannon and his associates on the Fire Relief Committee. They won approval for
$8,500. Then, armed with more than twenty-five percent of the total relief fund, and a
172 CCM, Book B, 31, WSAERB.
173 Pascoe, 34.
plot of land valued at $3000, which J. J. Browne had given them during the previous
February, they immediately began entertaining construction bids.174
Five months later on May 23, 1890, amid a rush of local pomp and circumstance,
the benevolent ladies dedicated the Home of the Friendless. Among the prominent
figures giving the ladies their blessings was city councilman and Fire Relief Committee
member, Judge Frank A. Bettis, who officially "presented" the home to the women. Rev.
A. J. Wilson, pastor of the First Methodist Church, pronounced the ladies charitable
institution a manifestation of the "Second Advent" of Christ. The Honorable Anthony
Cannon, who had chaired the Relief Committee, closed the day's festivities with a short
speech and the presentation of yet another official check, this time for $2000.75
The Spokane Falls Review made the sum appear as if it had been personal, sub-
heading the paragraph "Mr. Cannon's Gift." But the competing daily paper, The
Chronicle clarified tersely, "The check was the gift of the relief committee and was
presented to the society by Mr. Cannon as the representative of that committee."176
Clearly, the benevolent ladies enjoyed a disproportionately large portion of the official
relief funds, and the approval of the "city dads," as one local priest facetiously described
the region's male establishment in his memoirs.177
174 Of the $34,000 in relief money collected during the immediate aftermath of the fire, the ladies
benevolent society got a total of $10,000 between August of 1889 and June of 1890. Spokane Falls
Review, 21 August 1889, 3:1. They also got money in November 1889, March and May 1890.
175 "Formally Opened" The Spokane Falls Review, 23 May 1890, p. 5:1.
176 "An Explanation" The Chronicle, 23 May 1890. Besides the $1000 the ladies distributed of fire relief
funds in early fall, the society itself got $11,000 in three separate gifts from the relief committee, in
November 1889, March 1890, and in May of that year.
177 Charles Mackin, S.J., "Wanderings of Fifty Years", 26. Mackin Papers, JOPA, GU.
But, as the benevolent ladies soon discovered, maintaining official approval
required hard work. They had planned to administer their home effectively but almost
immediately ran into difficulties. First, managing an official home while depending on
hired help to do the actual work intensified the problems they faced as they attempted to
cross class lines and limited their effectiveness, sometimes making it nearly impossible
for them to achieve their goals. Second, concentrating their various relief efforts in a
single building complicated matters. They found themselves providing services for
healthy children and adults in the same premises where they housed patients. Thus, the
benevolent ladies' priorities for the Home in 1890 inflamed their daily management
challenges. While they never explicitly stated what their home's primary purpose would
be, clues can be found in the way that they initially planned to use their building.
Although not attractive on the exterior, the Home of the Friendless was large by
standards of the time. On the first floor, it had a nursery, a room for elderly ladies to
spend their last days, sewing and dining areas, and a parlor.17 The second floor would
house a nurse and three hospital wards. The third featured four large wards, plus a room
for the presiding matron.
With seven hospital wards filling up two out of three floors, it seems clear that the
ladies initially intended their home to be primarily a hospital. Although they devoted two
rooms to children and old women, these initiatives were not their focii. The ladies were
attempting to match what the Sisters of Providence were doing, at the same time they
were running a nursery, and a rest home.179 In addition to managing a home with very
178 "For the Friendless" Spokane Falls Review, 18 May 1890, 5:1
179 Lucy Ide asserted in 1897 that the Home could accommodate 75 more children on top of the 42 they
currently housed, making a total of 117. "Were Hopping Mad" Spokane Falls Review, 5 February 1897,
broad objectives, the lady managers depended on employees of another class to do the
work. In contrast, their competition, the Sisters of Providence, worked both as
administrators and nurses. The nuns did hire servants and support personnel, but they
were much less dependent on others to get their work done.180
The benevolent ladies' broad approach to charity proved a daunting task, and they
kept their nursery open only four months after the Home of the Friendless had been
dedicated. In September 1890 they announced that they had decided to shut down their
children's department. They explained that they had found their multipurpose home
awkward, keeping sick people too close to where children played. At the time it had
seemed more important to provide indigent medical care. As a result they had decided to
put their full efforts into that aspect of their work.181
The Ladies Benevolent Society's experiment in hospital management peaked in
early April of 1891 when they underbid the Sisters of Providence and signed a contract to
provide all the County's invalid medical care. They agreed to do the usual tasks--
providing care and medicines, food and lodging--at a rate of $.75 per person per day.'82
That amount was $.25 less for each patient than what the Sisters of Providence had gotten
under the 1887 contract they had had with the County.
The Home Hospital did not last. Only three weeks after signing the contract the
benevolent ladies asked the County to release them from its requirements. Trying to
5:1. In comparison, the Sisters of Providence said shortly after the Fire that their utmost capacity had
been reached at 130 patients. Spokane Falls Review, 13 September 1889, 3:1
180 Godefroy, "Circular Letter 11," 1890, Mother Joseph Province, Seattle
181 "It is a Noble Work," Spokane Falls Review, 10 September 1890, 3.
182 RCCP, Book D, 2 April 1891, 261, held in the collection of the Washington State Archives, Eastern
Regional branch, Cheney, Washington.
avoid unpleasant publicity, they briefly explained to commissioners that they had decided
they wanted their institution to be a home, not a hospital.183 When they saw that they
could not compete with the Sisters of Providence, they reordered their priorities,
transforming the Home of the Friendless from primarily a hospital to an orphanage.
In response to the benevolent ladies' decision, County commissioners pronounced
the agreement with the "Home Hospital for the care and keeping of the invalid county
poor... canceled and held for naught."184 They immediately turned to the nuns at Sacred
Heart promising to pay $.85 per person per day. The Home Hospital's difficulties
apparently convinced commissioners that the work could not be done for $.10 less per
While they said nothing publicly about the incident, this was clearly a difficult
time. The ladies found they could not manage a hospital on so slim a budget. Although
the extant records shed no light on what went on inside the home, clearly the lady
managers had endured three troublesome weeks. It is possible they found it necessary to
be their own nurses. At the very least, they were finding their multifaceted approach to
providing charitable assistance difficult, if not impossible.
On the other hand, the nuns had endured a loss in terms of morale.'85 But they had
been contracting with other entities, including the Northern Pacific Railroad and mining
interests in Idaho, so the loss of county patients did not become a financial crisis for
183 "The County's Poor" The Spokane Chronicle, 22 April 1891, 5. Pascoe, Relations ofRescue, 44.
184 RCCP, Book D, 22 April 1891, 277, WSAERB.
185 The County had established a Poor Farm in 1889. The year previous to the 1891 contract, the indigent
care business that Sacred Heart had done was transferred to the Poor Farm. "Inventory of the County
Archives of Washington," no. 52, Spokane County. (Seattle: Washington Historical Records Survey,
them. The order's collective diary, however, described their competitors as imposters,
and although they discreetly left them unnamed in their official records, they were clearly
referring to members of the Ladies Benevolent Society.186 The difficulty that they had
experienced during those weeks lingered in their minds years later. A 1979 official
memoir of Sacred Heart Hospital describes the time when the nuns lost the contract to
provide Spokane County's indigent care. The memoir concludes the account by happily
explaining that they won the contract back soon after because their Protestant competitors
had decided that they could not handle the work.187
If providing hospital services for the indigent was contested terrain among
Spokane's charitable women in 1890, so was the path toward aiding poor children. The
Ladies Benevolent Society's first big effort for Spokane's youngest poor had begun in
1888 when they opened an industrial school designed to teach needlework skills to poor
girls.'88 By their second year of operation, the school had 74 children enrolled. Ludden
later recalled that they had had an average attendance of 45 at the Saturday afternoon
Approximately a year after the school was founded the ladies proudly told a
reporter about one mother who had written to thank them for what her daughter was
learning at the school. Whether this grateful woman was representative of the majority of
parents whose children participated is impossible to ascertain. Nor can the scant
186 "Chronicle" Sisters of Providence, entry in June 1890.
187A Century of Caring, Sisters of Providence, Sacred Heart and St. Ignatious Provinces, 1979, 11.
The extant documentation on this industrial school is limited to a few brief newspaper articles. And the
ladies seemed to assume that readers would know the gender of their industrial students. None of the
available evidence suggests that boys attended the school.
189 "Early Day Settlers Found Much Charitable Work Necessary" Chronicle, 29 July 1914.
documentation available shed light on the broader question of how well the poor thought
that the school met their children's needs.190
In any event, the benevolent ladies were acting in accordance with their own
economic interests. For example, neither the benevolent society member Mrs. A. B.
Junken, who was the administrator for the school, nor her associates did much of the
teaching. They preferred to maintain their own economic and social standing by enlisting
the teaching services of volunteers.191 Whatever deals the ladies made with their sewing
instructors, it apparently did not involve financial remuneration. In early 1890 while the
ladies were in the midst of the school's second year, they published an annual report that
complained "The work [of the Industrial School] has been much hampered by the
irregularity of those who have offered to teach .."192
Beyond their negotiations with teachers, the benevolent ladies' class-bias is evident
in their assumptions about what poor girls needed. They took for granted that they were
offering them a useful skill, and perhaps they were, but it also served their own interests.
Most, if not all, of their sewing students were girls who might later become domestics in
the homes of the economic group to which the benevolent ladies belonged. They were
attempting to prepare the girls to be good domestic employees, while at the same time,
they hoped to inculcate their students with middle class standards of domesticity.193 In
190 "Ladies Benevolent Society" Spokane Falls Review, 17 November 1889, 6:2.
191 Faye E. Dudden has described a middle or upper class woman's business as supervising. Faye E
Dudden, Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth Century America, (Middletown, Connecticut:
Wesleyan University Press, 1983.
192 Emphasis mine. "For Charity" Spokane Falls Review, 26 January 1890, 12:1.
193For an example of the challenges that well-to-do women faced in keeping domestic help see Anna
Stratton's diary, 30 November 1889. Stratton's daughter Anna Stratton Browne was married to the
wealthy businessman and municipal leader J. J. Browne, and she was a member of the Ladies Benevolent
the case of the Ladies Benevolent Society's industrial school, their charity mixed a bit of
largess with a healthy element of moral and practical teaching.194
Indeed the benevolent ladies found reaching across class lines difficult in more than
one situation. For example, they closed their in-home children's department in
September 1890, in part because the location of their building made it difficult to get to
poor children. The Home lay in a new subdivision on the north side of the river, and was
located too far away from where the poor lived. Thus no one they deemed "deserving" of
free childcare was taking advantage of the day nursery.195 Instead, a number of mothers
of the better classes, whom the ladies had no desire to help, had begun dropping their
children off regularly.
In addition to providing an industrial school and nursery, the benevolent ladies
wanted to help improve the health of poor children. In this regard they may have been
motivated by the region's high infant mortality rate, or they may have been responding to
more general challenges of survival that the city's lower-income groups faced.196 If
babies managed to live through the first year, health problems and accidental deaths
Society. Stratton noted in her diary that the family's maid had quit because she had to work too hard.
The diarist remarked that the family was sorry to lose such a good worker. David Katzman has
demonstrated that servant-problems were of considerable interest to Progressive-era reformers. David
Katzman, Americans and Their Servants: Domestic Service in the United States from 1800 to 1920,
(Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1981.)
195 "It is a Noble Work" Spokane Falls Review, September 7, 1890. The property upon
which the Home of the Friendless sat was in a fashionable newly established sub-division
located on the north side of the River, which J. J. Browne was developing.
196Spokane County reported in 1893 that there had been 346 recorded births and 94 deaths of children less
than one year of age. Spokane Board of Health Reports, Shaw-Borden Co., 1894, 11, 17. This study
identified no comparable statistics on infant death rates in Washington. However, a comparison of
overall death rates between Spokane and other urban areas in the state indicates that Spokane had an
occasional bad year, but over longer periods of time it was not more deadly than other cities in the state.
among poor adults in the region created other difficulties for them. Low-income
children, who had lost at least one parent, were especially vulnerable.
Sometime after the fire the benevolent ladies' quest to help children spurred a
conflict between themselves and the local parish priest, Father Charles Mackin, S. J. In
1890 Protestants and Catholics interested in helping homeless children agreed on only
one point: there was a need for such institutions in Spokane. The confrontation
stimulated a campaign in the Catholic community to bring to Spokane members of the
Sisters of Saint Francis; an order based in Pennsylvania, to establish an orphanage.197
Meanwhile, the benevolent ladies continued keeping their eyes on the needs of poor
children. At the heart of the dispute lay the question of who should have the power to
define the experiences of Spokane's needy children.
Despite their claims to be completely free of "sectarian bias," the benevolent ladies
favored the poor who shared their religious persuasion.198 This was, in part, for
pragmatic reasons. Providing the same level of service to Catholics and Protestants alike
would have complicated their in-house routines. More fundamentally, however, they
were reluctant to have Catholics interacting with Protestant children. Spokane's
benevolent ladies defined moral order and the respectability it could bring within a
Likewise, Catholics were happy to establish their own institutions. Many of their
leaders in Spokane appear to have been conservative when it came to lay women's roles
in social reform. They turned to nuns with a professional track record when they wanted
197 James Joseph Kenneally has argued that conservative elements within the Catholic hierarchy held that
lay women should not get involved in settlement work. Kenneally, 98-99.
198 For their claims to the contrary, see "In Charities Name" Spokane Falls Review, 4 March 1890, 9:4.
a hospital, orphanage, and schools. Lay women were praised for their support for the
nuns, but were not encouraged to begin social reform efforts on their own. For example,
in 1890 Father Mackin and a group of men founded a local chapter of the St. Vincent de
Paul Society. Women were not allowed to join this ministry to the poor until the
1960s.199 Mackin and other local Catholics most likely saw the Protestant women's social
reform efforts as an attempt to convert their charges.
Of course, the backdrop to this "discussion" over who should care for Spokane's
needy children, was the Great Fire of August and its aftermath. Although devastating, it
gave momentum to the city boosters and progressive reformers in two ways. Its scope
was large enough that it spread Spokane's reputation across the nation, attracting
charitable interest and spurring a new wave of immigrants heading into the city. Thus the
need for benevolent assistance increased at the same time that people outside Spokane
were most sensitive to finding ways to help relief efforts there.
The weather that hit the Inland Northwest during the following winter intensified
the situation.200 While tents still dominated the downtown district, the city dwellers had
to endure unusually cold temperatures and a higher than average snow accumulation.201
To Spokane's inhabitants, especially the business people and shopkeepers whose
buildings had been in the fire's path, along with residents living in temporary abodes
downtown, the winter of 1890 seemed especially harsh.
199 Kenneally demonstrates that conservative strands of Catholicism were still healthy as late as 1919, when
a priest from New York described settlement workers as women who used love in order to deceive
innocent children, kidnappers, or socialists. Kenneally, 98. The information on women's memberships
in the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul is from an Oral Interview, Bruno Kensock, March 2002
200 "Few Winters Like This" Spokesman-Review, 21 January 1937.
201 "Winters Growing Tougher" Spokane Daily Chronicle, 31 January 1969.
Sometime between the fire and the following spring, the benevolent ladies took in
nine immigrant German children whose father had died in the woods, perhaps in a
logging accident.202 The benevolent ladies initially thought these children were good
candidates for their charitable attention, and they took them into the temporary home they
were operating. But complications arose when their mother, who could speak no English,
insisted that the children be allowed to attend mass regularly.
If this woman had wanted her children to participate in Protestant services, the
ladies would have been happy to grant her request.20" They were in the habit of providing
in-house Sunday school activities for their charges. But taking these children to mass
would have required extra effort, and they were unwilling to undertake the task. So they
turned to the young Irish Jesuit who was presiding over the local parish.
Father Mackin later described the benevolent ladies as a "club of non-Catholic
women, who were very active." He recalled the incident involving the German children,
explaining that the matron had "sent for me and wanted me to take them away." Then,
emphasizing her heated emotions, he repeated, "she wanted all of them out of there."204
Mackin had no place to put the children, but he had taken them off the ladies' hands
anyway. Eventually finding homes for them by splitting the family up, he sent the boys
to the Jesuits at the Desmet Mission and the girls to Lewiston, Idaho, where "the Sisters"
202 "Wanderings of Fifty Years," 24, Mackin Papers, JOPA, GU.
203 The extant Ladies Benevolent Society's minutes do not cover this period, but in 1893 the ladies were
converting their nursery into a "Sunday School" every week. It is likely, therefore, that these good
Protestant ladies were doing the same thing three years earlier. "Home for the Friendless" The Spokane
Review, 11 July 1893, 3:1. The benevolent ladies also kept a record of the numbers of children in their
home that attended church services each week. Ladies Benevolent Society Minutes, Book 1, MAC,
204 Mackin Papers, JOPA, GU.
could take charge.205 Mackin did not say whether the mother went with her children, but
whatever had happened to her, he disliked having to separate the family. The incident
prompted him to begin considering what it would take to establish a Catholic-operated
"orphan asylum" in Spokane.206
Rumors of the priest's intentions reached the matron, and she summoned him to the
home again. Standing in her presence, he thought that she was "ready to tear [me] to
pieces." But some of the "more moderate women" intervened, taking him to another
room and telling him that he "should not oppose them." He went on, "I told them as
quietly as I knew how that I wasn't opposing them .. .." Instead, he agreed
wholeheartedly that orphans in the city needed to be cared for.
This colloquy between Mackin and the more moderate ladies defused the
immediate situation. But, he left the Societies' temporary quarters even more convinced
of the need to pursue other options for Catholic children. Shortly thereafter, at Mackin's
request, the region's ranking Catholic sent an official invitation to the Sisters of St.
The Protestant ladies had told Mackin they did not want the competition that a
second orphanage would create. But, this quarrel suggests the ladies were not as
interested in offering the same level of aid to Catholic children, as they were in providing
205 Mackin's memoir leaves no indication as to what happened to the children's mother. It is possible that
he sent her, along with her daughters, to Lewiston.
206 Mackin wrote his memoirs many years after the incident, and it seems quite possible that he had done
more than simply thinking about establishing a Catholic Orphanage before his second visit to the Home.
207 Joseph Cataldo's official invitation to the Sisters of St. Francis is not extant. Thus it is unclear precisely
when it happened. But the combined documentary evidence indicates that the invitation went out
sometime between the fire of August 1889, and May of 1890 when the benevolent ladies dedicated their
for Protestants. It is possible that the children's mother did something to irritate the
ladies, perhaps dumping her offspring at their doorstep or refusing to look for some way
to earn their keep while they were in the home.208 But the latter seems rather unlikely
since she could not speak English and was probably a recent immigrant. More likely, the
ladies thought she would not be able to earn enough money to defray the expenses of
supporting her nine offspring. Besides, taking in that many additional children would
have taxed their system, perhaps doubling the number of young charges they had in their
Father Mackin believed there were other, deeper reasons for the ladies' opposition.
He sensed an undercurrent of anti-Catholicism. First, this Irish priest believed that the
current matron was an "orangewoman," or an Irish Protestant immigrant. He assumed
that the longstanding religious differences among the Irish made her anger toward him
especially intense.21" Further, he believed that the ladies were simply unwilling to help
the children attend mass.
When the ladies dedicated the Home of the Friendless in May, Mackin noted that
another priest, along with the Sister Superior at Sacred Heart Hospital had both received
2The ladies expected surviving parents to pay a small fee, to get their children in the Home, and then
work thereafter to defray the home's expenses. Charles D. Raymer and Company, Raymer's Dictionary
ofSpokane, A Complete Encyclopaedic Dictionary ofSpokane and the Inland Empire, (Allied Printing,
209Mackin gave no date for this incident, but it clearly happened after the ladies had rented a place to use as
a temporary home in October of 1889, and before they opened the Home of the Friendless in May of
1890. Thus, although it is impossible to say precisely how many children the ladies were caring for at
the time, they reported in March that they had nine children in a second temporary facility, into which
they had moved in order to get more space. They were expecting to add five more on the following
Monday. "Ladies Benevolent Society" Spokane Falls Review, 9 March 1890.
210 "Wanderings of Fifty Years", Mackin Papers, JOPA, GU.
invitations to the official dedication ceremony.211 Neither accepted, but each sent a
graciously worded regret, which the ladies had published in the local paper. Mackin had
not been invited, and he concluded that the Protestant women still resented his efforts on
behalf of orphans.
The priest believed that Catholic children would not be truly welcome in the
benevolent ladies' Home, and although he did not say so in his memoirs, Mackin
probably thought they should not be under the care of Protestant women. In addition, he
was irritated that the Ladies Benevolent Society had received such a large portion of the
city's fire relief funds, and his frustration surfaced decades later as he was writing his
unpublished memoirs. Although he did not name the organization, he described the
group as the one "that had gotten all the money and provisions that had come in to Mayor
Cannon after the fire."212 He was indignant and perhaps jealous, that the ladies had
enjoyed such preferential treatment.213 No doubt many other charitable-minded Catholics
shared similar frustrations during the months following the fire.214
Despite the challenges they faced, local Catholics joined together in preparing for
the arrival of the nuns and the opening of St. Joseph's Orphanage. Female parishioners
211 Regrets from both Father William Kauten, and Sister Mary of Mercy, Sacred Heart Superior, appeared
in the paper the day the Home was opened. "Formally Opened" Spokane Falls Review, 23 May 1890,
212 Emphasis added. "Wanderings of Fifty Years," Mackin Papers JOPA, GU.
213 In February 1890, the Spokane Falls Review announced yet another gift of $500 in cash from the Fire
Relief Committee went to the Ladies Benevolent Society. "A Welcome Donation" Spokane Falls Review,
21 February 1890, 3:1. Juxtaposed nearby, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which was headed by
Mackin, made an earnest appeal for funds and clothing to assist the parish's worthy poor. "A Charitable
Call" Spokane Falls Review, 21 February 1890, 3:2.
214 As late as 1894 City Council members briefly cut their monthly appropriation to the orphanage while
leaving money going to the Home of the Friendless intact. "St Joseph's Orphanage" The Spokesman-
Review, 21 July 1894, 3:1.
helped the Sisters of Providence to throw a fund-raising bazaar, proceeds from which
were divided between Sacred Heart Hospital and the children's home. Their husbands
and sons helped Father Mackin construct the facility.
Margaret Monaghan and her friend Annie Cowley, both Irish immigrants, walked
the streets of the city soliciting funds.215 Monaghan even made a deal with her husband
to share the money budgeted for her own household use, explaining to Father Mackin,
that "[My husband] Jimmy wants me to have a servant, but I can do without her, and he
must give $35 a month for an orphan asylum."216 A few months later, this mother of four
opened her home to four Sisters of St. Francis and approximately six children who were
waiting for the men to complete construction on the building.
Efforts to establish the Catholic orphanage were compressed into an unusually
short time. Sometime between the fire of August 1889, and May of 1890 when the
Ladies Benevolent Society officially dedicated their Home, Father Cataldo invited the
Sisters of St. Francis to the city. Apparently responding to the emergency, the order
accepted immediately. Its representatives arrived in late August of 1890, then waited for
a month before they could move into their new building. Local Catholics officially
dedicated St. Joseph's Orphanage on October 4, 1890. This order of nuns had come to
town and gotten prepared for business less than fourteen months after the fire, and only
three months after the Ladies Benevolent Society had opened the doors of the Home of
215 Mackin's insight is a rare glimpse into the life of Margaret Monaghan, "Wanderings of Fifty Years"
Mackin Papers, JOPA, GU. The Monaghan collection contains only one letter of Margaret's. Her
untimely death in 1896, while she yet had small children prevented her from reaching her full potential as
a charitable figure in Spokane. Her husband was a businessman, and was well respected in the city. He
invested in mining, and later became quite the philanthropist to Catholic institutions near and far.
216 Mackin Papers, JOPA GU.
The timing was not merely coincidental. Of course, other factors, such as the
August 1889 fire and the population growth, which was rapidly heating up, played
important roles. But power struggles, fueled by religious and ethnic differences plus
competition over the boomtown's scarce resources, proved determinative in the
proliferation of local charitable institutions. The various groups of women involved were
vying for the control of Spokane's hospitals and orphanages, and the opportunity to
define the character of poor relief in the city.
Spokane's status as the self-styled center of the regional economy intensified the
conditions of need, and raised the stakes by limiting the funding available for
benevolence. This western boomtown set the stage for the charitable drama that unfolded
there, and lined up the players, giving women reformers a briefly open window of
unusual opportunities.217 But the conflict that raged over the nature of poor relief in the
city emulated standards that were not substantially different from those used in similar
institutions across the nation. Harriet Ross, Mary Todd Ludden, and Anna Stratton
Browne along with their associates who worked to endow Spokane with a moral order
that could be respected did not make western originality a priority.
CREATING CITY SERVICES
Once women had taken the first and earliest steps in creating the institutions that
Spokane needed, they found it necessary during the 1890s to cultivate their relationship
with city leaders on an ongoing basis. In the process, they promoted the maintenance of
human service institutions that cooperated with local governments, and created
neoprogressive charities taking the first steps toward Progressive governmental control of
human services. But the road toward cooperation was circuitous and long, and the
inexperienced benevolent ladies would find many challenges and pitfalls along the way.
In March of 1890, "Lady Albion effusedd in a local paper that the Ladies
Benevolent Society was "entirely free from sectarian bias," and not "curtailed in any
way."218 Such high praise for the club and its members probably came easier because she
published under a pseudonym.219 She was Mrs. W. A. Mears, a member of the
organization upon which she lavished praise, and a favorite contributing writer in the
218 "In Charity's Name," Spokane Falls Review, 4 March 1890, 9.
219It is not clear how many people knew the identity of Lady Albion. Her newspaper articles indicate that
she enjoyed some status among Spokane's society women at the time. Nelson W. Durham, History of the
City ofSpokane and Spokane County, Washington, From its Earliest Time to the Present Time, Vol. 2.,
(Spokane: S. J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1912), 424. Durham, a longtime newspaper editor may have
remembered from working with her that Lady Albion had been Mrs. W. A. Mears. But the insider article
that she published talking about the Ladies Benevolent Society demonstrates that the benevolent ladies
knew who Lady Albion was in 1890. It is quite likely that her identity was generally known among
members of Spokane's society at the time.
220 "Ladies Benevolent Society" Spokane Falls Review, 18 February 1890, 4. City Directories indicate that
Mrs. Mears' husband, William A. was involved in mining in the region from 1889-1892. The last two
years he was listed, his occupation was "capitalist." Polk, Directory, City ofSpokane Falls. 1888-91. See
Mears asserted that the ladies were effective charitable agents, who ensured that
there were "no very poor people in Spokane, and no helpless paupers." The ladies
operated, she believed, an efficient charity, meeting the needs of local poor. But that was
not all, she and her fellow benevolent ladies believed they were benefiting the broader
community. For example, she claimed that local churches had no need to organize
charitable entities, and went on to aver that the county had only a "few troublesome
charges." She predicted that if they continued to garner sufficient financial support this
one society would be able to satisfy the needs of "all the thousands of people" who called
the city home. In other words, their attention to the detail of human suffering would help
their fair city develop services and become more respectable.
While she touched on this broader context, Mears was describing the benevolent
ladies' contributions to progressivism.221 Although they took pains not to be overtly
political, she and her associates were establishing services that the city lacked. The
Western boomtown they were working in provided what was nearly a clean slate to start
with. From there, they went on to create institutions that eventually would become part
of a government bureaucracy replicated throughout the twentieth century urban west.
But if they worked with a slate much more open than any their fellow progressives
were encountering in the East they still worked within the local context of Spokane.
They were not the only ones creating institutions and filling in the blanks. Others were
doing very similar work, and the ladies knew it.
also, "The Lady Albion: A Favorite Contributor Again Heard From," Spokane Falls Review, 4 March
221 Camilla Stivers' study of gender and progressivism explores the route progressives took from women's
voluntary organizations to government run bureaucracies. Bureau Men, Settlement Women: C. i,,i n, ir,,,
Public Administration in the Progressive Era, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000.)
Even while claiming their ability to treat all the human suffering in the city, Mears
felt compelled to recognize two of their competitors. In a single sentence set off as its
own paragraph, she quickly listed Sacred Heart Hospital, which had been in Spokane for
more than three years. The all-male St. Vincent de Paul Society, which she claimed had
been established only three weeks earlier, completed her short detour.222
At the time that Mears gave this slight nod to Catholic charities, tents still lined the
downtown streets--a visible aftermath of the 1889 fire six months earlier. These
temporary shelters at the heart of the city were unspoken reminders of the region's
inchoate character, and they made this future urban center appear smaller than it was.
Thus, they helped bolster Lady Albion's claims that the Ladies Benevolent Society could
meet all the needs of the poor in Spokane.
At least in 1890 the most influential whites found little reason to challenge Mears'
claims. Spokane's leading men had already bought into the idea that local governments
should take some responsibility for helping the poor.223 For example, as early as 1880
small portions of government funds had been designated as reimbursements to
individuals who were acting as private charitable agents.224 In so doing, they were
following long established traditions that settlers to the colonies brought with them.
222The Spokane branch of the Society was already functioning in late 1889, and may have been organized
earlier in the year. "Catholic Institutions" Spokane Falls Review, 24 November 1889, 16:1. See also,
"About the City: Save Your Old Clothes" The Spokane Falls Review, 9 January 1890:3:2. In early 2002,
the local chapter of this organization had been in operation for more than 110 years.
223 Eric H. Monkkonen has argued that the city's acceptance of the idea that it was responsible to deal with
local problems is historically significant. Monkkonen, America Becomes Urban: The Development of
U.S. Cities & Towns, 1780-1980, (Berkely, California: University of California Press, 1988), 4.
224 An early case the County became involved in was that of Clara Stuck and her minor children. Clara's
Husband, Joseph was declared insane in 1880. Probate Court of Spokane County, Record of Letters
Spokane County, Book A, 17 June 1880: 3.
Spokane's founders had not created what later progressives would consider a complete
welfare system, nor had they developed what Eric Monkonnen has described as a service
When Spokane's male founders were creating and refining a municipal government,
the complex, aggressive, highly bureaucratized American city had already begun to take
shape elsewhere.226 But local leaders had to recreate its manifestation in the boomtown
they called home, and charitable women played an important part of that. In the earliest
days, women relieved the city from the burden of managing service institutions. Their
subsequent repeated requests for the city's financial support, however, kept the two
initiatives intertwined, and the partnership ultimately helped prepare the way for a more
complex service city.
Lady Albion and her associates were key figures in helping to create a
voluntary/municipal alliance. They had argued from their earliest days as charitable
agents, that having a number of poor in their midst hurt the city's reputation.227 At the
time that she wrote this article, the benevolent ladies were busily creating an institution--
The Home of the Friendless--to help needy women and children. As they argued that the
2Eric H. Monkonnen, America Becomes Urban: The Development of U.S. Cities and Towns, 1780-1980,
(Berkely, University of California Press, 1988), 208.
226 Monkonnen, 89.
227 Reginal Kunzel's study of Salvation Army Rescue Homes and Crittenton Missions demonstrates the link
between reformer's urge to protect women's respectability, their indictment of the men who took
advantage of "innocent" women, and their conviction that the city itself was to blame. Regina G. Kunzel,
Fallen Women, Problem Girls: Unmarried Mothers and the Professionalization of Social Work, 1890-
1945, (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1993), 22. Peggy Pascoe shows that western
women reformers feared the West's Reputation for "aggressive masculinity and wide-open immorality."
Peggy Pascoe, Relations ofRescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874-
1939, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990) 12. For a study that emphasizes boosters' concerns
about a civic reputation, see Elaine Naylor, "It's Going to Be a Place of Commercial Importance":
Frontier Boosterims in Jefferson county, Washington, 1850-1890, a dissertation from York University,
city should sponsor their institution to help poor children and destitute women, they took
a step toward creating an early version of a progressive style institution. By doing so,
they were playing an important role in the city.228
Of course Spokane was not the only city creating a complex municipal government
at the eve of the twentieth century. The women's efforts were part of building the modern
American city. And they had been inspired by concepts that they had brought with them
from mid-western or eastern cities.
However, the local situation helped shape their charitable efforts. First, there was
an individual economic benefit for boosting the city. Many of Spokane's business leaders
were invested in real estate, and as Eric Monkonnen has pointed out, population growth
benefits all real property owners. Many of the benevolent ladies were married to owners,
if not owners in their own right. Promoting healthy growth benefited all propertied
Second, the reform scene in Spokane influenced how the benevolent ladies defined
their institution. There were several different charitable agents active, and their ranks
became more diversified as the city grew and matured. At first, individuals, such as
Jennie F. Cannon, wife of A. M. Cannon, one of the first owners of the townsite, had
been tireless in their efforts to help others. When she died in 1893 a newspaper reported
that, although she had not been "a public woman in any sense" during the fifteen years
she had made her home there, she had been as much interested in building up the city as
her prominent husband had been.229 She was a feminized version of a booster, playing
228 Peggy Pascoe has demonstrated that there was a short window of time in the development of western
cities when women "unusual opportunities" to impact their city. Pascoe, 11.
229 "A Good Woman's Funeral" Spokesman Review, 11 September 1893.
the gracious hostess to many immigrants, "always remembering" the poor, and being a
"ray of sunshine" in the rooms of the sick.230
Besides Cannon countless others were also active as individual charitable agents.231
Very early on, these began joining with other like-minded women in organizations.232
The Protestant and a Catholic version of the Ladies Benevolent Societies were founded in
1887 and in 1889 respectively.233 A Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society appeared on the
scene in 1893. Two years later a Ladies Scandinavian-American Aid Society was
formalized.234 Although no black women's charitable organizations appeared in official
city publications, the Calvary Baptist and the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal
Churches provided rallying points for local Black efforts. Both churches had opened
their doors just a few months after the fire.235
Despite the existence of other charitable organizations in Spokane, when Lady
Albion wrote her perspective on the Ladies Benevolent Society, she and her associates
230 In later years she had regularly contributed money to the Home of the Friendless, and supported the
Woman's Exchange. "Mrs. Cannon is Dead," Chronicle, 8 September 1893.
231 A. M. Cannon was a prominent "founding father." He had been one-fourth owner of the original
townsite, and had amassed some wealth by the early 1880s. His home, which the family moved into in
January of 1884 was described in 1907 to have been the "finest private residence in the Pacific
Northwest" when it was first built. "Cannon Residence Being Moved," The Spokesman-Review, 17
232 Lucy Abigail Cowely, wife of the congregation minister H. T. Cowley who came to the region as
missionaries to the Indians in 1874 was instrumental in establishing the first women's charitable group in
what would later become the city of Spokane.
233 By 1889, two women's Relief Corps and five separate WCTU branches appeared in the City Directory.
Spokane Falls City Directory, (R. L. Polk and Co., 1889), 42-44.
234 By the late 1880s City Directories listed information about women's clubs and their officers. For an
example, see Spokane Falls City Directories, (Spokane: Polk, 1890), 89.
235The church received its charter in February 1890, shortly after the Rev. Peter Barrows relocated to
Spokane. Dorothy Powers, "All of Us" part 13, Spokesman Review, 7 February 1985, 1:1. The Reverend
A. C. Augustus, a missionary presiding elder founded the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in
April 1890. Franklin, Joseph. All Through the .;in Ye Galleon Press, 1989, 1.
were accustomed to getting a significant portion of the local press's attention. But getting
reporters to attend their meetings was easier than convincing city and county leaders that
they should support their institution.
City administrators were most generous to charities when they had under their
control excess cash, as they had had in aftermath of the Great Fire, of 1889. Their top
priority for expending official budgets, however, was in creating an ideal environment for
economic growth. The process progressives would later use to develop a welfare
government had not yet been worked out.
Throughout the 1890s, however, when it came to official budgets, local leaders
were careful not to give too much to charities. As late as 1897, County Commissioners
logged a complaint upon returning from a visit to Sacred Heart Hospital that illustrates
this. They bewailed that Spokane was "a dumping place for the sick and disabled from
every quarter." From as far away as Asia, to as nearby as Coeur d'Alene and British
Columbia, the invective went on, "all send their quota of sick and unfortunate to this
city."236 But, lest the commissioners should appear unconcerned about the plight of the
needy, the clerk added, "The list of county charges is now kept as small as is consistent
with the interests of humanity .. .."
A variety of people, including clubwomen and the supporters of local nuns, began
arguing that money for charitable institutions should come from official sources. This
contributed to a sporadic, but lengthy dispute between the city council and the county
commissioners over which entity should pay the most to help the needy. City leaders
were painfully conscious that they and other citizens personally paid a significant portion
236"Record of [Spokane] County Commissioners Proceedings," Book I, 21 January 1897,
of county property taxes, and frequently argued that the county should therefore be
responsible for the largest proportion of poor sustenance.237
The county did aid local institutions, but even then commissioners had little interest
in linking charitable forces with city leaders. They often ignored city demands that the
county become more deeply involved in poor relief, even occasionally refusing to enter
into cooperative charitable ventures.238 A local paper once predicted that there was likely
to be war between the city and the county because the latter had been "saddling paupers
on the city to be taken care of."239
This point of contention between the two governing bodies surfaced in June of
1891 when representatives of the Ladies Benevolent Society appeared before the City
Council requesting money to dig a well.240 The Home of the Friendless stood on a high
point approximately a mile north of the Spokane River. The large rock formation upon
which they had placed the foundation of the home complicated their efforts to reach
Stone was not an uncommon characteristic of the region's real estate, so Council
members were not surprised to hear that the project would require $65 more than its
original estimated cost. Accompanying their request, the women submitted a list of
individuals to whom they had provided free medical care during the previous year. Their
237 In the calendar year 1892 the Spokane County reported having given $8,111.50. In the fiscal year
ending on 30 June 1894, that amount had been raised to $14,526.62. "Auditor's Annual Statement and
Report of Finances of Spokane County, Washington, 1892, and 1894." WSAERB.
238RCCP, Book I, 20 January 1897, p. 402. WSAERB.
239 "Cinching the City," The Spokane Review, 10 June 1891, 5:1.
240 "This and That" The Spokane Review, 3 June 1891, 5:2.
241 Mackin Personal Papers, "Wanderings," 23, JOPA, GU.
assertion that these patients would have otherwise been charges of the city encountered
no opposition, and council members increased the subsidy to $500.242
This gift to the Home eventually cost the city at least three times that amount. A
month after they had settled with the benevolent ladies concerning the well project,
Council members allocated $500 for monthly appropriations to St. Joseph's Orphanage
and Sacred Heart Hospital, as well as making provisions to give $500 more to the
Home.243 Probably as a direct result of this venture, City leaders once again took up the
cry that the County should be more charitable. They were especially critical of the
County's six-month residency requirement, which they believed allowed commissioners
to ignore the plight of hundreds of the region's most needy residents.244 Compounding
City Council members' sense that the County had little interest in helping the poor, they
were painfully aware that they were providing the largest appropriations to the Home of
the Friendless through the end of 1892. In addition to the $8,000 the fire relief committee
had given the ladies by May of 1890, and the $500 for the well, it had begun considering
providing monthly support.
Despite this municipal largess, the Protestant benevolent ladies discovered that
keeping their institution operating was a formidable challenge. Many of them were
married to businessmen, but their connections did not necessarily translate into large
monthly appropriations to the Home.245 The benevolent ladies could sometimes gain the
242 "Cinching the City," The Spokane Review, 10 June 1891, 5:1.
243 CCM Book C, 31 July 1891, p. 95, WSAERB.
244 "Cinching the City," The Spokane Review, 10 June 1891, 5:1.
245 Sandra Haarsager has demonstrated that leaders of club women in the Northwest were more likely to be
well educated wives of local businessmen than they were to be married to the wealthy political elite.
Sandra Haarsager, Organized Womanhood: Cultural Politics in the Pacific Northwest 1840-1920,