Edmonds pioneer, women’s suffrage champion and ‘Mother of Journalism’ Missouri Hanna honored with Sunset Avenue plaque

More than 50 attendees were on hand Friday afternoon at the corner of Sunset and Caspers as members of the League of Women Voters, many decked out in period clothing, officiated in dedicating a new historical interpretive sign honoring Edmonds publisher, land developer and women’s suffrage champion Missouri Hanna.

“This plaque is here as part of the centennial observance of the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, that gave women the right to vote,” said project coordinator Rita Ireland. “Missouri Hanna not only made history; she single-handedly changed the course of history in this state.”

Ireland went on to describe how Hanna arrived in Edmonds in 1904 from Spokane Falls with her brain-injured daughter and bereft from the deaths of her husband and young son. Intent on starting a new life in this young Puget Sound community, within a few weeks she purchased five acres just north of the business district, built her home there, named it Hanna Park, and offered lots for sale. Hanna Park still bears her name and remains a sought-after residential enclave.

“Before the year was out, she purchased the Edmonds Review, one of two newspapers in town, and placed her name in the masthead as editor and publisher,” Ireland said. She then described how Hanna diligently and objectively reported local, national and international news for five years, before selling the paper to devote her energies to the women’s suffrage movement. Hanna started the monthly journal Votes for Women that became a seminal force in the push to grant Washington women the vote.

“In large part due to her efforts, in 1910 Washington became the fifth state in the Union to grant women the vote, a full decade before the 19th Amendment granted it nationwide,” Ireland said. “We’re here today to recognize and honor her.”

Ireland was followed by Vicki Roberts-Gassler, president of the Washington chapter of the League of Women Voters and chair of the 19th Amendment Centennial Committee.

“Rita oversaw every aspect of this project to inform others about this incredible movement that we unfortunately don’t hear much about,” Roberts-Gassler explained. “The rest of us on the committee are proud of the work she’s done. But we were only cheerleaders. The full credit goes to Rita, who came up with the ideas, wrote the grants to pay for it, authored the text, coordinated with the artists, and worked with officials from the City of Edmonds to place it right here, adjacent to Hanna Park.  Missouri Hanna is one of the foremost figures in the women’s suffrage movement, and it’s only fitting that we honor her as part of the centennial celebration.”

The next speaker was Teresa Wippel, who as founder, editor and publisher of My Edmonds News carries on Hanna’s legacy today.

“I’m so honored to be part of this,” she said. “When Hanna purchased the Edmonds Review, she was mocked by the mill owners and others for stepping out of the traditional women’s role.” After 114 years much has changed, but much hasn’t, Wippel added. Journalism is still male dominated; women make up more than half the population but report less than half the news.

“When I started My Edmonds News ten years ago, I was actually quite amazed that I could do this and have no man telling me I couldn’t,” she continued. “I’m so grateful to Missouri Hanna for her courage, her legacy, and for being such a role model to people like me.”

Last to speak was Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling.

“I’m an avid supporter of history,” he said.  “I’ve known many families over the years who live in Hanna Park.  It’s a piece of history, that we need to collect and preserve. I want to congratulate Rita and the others who have undertaken to do this for their hard work in providing this important link to our past, where we came from, and who we are today.”

It was then time to cut the ribbon, as Ireland and Roberts-Gassler were joined by fellow League member Phyllis Busch — all wearing period suffragist costume — to perform the honors.

The plaque, prominently placed at the corner of Sunset and Caspers, provides a thumbnail description of Hanna and her accomplishments, and features a scannable QR code for more in-depth information on Hanna and other activities coming up as part of the centennial observance of women gaining the right to vote.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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