Local pioneers honored for Women’s History Month

March 23, 2009

By Erica S. Maniez

In honor of Women’s History Month, we look back at some interesting women in city history.Stella Alexander (1881-1960)

Issaquah’s first female mayor generated a great deal of controversy and many newspaper articles. Alexander was elected mayor in 1932, on a platform of fiscal conservatism. While some female politicians of that era were careful to behave deferentially toward male colleagues, Alexander had no such compunction. Being referred to as the “petticoat mayor” just raised her hackles. She might have used soft, feminine charms to smooth the City Council’s ruffled feathers when its members refused to work with a woman. Instead, she fired and replaced them. Politics in general – and not just in Issaquah – were not ready for the likes of Alexander. She was voted out of office in 1934, but not without a fight. It took three tries for her recall to succeed. Following her recall, she and her husband moved to Renton, where they ran a hotel.

Bessie Wilson Craine (1882-1964)

Craine came to Washington with her family at age 5. A mischievous tomboy with a love of animals, her early life was classic pioneer material. Her later life was no less interesting. After one year of college education, she took a nanny position with a woman traveling to Dawson City, Canada*. In Alaska, she worked as a telephone operator, and later traveled to the St. Louis World’s Fair — with a team of sled dogs. There, she met Dick Craine, who was running the Eskimo Village at the fair. They married and spent much of their life traveling. In her later years, Craine penned “Squak Valley: A Girl and the Valley Grow Up,” which related stories of her early life in Issaquah. In 1963, Craine (who was by then in her 80s) contacted Ed and Harriet Fish in an effort to locate a family photo. Through their correspondence, the Fishes learned of Craine’s manuscript. The Issaquah Historical Society published the slim volume in 1983.

Mary Wold (1886-1961)

Wold was trained in two professions, traveled around the world and enjoyed an independent life. She grew up in Squak Valley, and later received teacher training at the Ellensburg Normal School. She taught elementary school, first in Sumas and later in Issaquah. In 1914, she entered nurse’s training. During World War I, Wold traveled to Siberia to serve with the American Red Cross. The war must have made a deep impression on her: In 1934, she wrote an editorial against disarmament, which appeared in The Issaquah Press. After she returned from Siberia, she worked at the Firland Sanitarium, a tuberculosis facility in Seattle, and later acted as the Seattle School District’s director of nursing. She eventually moved back to Issaquah, working as a school nurse in the school district.

Minnie Wilson Schomber (1897-1983)

Schomber was born, raised, married and buried in Issaquah. Her life spanned Issaquah’s boomtown days — where miners walked to work in the mornings and drank in her grandmother’s hotel bar at night — through Issaquah’s second boom as a bedroom community. Though they never had children, Schomber and her husband Jake Schomber were devoted to each other, as evidenced by their correspondence during World War I, and they enjoyed hunting and fishing together. She was active in the community — she started the first local Campfire Girl chapter, was the first woman Kiwaniian and served as a member of the local draft board during World War II. She also worked as the town clerk — and was fired by Stella Alexander.

Linda Reuhle (1941-2005)

Reuhle began working for the city of Issaquah in 1971 as deputy city clerk. At that time, there were only three city departments — the City Clerk’s Office, Police Department and Utilities Department — and a total of 18 employees. Reuhle became city clerk in 1975 and held that position until her retirement in 2001. Like Schomber, Reuhle was devoted to the community and was an active, energetic participant in a number of community organizations. She blazed a trail for other women in the Kiwanis Club, as the organization’s first female president. She was known for her sharp attention to detail and the way she wielded her red pen when called upon to edit anything. She was also known for her infamous, somewhat tongue-in-cheek quote, “You can agree with me, or you can be wrong.” A statue honoring Reuhle is at the corner of First Avenue and Sunset Way.

Reach Erica S. Maniez, Issaquah History Museums director, at info@issaquahhistory.org.

Check it out

To learn more about one of Issaquah’s fascinating females,   go to www.issaquahhistory.org or visit the files at the Gilman Town Hall’s research center.

* This article contains corrected information.

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3 Responses to “Local pioneers honored for Women’s History Month”

  1. Michael Edwards on March 24th, 2009 1:53 pm

    In the section on Bessie Wilson Craine you write that “she took a nanny position with a woman traveling to Dawson City, Alaska”.

    Dawson City is not in Alaska. It is in the Yukon, which is in Canada. The Yukon, which was created as a separate territory by the Government of Canada in 1898, has never been a part of Alaska or the United States.

    Best of luck with your next “history” article.

  2. Monica on March 26th, 2009 7:44 am

    I really appreciated this article. It is so important for us to acknowledge and honour these women who paved the road for our generation to make our own choices and follow our hearts. We need to keep these stories alive so that our daughters will never forget the long road here.

    And Michael Edwards needs to get a new hobby.

  3. Erica S. Maniez on March 26th, 2009 7:55 am

    You are right, Michael, Dawson City is in the Yukon. I apologize for the error. Craine’s memoir mentioned Dawson City in conjunction with Skagway and I didn’t verify the location. I hope that you enjoyed the rest of the article.

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