Today in Legal History: Washington Becomes a State

Washington State was once part of the Oregon Territory.  In 1852, settlers wrote Congress asking for a new territory called Columbia.  Congress obliged, but changed the name to Washington Territory to honor the first President.  Originally, Washington Territory included western Idaho and part of Montana.

Washington Territory went through some interesting times.  For some years, white settlers were banned from moving into the eastern part of the territory to alleviate tensions between the native people and the settlers.  During the 1860s, over 300 civil war widows and female orphans settled in the territory as seamstresses, teachers, and brides.

On November 11, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison formally declared Washington State part of the union, making it the 42nd state.  Women were granted suffrage as part of the charter (The territorial legislature had granted women suffrage, but the territorial Court struck it down).  The first governor of Washington was Elisha P. Ferry.

More information is available at:

  • Washington History
  • Don Brazier, History of the Washington Legislature, 1854-1963 (Library 3rd FloorJK9266.B73 2000
  • Ralph Bushnell Potts Come Now the Lawyers, (Banta 1972) LAW-4th Floor KFW78.P68
  • Norman H. Clark Washington, A Bicentennial History (Norton 1976) LAW-3rd Floor F891.C57
  • Edgar I. Stewart Washington: Northwest Frontier (Lewis Historical Pub. 1957) LAW-3rd Floor F891.S87  v.1  (4 volume set)
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