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Lady Willie Forbus papers, circa 1922-1983

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Forbus, Lady Willie, 1892-
Title
Lady Willie Forbus papers
Dates
circa 1922-1983 (inclusive)
Quantity
5.19 cubic feet (10 boxes) plus 1 sound cassette, 1 vertical file and 1 oversize folder
Collection Number
0259
Summary
Attorney, state legislator, political activist
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

Consult the access restrictions information for each of the accessions listed below.

Languages
English


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Lady Willie Forbus (1892-1993) was one of the first women to practice law in Seattle and the first to represent the 44th District in the state senate. She was a liberal Democrat, nicknamed the Steel Magnolia for her relentless advocacy of children's rights and equal opportunities for women.

She was born into a large, poor family in Mississippi and began running the family's household at 14. After graduating from high school, her three brothers received college scholarships, but colleges were not offering aid to women at the time, so Lady worked her way through the University of Mississippi as a stenographer for a local judge. She graduated in 1915 and applied to law schools at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Cornell, but these universities were not accepting women into law school. She attended the University of Michigan law school and graduated in 1918, the only women in a class of 50. When she graduated, the dean of the law school said, "Goodbye, Lady Willie, someday you'll make a good stenographer for some lawyers," a comment that stayed with her the rest of her life.

She wrote to lawyers in Denver, Cheyenne, San Francisco, and Seattle looking for work, and received an encouraging response from Walter Fulton, a Seattle criminal lawyer, so she moved West, arriving in Seattle in 1918. She worked as a law clerk for one year, and opened her own practice in 1919. She married Alvaro Shoemaker in 1921, kept her own last name, and gave their two daughters hyphenated last names, which were both very unusual at the time. They divorced in 1936, but remained close until Shoemaker's death in 1948.

In 1922, Forbus successfully proved that a death deemed suicide was actually murder, ensuring the victim's widow received benefits, and ran for prosecuting attorney. She lost, but this marked her entry into politics. She also began to get more active in civil activities, testifying on behalf of children's, women's and teacher's rights. She ran twice for King County Superior Court, in 1932 and 1934. Her platform was based on her belief "in humanity, in the law, and in the administration of justice." Despite her strong campaigns, she lost both elections, and was told by other judges that she lost because she was a woman.

By the end of the 1930s, she was a well-known public figure for her work with civil rights, and the King County Democratic Central Committee asked her to run for state senate. She was elected in 1942, representing the 44th district. At this point, she was a single mother whose daughters worked with her in Olympia, one as a page and one as a secretary. She continued her fight for the underprivileged by sponsoring bills relating to family issues, civil actions, health care, and housing. She was appointed chair of the Judiciary Committee and member of the Appropriations Committee. While serving in the senate, Forbus was also an assistant attorney general for the state Department of Labor and Industries (1943) and the state Fisheries Department (1944-1946).

Through the mid-1980s, Forbus continued her work as a lawyer and advocate for equal rights, was a board member of the Washington branch of American Lawyers Against First Strike Nuclear Arms and, from 1958 to 1969, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. She gave speeches ranging in subject matter from "Educational Development in Colonial America" to "Garden Planning" to "An International Bill of Rights." A staunch promoter of equal rights well before the advent of feminism, Forbus lived the life she advocated for, overcoming discrimination to make her own way through college and law school to become the first woman in Seattle to own her law practice. She retired from practicing law in 1984, at age 92, but continued to speak out in support of equal right for women and against discrimination towards minorities. She died in Seattle at the age of 100.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Correspondence, reports, campaign materials, clippings, and photos, relating to Forbus's activities as Washington state senator (1942-1946) and her participation in the King County Democratic Party, Seattle-King County Bar Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Women's Legislative Council of Washington, and Magnolia Community Club. Correspondents include Blanche Funk Miller, Carl C. Mohler, and Monrad C. Wallgren.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Consult the restrictions governing reproduction and use for each of the accessions listed below.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

Accession No. 0259-001: Lady Willie Forbus papers, circa 1946-1969Return to Top

2.14 cubic feet (5 boxes) plus one oversize folder

Scope and Content: Correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, ephemera, committee papers, and reports of Democratic Party.

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use: Creator's literary rights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info: Gift of Mrs. Forbus, 8/30/1962.

Container(s) Description Dates
Series 1: Campaigns
1946, 1950
Box/Folder
1/1 0259-001
Campaign for State Senate 44th District - Clippings, handouts, precinct counts
1946
1/2 0259-001
Campaign for State Senate 44th District - Finances
1950
1/3 0259-001
Campaign for State Senate 44th District - Newspaper clippings
1950
1/4 0259-001
Campaign for State Senate 44th District - Outgoing correspondence and publicity write-ups
1950
1/5 0259-001
Campaign for State Senate 44th District - Campaign material of Lady Willie and others, material on issues of campaign
1950
1/6 0259-001
Campaign for State Senate 44th District - Precinct lists, legislative lists, maps
1950
1/7 0259-001
Campaign for State Senate 44th District - Incoming correspondence
1950
Series 2: King County Democratic Party
1954-1963
Box/Folder
1/8 0259-001
Central Committee letters
1957-1963
1/9 0259-001
Speakers Committee, letters, newspaper clippings, lists of speakers
1954-1957
1/10 0259-001
Platform and Resolutions Committee; King County convention - rough drafts, notes, final drafts
1960
1/11 0259-001
Executive Board
1955-1963
Series 3: Seattle-King County Democratic Party
1957-1964
Box/Folder
1/12 0259-001
Civil Right Committee, correspondence
1960-1964
1/13 0259-001
Civil Rights Committee, minutes of meetings
1961-1962
1/14 0259-001
Civil Rights Committee, bylaws and working papers, material relating to fair housing
1957-1964
1/15 0259-001
Press releases and related materials
1962-1963
Series 4: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
1954-1964
Box/Folder
2/1 0259-001
Agenda and meetings
1957-1958
2/2 0259-001
Agenda and meetings
1959-1964
2/3 0259-001
Membership and committee lists
1958-1964
2/4 0259-001
Rules and bylaws
1958-1964
2/5 0259-001
Financial reports
1958-1964
2/6 0259-001
"News Release," national publication; "Civil Liberties" national publication;
1954-1963
2/7 0259-001
"Civil Liberties in Washington State"
1957-1959
2/8 0259-001
"ACLU of Washington News"
1962-1964
2/9 0259-001
"Annual Reports;" "Annual Geography"
1956-1959
2/10 0259-001
Newspaper clippings, ephemera
1954-1963
2/11 0259-001
Seattle Chapter - Newsletters, letters
1958-1963
2/12 0259-001
Committee reports
1959-1964
2/13 0259-001
Incoming correspondence
1957-1962
Series 5: 36th District Democratic Precinct Organization
1959-1969
Box/Folder
3/2 0259-001
Membership and precinct lists
1961-1962
3/3 0259-001
Handbook, maps, "The 36th Legislative District Newsletter"
1962-1963
3/4 0259-001
Constitution, bylaws, notices, Democratic campaign materials, ephemera
1960-1964
3/5 0259-001
Letters, newsletter
1959, 1962, 1969
Series 6: Magnolia Community Club
1949-1954
Box/Folder
3/6 0259-001
30th Birthday celebration
March 9, 1954
3/7 0259-001
Newspaper clippings re: field house plans and controversy
1949
3/8 0259-001
Letters, plans, campaign re: field house controversy
1949
3/9 0259-001
City Council hearings re: field house; letters, newspaper clippings, speeches, Club minutes
1949
Series 7: Democratic Party
1949-1962
Box/Folder
4/1 0259-001
44th Precinct
1952-1960
4/2 0259-001
Education Committee - letters, clippings, material re: issues
1955-1960
4/3 0259-001
Platforms and preambles
1952-1962
4/4 0259-001
Committee on National and International Affairs - bills, programs, clippings
1949-1957
4/5 0259-001
Committee on National and International Affairs - letters, meetings, issues, speeches
1955-1960
Series 8: Miscellaneous
Scope and Content: Papers from various organizations, correspondence, clippings, writings, newsletters, photographs, scrapbooks, etc.
1948-1963
Box/Folder
2/14 0259-001
Unidentified photographs
undated
3/1 0259-001
Democratic Businesswomen's Club of Seattle - Correspondence, membership lists, bylaws, ephemera
1956-1957
4/6 0259-001
Ephemera - newspaper clippings, programs
1948-1960
4/7 0259-001
Outgoing correspondence
1951-1959
4/8 0259-001
Incoming correspondence
1949-1962
4/9 0259-001
Democratic fact sheet
1956
4/10 0259-001
Miscellaneous newsletters
1949-1963
4/11 0259-001
Speeches, outlines of speeches
1953, undated
4/12 0259-001
American Legion
1952
4/13 0259-001
Ancient Order United Workmen of Washington
1952-1955
4/14 0259-001
Democratic Business Women's Luncheon Club
undated
5 0259-001
Scrapbook
Scope and Content: Newspaper clippings on Forbus' senatorial re-election campaign, issues, and opponents; notices from various clubs, Magnolia news, announcement of candidacy, and correspondence with voters
1946-1947
5 0259-001
Scrapbook
Scope and Content: Newspaper clippings on Forbus' senatorial re-election campaign, issues, and opponents; correspondence with voters, maps, lists of candidates, and certificates
1950
Folder - Oversize Box 10 0259-001
Poster
Scope and Content: Poster urging voters to re-elect Forbus, Goucher, and Murphy as 44th District Democrats
undated

Accession No. 0259-002: Lady Willie Forbus papers, circa 1922-1964Return to Top

2.82 cubic feet (4 boxes)

Scope and Content: Correspondence, speech notes, ephemera, clippings, ca. 1922-1948, client files, 1929-1964.

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users, but access to some of the materials is restricted. Contact repository for details.

Restrictions on Use: Creator's literary rights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info: Donated by Mrs. Forbus, 7/5/1983.

Container(s) Description Dates
Series 1: Personal Papers
1922-1963
Box/Folder
1 0259-002
Biographical Features
1922-1963
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Bone, Homer T.
1936-1942
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Forbus, Edward L.
1929-1944
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Forbus, Sample
1931-1933
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Forbus, Lady Willie re: daughters' patronage
1942
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Forbus, Wiley
1935
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Mayne, Florence
1934, 1943
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Miller, Blanche Funk
1933-1943
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Mahler, Carl
1942-1944
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Percival, Juanita (Sister of Lady Willie Forbus)
1932
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Shoemaker, Alvaro
1935-1943
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Wallgren, Monrad C.
1941-1944
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: A-Z
1931-1946
1 0259-002
General Correspondence: Unidentified
1932-1935
1 0259-002
Speech Notes of Lady Willie Forbus
1930-1948
1 0259-002
Speeches of Lady Willie Forbus
1935-1948
1 0259-002
Writings of Lady Willie Forbus
1940-1944
1 0259-002
Writings of Others
1936-1944
1 0259-002
Writing, Unidentified
undated
1 0259-002
Financial Records
1935-1948
1 0259-002
Reports
1943-1945
1 0259-002
Legislation, Roll Call Votes on Legislation
1937, 1943, undated
1 0259-002
Resolutions
1944-1945
1 0259-002
Campaign Material
undated
1 0259-002
Newsletters and Bulletins
1939-1940
1 0259-002
News Releases
1940-1944
1-2 0259-002
Ephemera
Scope and Content: Personal and legislative
1938-1948
2 0259-002
Programs
Scope and Content: Federal Theater Project, Seattle Children's Theater Unit, and others
1930-1942
2 0259-002
Agenda
undated
2 0259-002
Lists
1935-1945
2 0259-002
Questionnaire
1939
2 0259-002
Photographs
undated
2 0259-002
Clippings
1930-1948
2 0259-002
Newspaper, "Democratic Free Press"
1936
2 0259-002
Notes
1940-1945, undated
2 0259-002
Invitations
1940-1945
2 0259-002
Miscellaneous
1933-1942
Series 2: Campaign and Organizational Papers
1931-1944
Box/Folder
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Proposed Legislation re: Public Schools
1939
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, Biographical Features
undated
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, General Correspondence A-Y
September 1931-October 1932
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, Speech Notes of Lady Willie Forbus
undated
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, Speeches of Lady Willie Forbus
undated
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, Writings of others
undated
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, Financial Records
1932
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, Ephemera
1932
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, Press Releases
undated
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, Lists
1932
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, Photographs of Lady Willie Forbus
undated
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, Clippings
1932
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1932, Notes
1932
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1934, General Correspondence, A-W
undated
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1934, General Correspondence, unidentified
undated
2 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1934, Speeches by Lady Willie Forbus
undated
3 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1934, Speeches re: Lady Willie Forbus
undated
3 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1934, Press Releases
undated
3 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1934, Report
undated
3 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1934, Campaign Records
undated
3 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1934, Ephemera
undated
3 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1934, Lists
undated
3 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1934, Clippings
undated
3 0259-002
Subject Series: Judicial Campaign 1934, Notes
undated
3 0259-002
Women's Legislative Council of Washington
1931-1937
3 0259-002
Magnolia Parent-Teacher Association
1937-1939
3 0259-002
Florence Crittenton Home
1939-1944
Series 3: Law Practice: Client Files
1931-1964
Box/Folder
4 0259-002
Client Files
1931-1932
4 0259-002
Client Files
1933
4 0259-002
Client Files
1934-1936
4 0259-002
Client Files
1937-1939, undated
4 0259-002
Client Files
1940-1942
4 0259-002
Client Files
1943-1947
4 0259-002
Client Files
1956-1959
4 0259-002
Client Files
1961-1964

Accession No. 0259-003: Lady Willie Forbus papers, 1953-1972Return to Top

.23 cubic feet (1 box)

Scope and Content: Correspondence 1953-1968, speeches and other papers, 1953-1972,

This accession covers her activities in the Magnolia Community Club to improve her own neighborhood of Magnolia, and her general interest in politics.

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use: Creator's literary rights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info: Donated by Lady Willie Forbus, 9/1/1983.

Container(s) Description Dates
Series 1: Personal Papers
1953-1986
Box/Folder
1 0259-003
General Correspondence, A-Z
1953-1968
1 0259-003
General Correspondence, unidentified
1957, 1967
1 0259-003
Speech and Speech Notes
1961-1967
1 0259-003
Program
1963
1 0259-003
Ephemera
1954, 1972
1 0259-003
Lists
1960-1968
1 0259-003
Clippings
undated, 1986
1 0259-003
Legal Documents
1959
Series 2: Magnolia Community Club
1953-1958
Box/Folder
1 0259-003
Magnolia Community Club
1953-1958

Accession No. 0259-004: Oral history interview with Lady Willie Forbus, 1983Return to Top

1 sound cassette and 1 vertical file (transcript)

Scope and Content: Tape-recorded interview and transcript. Interview conducted by Karen Blair.

Covers Ms. Forbus' early life and legal training but mainly the various women leaders and women's organization she knew during her lobbying and legislative career in Washington State. Forbus also says a bit about herself as a pioneer woman attorney.

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use: Creator's literary rights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info: Donated by Karen Blair, 12/12/1983.