Seattle's last female mayor served nearly 90 years ago. Her name was Bertha Knight Landes, and voters will likely be hearing more about her as they prepare to elevate another woman to the city's highest office.
“She actually called it municipal housekeeping; (it) was a big part of what she called her platform,” said Dr. Dave Unger, MOHAI’s director of curatorial services.
Landes pledged to clean up Seattle when she was elected in 1926. She wanted more orderly urban planning, better public health, and a tougher police force.
In a letter to the police chief, she wrote: "...citizens are seriously disturbed over the lack of law enforcement in this city. Bootlegging and gambling are carried on openly and apparently with no fear of the consequences."
Landes later fired him.
“Seattle was growing incredibly quickly at this time. It was another time when people were wondering where all the people moving here would live. It was a time where big companies were moving in,” Unger said.
The Landes administration kept the city's finances in order, expanded the park system, and improved City Light. Historians like Unger view Landes' time in office as honest and scandal-free, yet she wasn't re-elected.
“I think all through her time in office she really struggled with the expectation, the idea in the broader culture, that it just wasn't a job for a woman and no matter what she did she was constantly fighting against that,” Unger said.
Landes lost re-election to Frank Edwards in 1928. The Seattle Times wrote in an editorial that "it was easily within the power of Seattle women to strengthen their hold on city politics by reelecting Mrs. Landes. They have not seen fit to do this…."
Nearly a century later, Seattle's still a fast-growing place with some big problems, and voters appear ready to once again select a woman to confront a new era of challenges.