Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Sylvia A. Hunsicker, 1870-1953
By Katherine Pecora, Student, Saint Martin's University, Lacey, Washington
Sylvia Hunsicker, undated. Courtesy, Seattle Police Department
One of the first female police officers in Seattle, Washington and leader in the suffrage movement
Sylvia Aurland Hunsicker was born in 1870 in Minnesota and died at the age of 83 in October of 1953. She married and later divorced John Hunsicker and with him had one daughter, Avis E Hunsicker, in 1899. In addition to making her place in a male-dominated field, she is noted for taking on leadership roles in the suffrage movement.
In November of 2010, Hunsicker was one of 100 women honored by the University of Washington's Suffrage Centennial Gala for their work in the suffragist movement and other outstanding achievements. The gala celebrated 100 years of women's suffrage in the state of Washington, a movement that lasted over 50 years. The origins of the movement in Washington have been traced back to the 1854, when legislation was presented, and consequently rejected to allow women to vote. Throughout the next 50 years, various pieces of legislation were proposed granting limited voting rights, but were ultimately revoked.
In 1910, Hunsicker served as General Chairman of precinct workers, working closely with the Washington Equal Suffrage Association and other suffrage leaders in Washington, notably Emma Smith DeVoe and Cora Smith Eaton. Hunsicker encouraged her fellow suffragists to engage with voters by handing out pamphlets for their cause and encouraging those at the voting booths to stay involved in politics. Hunsicker also served the president of The Seattle Council of Women Voters. The Seattle Council of Women Voters was a nonpartisan coalition of women from voting states. Here, she was responsible for organizing meetings of local working women to speak about the importance of voting. Even after the vote was won for women in the state of Washington, she continued to encourage leaders in women's movements in nearby states. When white property-owning women won the vote in 1910, an emphasis was placed on the importance of women's perspectives in politics. Hunsicker even ran as council woman in 1912, emphasizing in her campaign her passion for city affairs.
Hunsicker was hired by the City of Seattle as a Registration Clerk in 1911 and in 1915, she transferred to the Seattle Police Department (SPD), where she is noted for her pivotal role as the first female police officer for the city of Seattle and was the only woman in the department who wore a uniform. Like most women who were pioneers in their field, her career was not without bumps in the road. Hunsicker was suspended multiple times, specifically in 1917 for "engaging in work other than that assigned to her." Staying true to her promise to stay actively involved in city affairs, Hunsicker stayed at the Police Department until her retirement in 1936 at the age of 67. Throughout the entirety of her life, Hunsicker stayed involved in improving the city of Seattle and the state of Washington as a whole—going above and beyond in both her leadership roles and as a citizen.
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"United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MGJ1-JNR : accessed 4 September 2018), John M Hunsicker, Seattle Ward 2, King, Washington, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 72, sheet 6A, family 126, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1658; FHL microfilm 1,375,671.
"British Columbia Marriage Registrations, 1859-1932; 1937-1938," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JDZB-MFP : 11 March 2018), Fremont Parker and Avis Hunsicker, 27 Jul 1920; citing New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, British Columbia Archives film number B12905, Vital Statistics Agency, Victoria; FHL microfilm 2,032,874.