Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lucie Fulton Isaacs, 1842-1916
By Julia Thompson, Holocaust Center for Humanity, Seattle, WA
Pioneer in Walla Walla, Washington and suffrage advocate in Washington State
Lucie Fulton was born in 1842 in Missouri and died in 1916 in Walla Walla, Washington. Born to Persilla and Colonel James Fulton, she journeyed with her father to the Willamette Valley in Oregon in 1846 on a wagon train. In 1860, while still a teenager, Lucie married Henry P. Isaacs, who was on his way to becoming a prominent flour mill owner and agricultural magnate in the Inland Northwest. Henry Isaacs was born in Philadelphia in 1822, and moved to California in 1849 for the Gold Rush, before moving further north and starting various business ventures in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington Territory.
Henry and Lucie settled permanently in Walla Walla, Washington in 1864. The Isaacs had five children -- Bessie, Mattie, Edwin, Grace (Greenwood), and John. Henry Isaacs served as a legislator for the Washington Territory with a two-year term in 1885-1886. Lucie Isaacs was an enthusiastic patron of the arts in Walla Walla, which at the time was a thriving regional center for business and agriculture.
In 1886 the Walla Walla Women's Club was formed, and Isaacs and two of her daughters, Bessie and Grace (then in their teens and twenties), were founding members. The Walla Walla club was one of the first dozen such groups in the entire United States, and achieved some renown from nationally-known activists, like Julia Ward Howe, who corresponded fondly to Isaacs about the Walla Walla Club even in 1909. In April 1889, the three Isaacs women were instrumental in molding the Club into a new one with a new purpose: the Walla Walla Equal Suffrage League, with the express goal of attaining woman suffrage in Washington, which was to become a state later that year. The Walla Walla Equal Suffrage League (and others in Washington) sent representatives, including Isaacs, to Olympia several times in 1889 to argue for an article supporting woman suffrage, which was indeed added to the ballot along with ratification of the new state's constitution. Some women submitted ballots that were not counted, but the woman suffrage article did not pass. After that failure, it is not clear to what extent Isaacs remained involved in women's groups or woman suffrage until around 1907.
Isaacs then shifted her involvement to suffrage groups that operated at a broader statewide level. In 1908, she worked to disseminate petitions in Walla Walla for woman suffrage. Perhaps Isaacs' largest role in the movement was chairwoman of the Association's letter-writing committee during 1909-1910, coordinating suffragists' letters to voters and legislators, aiming to convince them that woman suffrage would benefit Washington State. The Association was indeed instrumental in the success of the 1910 campaign, with the vote on November 8 of that year going decisively for woman suffrage in Washington.
Isaacs lived to vote several times before she passed away in Walla Walla on November 20, 1916.
Ault, Nelson A. "The Earnest Ladies: The Walla Walla Woman's Club and the Equal Suffrage League of 1886-1889." The Pacific Northwest Quarterly 42, no. 2 (April 1951): 123-137. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41478003.
"Census of the Inhabitants in Walla Walla City." 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Walla Walla County, U.S. Census Bureau. Washington State Archives, Digital Archives. https://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Record/View/6B946696D5BBC18760E00D439E5474D1
"Census of the Inhabitants in Walla Walla City." 1887 Walla Walla County Census, Walla Walla County Territorial Auditor. Washington State Archives, Digital Archives. https://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Record/View/7B2E2CF6F5CC0DE6ADC49580F6BFBA90
"Census of the Inhabitants in Walla Walla City." 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Walla Walla County, U.S. Census Bureau. Washington State Archives, Digital Archives. https://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Record/View/027F46C7752E842C395E955454AC5F4D
"Funeral Held." Seattle Daily Times, November 23, 1916. NewsBank.
May Arkwright Hutton to L.F. Isaacs. November 16, 1908. Spokane, WA. Hutton Collection, Box 4: Eastern Washington State Historical Society.
Mead, Rebecca J. How the West was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States, 1868-1914. New York University Press: New York, 2004.
Reed, Diane B. Legendary Locals of Walla Walla. Arcadia: Mt. Pleasant, SC, 2014.
Wells, Merle. "Henry P. and Josh C. Isaacs." Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series 579 (1981). ://history.idaho.gov/sites/default/files/uploads/reference-series/0579.pdf.