Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Ethel E (Maxwell) Stalford, 1884-1911

By Megan Gano, student, Saint Martin's University, Lacey, WA & Keri Graham, Instructor, Saint Martin's University, Lacey, WA.

Ethel Stalford was known as a tough woman who boldly spoke truth to power. Ethel was born May 12, 1884 to Samuel David Maxwell and Mary Jane Maxwell in Bedford, Iowa. She attended summer school in Chicago where she studied music and subsequently also studied at Drake University. She accepted a teaching a position teaching music that led her Colorado Springs, Colorado. Ethel met her husband, Dr. Philip Pawling Stalford, in Denver and they married on April 27, 1908. Soon after they were married, they moved to Spokane WA, which would be their home until her death from Typhoid fever in 1911.

Ethel played a significant role in the Eastern Washington suffrage movement. She was member of the Women's Club of Spokane, and traveled as speaker for the Washington Political Equality League. Her main objective was to speak to union members who had the potential to be supportive of votes for women. Stalford was outspoken, though she was pro-union, and would publicly call out labor organizers who didn't support suffrage. Furthermore, she aligned herself with the IWW, but publicly stated she was not a member, which created tensions among members of labor and suffrage organizations from both sides of the state. The Spokane chapter of the suffrage movement often distanced themselves from Mrs. Devoe Smith and other suffragists from Western Washington. Women from Olympia often thought the Spokane Women's Club was too foul-mouthed and strayed from the most important mission of suffrage. Ethel, and other prominent members of the Spokane Women's Club also spoke against police misconduct in Spokane. She enthusiastically spoke in favor of a Police Matron in the Spokane jail. Her rhetoric became so flammable that Chief of Police, John T. Sullivan of Spokane, instituted six suits against Stalford including libel.

Ethel joined her mother-in-llaw, prominent Socialist Emma Stalford, in support of women who had been harmed in police custody. Both Stalford women testified and helped pay bond for a friend, Elizabeth Flynn, who had been arrested for conspiracy. Ethel continued traveling Eastern Washington visiting saloons and other public spaces where women were not typically allowed. She promised men that women wouldn't use the vote to outlaw saloons and drinking. While she was a tough reformer and suffragist, she also believed there was balance between wife and activist; she was known for her graham bread and her voice. She died young, at the age of 27, but in her short years she was instrumental in the fight for rights of women and the right for public discourse in Eastern Washington.


Ca. 1910--Arkwright Hutton Scrapbook


Arkwright Hutton Scrapbook. Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. Also used in The Magazine of Northwest History. Summer 2014

Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History. Summer 2013.

Driscol Engle, Nancy Arlene. “Benefiting a City: Women, Respectability and Reform in Spokane, Washington, 1886-1910),” (Unpub. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Florida, 2003).

Driscol Engle, Nancy. Influential Women of Spokane: Building a Fair City. Charleston, S.C.: History Press, 2017.

Drake University Digital Collection

Find a Grave.,

J. (n.d.). Obituaries. Retrieved September 27, 2017,

“Page 076 : Campaign on the Coast: Mrs. Philip P. Stalford and Mrs. Rose B. Moore on a Lecture Trip,” PRIMARILY WASHINGTON, accessed June 28, 2018,

“Page 144 : Washington Political Equality League (continued from page 143),” PRIMARILY WASHINGTON, accessed June 28, 2018,

“Page 171 : Suffrage Leader Starts Big War,” PRIMARILY WASHINGTON, accessed June 28, 2018,

“Page 058 : Suffragist Organizers Make Hit in Talks Before Brewery Men,” PRIMARILY WASHINGTON, accessed June 28, 2018,

Van Burkle, Sandra (2015). Gender Remade: Citizenship, Suffrage, and Public Power in the New Northwest, 1879-1912. Cambridge University Press.

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