March is Women's History Month, commemorating and celebrating the vital role of women in American history. This is a good opportunity to recognize some influential women in our Marysville Tulalip community history and thank them for their contributions.
City of Marysville
The city’s name honors Maria (Quin) Comeford, the wife of founder James Comeford. The Comefords came to Washington Territory in 1873 and founded Marysville in 1884; the town was incorporated in 1891.
When it comes to city government, it was decades before women were elected into leadership positions. The first was Deebe (McInnis) Anderson, who served on the City Council from 1972 to 1975. Succeeding female City Councilmembers were Ruth Roundy (1974-77), Jean Fischer (1980-83) and Rita Matheny (1982-87), who then served as Marysville’s first female Mayor from 1988 to 1991.
Following Matheny were City Councilmembers Donna Pedersen (1989-2001), Donna Wright (1990-99, 2002-17) and Shirley Bartholomew (1994-2001), who had previously served on the Snohomish County Council from 1981 through 1989. Afterward came Normajean Dierck (1998-2001), Suzanne Smith (2000-03), Lisa Vares (2002-05) and Carmen Rasmussen (2005-12). Kamille Norton, current Council President, has served on the City Council since 2013.
Marysville School District
Before a school was established in Marysville, Elizabeth Shoultes and her husband moved from New York to Marysville in 1825. They claimed land north of Marysville for farming and raised ten children. Three generations later, Shoultes Elementary School was named after the farming family. The first school in Marysville was built two miles east of town in the Sunnyside area in 1880. Prior to the building of the school, children were taught in the home of Maria Comeford, the wife of Marysville’s founder and city namesake.
The first Shoultes one-room schoolhouse was built in 1891. Lucille Wilson, or “Ma Wilson” as she was affectionately known, ran the first one-room schoolhouse built in the Kellogg Marsh area in 1902. Ma Wilson taught at the school for 42 years.
In 1987, Marysville School District employee and community member, Pat Olsen, wrote a book titled 100 Years of Excellence - A Glance Back to our Roots in Marysville. Pat was a freelance journalist who had a special interest in helping young people learn how to write creatively.
In the 1990s, Laura Wild, Debbie Vincellete and Sally Ongaro were known as the “Founding Mothers” for the Marysville Cooperative Education Program.
Although heavily dominated by men in the early years, the school board did see its share of women serving. The school board was founded in 1888. The first woman to serve was Sarah Smith (1909), followed by Gladys Smith (1923), Alice Stanton (1928), Gail Marshall (1934), Margaret Pearson (1954), Patricia Glein (1965), Marie Nelson (1976), Joann Delazarri (1983), Pennie Bare (1977), Marion Davis (1983), Victoria Graves (1989), Pat McGhee (1991), Frances Coverson (1995), Cary Peterson (1999), Vicki Gates (2003), Sherri Crenshaw (2001), Cindy Erickson (2005), Darci Becker (2006), Wendy Fryberg (2010) and Mariana Maksimos (2013). Out of 33 district superintendents, Linda Whitehead (2001) and Becky Berg (2013) were the only two women to serve in the role to date.
Tulalip people are known to center their women and lift their grandmothers up and honor them. Grandmothers are the heart of our community, aunties are like second mothers to children, and girl cousins are like sisters to each other. Women today are leaders and role models for the whole community.
One of our most notable and influential women has been Harriette Shelton Dover (1904-1991). She was the second woman to serve on the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors from 1939-1950 and served as the first chairwoman in 1946. Harriette was also instrumental in opening Tulalip Elementary by donating land as she wanted to keep our kids close to home.
Since Harriette, Tulalip has had countless women serve on the Board of Directors. We are now on our third year of having women serving as Board Chair, most currently Teri Gobin. Women hold a majority of key positions within Tulalip Tribal Government.
This monthly column is jointly prepared by the City of Marysville, Marysville School District and Tulalip Tribes about topics of interest to the Marysville Tulalip community.