Frances Axtell

Frances C. Axtell
Frances C. Axtell (Republican) represented [the 54th] district of Whatcom County in the House of Representatives during the 1913 session. In 1916, she led an unsuccessful campaign for Congress.

Representative Axtell, respectfully called an "educated woman" by her colleagues, attended DePaul University where she earned her A.M. and Ph.D degrees. After graduating, she made her home in Bellingham.

One of the first two women elected to the Washington State Legislature (in 1912), Representative Axtell was labeled by the press as "The lady from Whatcom who votes as she pleases." Her election and reformist endeavors in the Legislature were often cited as evidence that women in public office could accomplish good.

Representative Axtell was primarily concerned with public safety. Legislation that she introduced proposed improvements to rules of evidence in cases of violent assault. The impression she left with other members was that of a brilliant theorist in legislation along moral lines, and a broad-minded individual.

Despite the positive "reformer" image she promoted, Axtell's bid for Congress failed. Soon thereafter she secured an appointment to the U.S. Employees Compensation Commission from President Woodrow Wilson, and became the first woman named by a President to such a high Federal position. Her concern as a member and vice-chair was to improve Federal safety standards. Axtell accomplished her responsibilities with such devotion, newspapers referred to her as the "mother" of the 500,000 men and women working for the government.

--Political Pioneers, The Women Lawmakers