Lady Willie Forbus

Lady Willie Forbus
Lady Willie Forbus (Democrat) represented the 44th Legislative District in the State Senate, 1943-1947.

Born 1892, in Yazoo County, Mississippi, to a sharecropper family. Though they were poor Forbus' mother, a music teacher, was very ambitious for the six children and went to extreme lengths to give them a high school education. Forbus worked her way through college at the University of Mississippi and the University of Michigan, where she earned her law degree.

After the last exam, she packed her bags and with a twenty dollar bill in her pocket boarded a train for Seattle. Forbus sought acceptance and opportunity in the developing West [that] she knew would be denied her in the East.

For ten years Forbus was Seattle's only woman lawyer. She caught the attention of the Women's Legislative Council, which enlisted her to lobby Congress for the Twentieth Amendment (women's suffrage) and the Child Labor Amendment. Forbus joined the Democratic Party and soon became the chairwoman of their speakers bureau. She traveled across the state speaking at hundreds of locations in support of Roosevelt administration policies. In time she became a well-known political figure and was asked to run for the Senate by the King County Democratic Central Committee. She recalls, "I never was particularly interested in becoming a member of the Legislature. I wanted to be a judge. But in those days the discrimination was in the Bar. I couldn't get any help out of the Bar Association."

In the Legislature, Senator Forbus was appointed chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee and was a member of the important Appropriations Committee. Issues she worked for were: children's rights, mandatory automobile insurance, public power, equal opportunity, and equal pay for equal work. During her tenure Senator Forbus' two daughters accompanied her to Olympia.

"My philosophy has always been to help those people who are not able to help themselves. I've always fought very hard for education -- it's almost a religion to me that you get an education then you don't need to get public help because you have a tool in your hands, you have a skill."

-- Political Pioneers, The Women Lawmakers