Julia Butler Hansen

Julia Butler Hansen
Julia Butler Hansen (Democrat) represented [the 18th] district of Cowlitz and Wahkiakum Counties in the House of Representatives for eleven terms, from 1938 to 1960. In 1960 she was elected to the United States House of Representatives from the Third Congressional District, and served there until 1974.

Born 1907, in Portland, she is a lifelong resident of Cathlamet, Washington. Descended from a long line of independent women, Hansen's mother was serving as County Superintendent of Schools when Hansen was born. During the Depression Hansen graduated from the University of Washington and worked in a secretarial position with the Legislature. With that beginning she set out on a path of political involvement that rose through the positions of bill clerk, city council member, state legislator, to the U.S. Congress.

Hansen became active in the Wahkiakum County Democratic Party in 1935, and soon occupied leadership positions in the group. In 1938 the Democratic Central Committee asked her to run for the Legislature.

It wasn't easy serving in the Legislature for Representative Hansen. "There were 99 members and four women ... 95 of those men would just as soon seen you pitched out. I had problems when I wanted to be a chairman (1949). They didn't think a woman should have a chairmanship (on the Highways Committee) because it was the fist time." True to her nature, she battled for the position and won. Though her name was often brought up as a candidate for the Speaker of the House, Representative Hansen never did overcome the hindrances between her and the leadership position, although she did serve as Speaker Pro Tempore from 1956 to 1960, and was the first woman to do so.

Representative Hansen was a meticulous legislator who lived by her own golden rule: "I would never go on the floor with a bill that I didn't understand every penny of. Anybody that asked me a question, I could get up and answer it. That was mandatory."

After 22 years in the Washington Legislature Representative Hansen was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Congresswoman Hansen proved herself to be extremely effective in providing for her district and the state, and was a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee. After 36 years of legislative service Representative Hansen resigned, but continued her involvement in state government as a member and chairwoman of the State Department of Transportation.

-- Political Pioneers, The Women Lawmakers