Belle Culp Reeves

Belle Culp Reeves
Belle Culp Reeves (Democrat) represented [the 56th district, 1923-1927, 1931-1933 and the 12th district, 1933-1939] of Chelan County in the House of Representatives. First elected in 1922, she served seven terms before her appointment as Secretary of State in February, 1938. She was Washington's first ... woman Secretary of State.

Born on a farm near Quincy, Ohio, Reeves attended college in Lyons, Kansas and taught school in the area. Reeves and her husband, Frank, moved to Washington in 1889, the year of statehood. They published a newspaper in Ellensburg for a time, settled in Wenatchee, and launched that city's first newspaper, the Wenatchee Advance (later to become the Wenatchee World). After retiring from the newspaper business she devoted herself to Wenatchee civic affairs and the support of many educational and cultural organizations. Her husband was a successful attorney and judge and served a term in the House of Representatives. Reeves was keenly interested in government and followed the issues closely. In 1922, a group of women convinced her to run for the House just a few days before the primary. A write-in candidate, Reeves won the position by 100 votes. Her husband let it be known that he was not pleased, but supported her loyally. Two years later she won re-election handsomely.

Representative Reeves was one of only four Democrats in the House during her first term. For several terms she was the only woman serving in the Legislature. She studied the system carefully and allied herself with members possessing political leverage. A "low-key" member, Representative Reeves concentrated on effectively supporting social legislation. Widely respected for her integrity and hard-working nature, Reeves was appointed to the position of Secretary of State in 1938. Conscious of the precedent setting nature of her appointment, Reeves accepted by saying, "This is an honor not only to me, but to all the women of the state."

A popular and widely recognized political figure, she used her prominence to publicly advocate the need for more women in public office. Privately she sought out and encouraged qualified women to seek office and was in part responsible for the Legislative careers of many notable women. As Secretary of State, Reeves was occasionally called upon to serve as acting governor and was the fist woman to serve in that position. During World War II, she fought for the passage of improved workmen's compensation laws, especially for fair compensation of working mothers. She and her husband raised one daughter.

-- Political Pioneers, The Women Lawmakers