Burien Women Making History

In honor of Women’s History Month, we are acknowledging that people who identify as women have made significant contributions to Burien’s history and continue to make history today. Read on to see how the City and its partners are celebrating women’s voices, and how you can participate as well.

Burien City Council Issues Women’s History Month Proclamation

On March 1, Burien City Council issued a proclamation naming March 2021 “Women’s History Month” in the city and asking all community members to celebrate the history and contributions of all people who identify as women to the Burien community. The proclamation highlighted that since Burien’s incorporation in 1993, 46 percent of councilmembers, 65 percent of deputy mayors, and almost half of Burien mayors have been women. It also noted that almost half of Burien’s businesses are either owned or co-owned by women, and that “women constitute a majority of Burien’s population and a significant portion of the labor force, making countless contributions to our community across every facet of life.”

The proclamation, read by Deputy Mayor Krystal Marx and Councilmember Sofia Aragon, was accepted by Kitty Milne and Sally Nelson, two former Burien mayors. Mayor Jimmy Matta welcomed Milne and Nelson, stating that they “represent the dreams of my daughter and women in my community.” 

Milne said, “My parents and my teachers had always taught me that I could do what I wanted to do. I was actually the first woman mayor and deputy mayor. We stood on the foundations of great women before us. I see the council is continuing that tradition. You are setting a role model for all women.”

Nelson echoed Milne’s appreciation for the current slate of women councilmembers. She also shared her memories of serving on Burien’s first council, and the vision of those leaders that led to the transformation of Burien’s downtown into a vibrant economic and civic center. “It was an exciting time,” Nelson said. She went on to encourage federal adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Clip from Burien City Council meeting on March 1, 2021.

Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced

The theme for Women’s History Month is selected each year by the National Women’s History Alliance, a national organization that provides information and training in multicultural women’s history. Since many of the women’s suffrage centennial celebrations originally scheduled for 2020 were canceled or delayed, the National Women’s History Alliance is extending the annual theme for 2021 to “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.”

In 2021, we saw women rise to powerful positions, including vice president of the United States. Burien has benefited from the leadership of women since its incorporation in 1993. Four out of Burien’s nine mayors have been women. Eleven out of the seventeen deputy mayors have been women. And the majority of Burien’s current city council and staff leadership team are women.

Women’s history is intersectional

According to a study from the National Women’s History Museum, there is a lack of intersectionality and representation within the celebration and teachings of Women’s History Month. For this reason, we want to recognize that that women who identify as LGBTQIA+ were a major part of the fight for women’s suffrage and equal rights and that transgender women deserve an equal measure of celebration and acknowledgement this month. Burien is better for the contributions of all people who identify as women.

Women contribute to all aspects of Burien’s culture and vitality

From our creative, small business sector to our local nonprofits and churches, women are making countless contributions to our community across every facet of life.

Women constitute a majority of Burien’s population and a significant portion of the labor force, and according to the Economic Census, 36 percent of Burien businesses are owned by women and an additional 11 percent have equal ownership with a male business partner. Health care and education make up the largest job sectors in Burien, both of which have labor forces that are predominately women. The childcare industry, which is essential for enabling parents to work outside the home, is led and staffed predominately by women.

Burien’s economic and cultural life is shaped by women as well. Nine of the last 14 Burien Citizens of the Year have been women. From economic chambers of commerce to arts and culture, social service, and environmental organizations, some of our most beloved institutions were founded or are currently led by women.

Historically, women have been important leaders in the shaping of Burien neighborhoods and institutions. The Boulevard Park Library, the oldest library in the King County Library System, was founded in 1937 by the Wednesday Social Club. This women’s club sponsored cultural programs at its meetings, with titles such as, “Good Citizenship” and “Women Writers Who Are Equal to Men.” Dottie Harper, a long-time community arts supporter, ran one of Burien’s first art galleries, which moved to the building now known at the Dottie Harper House. In the 1880s, Leah Kelly, daughter of early Highline-area settlers Mike and Jane Kelly, delivered mail to the area on horseback. These are just a few of the many stories of women making history in Burien.

“Shecession” causing disproportionate harm to women

Despite the gains women have made over the last few decades, the pandemic has caused significant hardship for women. According to a new report detailing the impact of the pandemic on gender equality, women lost 156,000 jobs last December, while men gained 16,000. Black and Latina women lost jobs in December, while white women made significant gains.

The childcare, restaurant and retail, and hospitality industries were decimated by the pandemic, causing many women to lose their jobs. Many women with children have had to either reduce hours or leave the workforce entirely to meet caregiving responsibilities for children virtually attending school from home and because of the closure of childcare centers. Nationally, women lost 5.4 million jobs compared to last February, before the pandemic began, while men were down 4.4 million jobs. Women and men at the start of 2020 held roughly the same number of jobs.

Women lead recovery and mutual aid efforts

But even as women, especially BIPOC women, have been disproportionately harmed by the pandemic, women have also stepped up to lead pandemic relief and mutual aid efforts. A few local examples:

  • Roxana Garcia Pardo: Alimentado de Pueblo (Feeding the People) provides free, culturally-relevant food for the Latinx community.
  • Pastor Jenny Partch: The Burien Severe Weather Shelter at Highline United Methodist Church was the only severe weather shelter to open in South King County during the February 2021 snow event.
  • Pastor Lina Thompson: Lake Burien Presbyterian Church has supported youth and family programs, including the distribution of financial assistance, during the pandemic.
  • Debra George, Sarah Toce (Discover Burien), Andrea Reay (Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce): Discover Burien and Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce have been instrumental to helping our local business sector survive the economic fallout of the pandemic. Discover Burien has also run a successful Burien Farmers Market throughout the year, ensuring Burien residents have access to farm fresh food, and regional farmers and craftspeople have an outlet for their goods.
  • Nancy Salguero McKay: The Highline Heritage Museum has worked to document and preserve Burien’s experience during the pandemic as well as the social justice movements of 2020.

These are just a few of the powerful women making a difference in Burien. Who would you add to the list? Contact us at communications@burienwa.gov to let us know.

Continue celebrating and learning about women’s history

  • The Highline Heritage Museum will be offering a series of educational and cultural programs throughout the month spotlighting women’s history in the Highline area. They are also looking to document the contributions women make to Burien and the Highline area through their Strong Women Gratitude digital exhibition.
  • Our Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department will be featuring women in the arts and outdoor recreation throughout the month. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about these great women leaders.
  • Our Economic Development department will be spotlighting women-led businesses and organizations that exemplify a deep care for their community. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram for more stories.
  • The National Women’s History Museum has numerous virtual exhibits and educational resources.

“What I want young women and girls to know is: You are powerful and your voice matters.”

Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States

Emily Inlow-Hood
Communications Officer at | More posts
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