The road to women's suffrage began in Washington State.

RCA to host a Historical drama ….tells of suffrage victory

  • Fri Feb 12th, 2021 11:42am
  • News

‘May’s Vote’ documents

successful political partnership

By Diane Urbani de la Paz

It’s possible for two women — not at all alike — to reach a shared victory. It’s also possible to present a stage performance simultaneously from two cities.

So Denise Winter of Port Townsend and Barbara Callander of Seattle show in “May’s Vote,” Key City Public Theatre’s historical drama presentation. Toni Douglass’ play about two Washingtonians who strove for women’s suffrage will be streamed online, Rainforest Council for the Arts will host the play virtually on April 17 at 7 p.m. The RCA will promote it as a virtual Rainfest activity. Free Tickets may be reserved at

This play is for anyone interested in how women of the Pacific Northwest energized the suffrage movement.

“This is the story of two extremely influential women,” she said, adding, “if you’re interested in what’s going on right now” with voting rights, this play is your ticket.

Winter has the title role of May Arkwright Hutton, the boisterous saloon cook turned Spokane activist, while Callander portrays the ladylike Emma Smith DeVoe of Tacoma.

The pair proved, Winter said, that political activists with radically different approaches can work in concert.

“How do we all desire the same thing and figure out a way to come together and achieve it? This is a piece of that story,” she said.

“May’s Vote” was supposed to be a touring show all over the Evergreen State, celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment. A $5,000 Washington State Historical Society grant helped fund the staging and travel. Then came the pandemic.

Key City Public Theatre, as presenter of the tour, almost had to return the money. But Winter petitioned the historical society, with success, and reinvented the show. She and Callander bring it to life, fully staged, in their separate studios; then they host a live post-play discussion with viewers.

“Emma and May are just such a wonderful combination,” Callander said.

“They both felt so strongly that women should have the right to vote. They disagree on the techniques to achieve that, but they kept working, separately and together.”

Callander has been performing in plays about women’s rights for a few decades now. At this moment in history, she said, “May’s Vote” happens to be “very relevant.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Rainfest.

This story by Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz has been updated for this event.