Born Frances Morgan circa 1872 (birth date and exact location not yet located), “Fannie” was living in Tacoma when she married Herbert Haskell, a native of California. The Haskells first appear in an 1892 registration in Tacoma.
As a young member of the Methodist church, Fannie joined the national organization Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic (LGAR), which was founded in 1886, dedicated to providing support to Civil War veterans and widows. Learning of what other communities were doing, Fannie and several other local members worked diligently to raise funding for a home for Civil War widows living in the local area.
They succeeded in their efforts, securing the aid of the Puyallup Chamber of Commerce and even the Washington State Legislature to buy the Meeker Mansion for $8,000 in 1915. The 1925 Puyallup phone book announced: “Mrs. Haskell was successful in interesting our State Legislature in their cause to the extent of appropriations of $1,500.00 at two different sessions and $3,000 at another to clear the indebtedness on the home.”
Fannie became the home’s superintendent, a position she held until her death in 1947. Over the years, nearly 400 women were housed in the historic home before it closed in 1948. It was no small feat to keep the house open during the Depression and at other economic downturns, but Fannie’s grit and hard work ensured the women were cared for.
Fannie held various positions in the local and national LGAR before becoming president of the national organization in 1939. In that capacity she traveled extensively throughout the country, espousing the mission of the GAR Ladies, which included helping local communities display their patriotism.
In 1918, activist Frances was elected as a Republican to the state House of Representatives from the 38th District, which then comprised areas of Snohomish and Pierce County. She was the only woman serving in the 1919-1921 Legislature, and a fellow Representative dubbed her “the wise woman of the Legislature.”
Among her many accomplishments during this brief tenure, she led in securing equal pay for men and women teachers, sponsored legislation relating to juvenile insurance, and a bill providing care of veterans’ graves. She also proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution extending the right of suffrage to women. In a special session of the Legislature, this proposal passed, putting Washington state, for the second time, on the winning side of that long-contentious issue.
Fannie Haskell’s many contributions to our nation, the state, and to her community make her an unsung role model these many decades after her passing.
Ruth Anderson is a life member of the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion and co-author, with Lori Price, of “Puyallup, A Pioneer Paradise,” the history of our community.