Sunday, June 12, 2011

May Arkwright Hutton

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May Arkwright Hutton had a primitive flamboyance, rough and crude, filled with a joy for life. She had a willingness to listen, weigh and analyze the thinking of others and the courage to stand on her own. She had a viable interest in the news of the day and an urge shape and reform the world she lived in. May would develop a passion for and champion two great causes the rights of the working man and women’s suffrage.

May had a rough start in life. She never knew her mother and was abandoned by her father when she was ten. May was left with her blind grandfather and became his caretaker, catering to the interests of an old man instead of playing like a little girl.

At age she met and married Gilbert Munn. Gilbert was a simple hardworking man, employed by one of the mines as a stable boss and mule driver. She and Burt moved to Kyle Corners. While living in Kyle Corners Burt left May and later drowned.

May decided to head west to seek better times. Armed with a flyer promising “Coeur D’Alene mines surpassed in riches and volume the most fabulous quartz and placer ever discovered”, May convinced 40 miners to make the trip west with her.

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May arrived in Idaho and headed for Eagle City working as a cook for Jim Wardner. A big break came for May when new broke that D.C. Corbin was building a narrow gauge railroad from the mission dock to Kellogg. May obtained information about where the tracks were going to be laid and promptly set up her own restaurant own. May has been quoted as saying she bought a two-room shack on a piece of land as well as a cow, a broom, a bucket and a cook stove. In the front room of the shack she set up the restaurant and in the back her sleeping quarters. May found it to be an exciting world and had no intention of letting it pass her by. She worked long hours and she was loved and respected by the miners she fed and the prostitutes she befriended.

Her happiness and success came when she met and married Levi “Al” Hutton a railroad engineer. They had a common background and both were hardworking. In 1888 the Huttons moved to Wallace Idaho. They bought a 1/16th interest in the Hercules mine for $505 dollars. In 18 the Huttons found themselves in the middle of one of the biggest union actions I the region. When the union workers decided to protest against the mine owners by blowing up the Bunker Hill and Sullivan Mine they high-jacked the train Levi was running and forced him to drive them and the explosives to the mines. This trip was later called the Dynamite Express. Levi Hutton was arrested and locked up in the “Bull Pen”. May protested her husband being locked up with out due process. She visited daily smuggling food when possible. She was popular with the prisoners and resented by the guards who treated her with open hostility. May wrote a novel about the incident called “The Coeur D’Alene or a Tale of Modern Inquisition in Idaho. After Al was released the railroad refused to rehire him from then on he devoted himself to working in the Hercules mine. The mine finally paid off in 101 making the Huttons millionaires. They bought a house and lived lavishly. In 106 they moved to a mansion in Spokane.

Spokane and May were made for each other both rambunctious, cocky, independent and socially immature. The Spokane years the equal rights movement and innumerable good causes dominated Mays life. Her enthusiasm for unions was reinforced when she came to realize that they were open to the idea of equal rights. She loathed injustice and to deny women the right to vote was the grossest kind of injustice. May felt that women should be able to vote, own property and operate their own business. She new that women had to have men on their side and she saw unions as a way to do this.1 While involved in the suffrage movement iron will May locked horns with an iron willed Emma DeVoe. Both were committed leaders but that is where the similarities ended. Emma DeVoe was a highly educated cultured and poised trained in the circles of high society. May was an American primitive. Personal differences were not the only thing that separated these women. Both women had very different ideas about the type of campaigned that should be run. Emma promoted a quiet dignified platform with mailings to wives, mothers and sweethearts. May was just the opposite, loud and boisterous, wanting parades and rallies. May found herself being snubbed by Emma Devoe and her followers. The National Women’s Suffrage movement was scheduled to convene in June of 10. May designed a plan to take over the state representation from Devoe. She offered a free trip to the Worlds Fair to anyone who would sell 50 memberships to the women in the state association. The local Spokane branch quickly outgrew all other branches. Because of the seemly underhanded way she gained majority Mays group was seated but not allowed to vote. Out of the dispute with Emma DeVoe May formed a group called Washington Political Equality League.1 May was one of the first women to sit on a jury in Washington State as well as the first women from the state to attend the Democratic National Convention.5

Her last great cause would be for peace. Al and May set up their estate to establish the Hutton settlement, a place for children with out a home.4 In 14 May was diagnosed with Brights disease. She was extremely ill, losing over 100 lbs.4 She organized her former suffrages in the cause of peace. She wrote poems about peace and had them set to music. When the Washington State Federation of Women’s Club held it’s annual meeting May had to be involved but was too ill to attend. She invited the convention to a lawn party at her house. May was in the midst of it sitting in a wheel chair but dressed in a new gown.

May passed away October 6, 115 but to the very end she was shoving, pushing, and promoting her various causes.

From a mining camp cook to a millionaire all through her life May Arkwright Hutton championed organized labor and women’s suffrage. Her battles were for human basic rights and she was a powerful force in shaping Pacific Northwest history

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