Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Spokane resident Rebecca Jane "Reba" HURN was not only the first woman to be admitted to the Washington State Bar, but she was also the first woman to be elected to the Washington State Senate. Reba HURN was born in Clear Lake, Iowa in [August 21st] 1881. Her father, David Hurn, was a prominent lawyer, Judge, banker, newspaper man and the mayor of Clear Lake. HURN received a BA from Northwestern University and then in 1905 moved with her father to Spokane where her father started a new law practice.
HURN taught school for two years in Spokane and Ritzville but was bored with the occupation and decided to move to Germany in 1907 to pursue a Master's degree at Heidelberg University in order to enhance her chances of teaching German in Spokane. While in Germany she met Nathan STRAUS, one of the co-owners of Macy's in New York who was in Germany perfecting a pasteurization process for milk, which he used in charity work, distributing milk to poor children. STRAUS and his wife became close to Reba and virtually adopted her, eventually offering her a position in New York running the charitable program. While living in New York Reba saw the terrible conditions of poverty. She also became involved in politics working with William Jennings BRYAN in 1908 in his Presidential campaign, chairing the New York committee for his election.
In 1910, Reba HURN moved back to Spokane to study law. She took classes at the University of Washington and also studied in Spokane with her father. In 1913 she became the first woman to be admitted to the Washington State Bar Association. Later she helped her father in his campaign for Spokane Superior Court Judge which he won. She was also involved in politics for her own benefit.
On January 19, 1914, the Spokesman-Review reported that, "Reba J. HURN, Spokane's only practicing woman attorney, is being considered as a candidate for the state legislature from the sixth district."
Reba decided not to run but remained active in local politics. In 1922 she ran for the state Senate and defeated her opponent by a 2-1 margin. As a Republican she was one of 39 Republicans in the Senate to only one Democrat, and two members of the Farmer-Labor Party, what was left of the Progressive Party.
Senator HURN, a fiscal conservative but a social liberal, quickly won the respect of her colleges and became an important and influential member of the Senate. She won re-election in 1926 without campaigning. She was defeated in 1930, a year after the start of the Great Depression as part of the Democratic landslide of that year.
After her life in the Senate, Reba HURN returned to Spokane where she continued her law practice. Although she considered running for the State Senate again she never did. She was defeated in 1936 in her attempt to become a Spokane County Superior Court Judge. She was respected and often quoted in the newspaper or consulted by party officials.
Reba never married and thus had the freedom to participate in adventures. One of her great joys was travel, and not just the travel of a tourist, but totally immersing herself in a new lifestyle, living with families rather than in hotels.
At the age of 65, when most people are getting ready to retire, she moved to the Middle East. She lived in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. She was in the Middle East from 1946 to 1948 when the state of Israel was created and witnessed first hand the violence this created. She wrote a book on the experience which was never published. She continued her world travels up until her death in [Chula Vista, California, November 13] 1967 at the age of 86.
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