CATHLAMET - Julia Butler Hansen's son, David, of Vancouver recently donated his mother's home in Cathlamet to the Wahkiakum County Community Foundation. The home and garden will become the Julia Butler Hansen Heritage Center.
The house contains Julia's collections, as well as her mother's paintings. Maude Butler was an accomplished watercolor artist. A large collection of her paintings is in the home. The garden is over 100 years old with a large lawn and beautiful perennials. It is open to the public and unique in its historical plants. David Hansen, curator at Fort Vancouver and a master gardener, will continue to oversee the care and maintenance of the large lawn and garden. Built in the 1860s, over its long history the home was at one time a boarding house. Eventually Julia built an office addition to be closer to her constituents when not in Washington, D.C.
The Julia Butler Hansen Heritage Center was dedicated Saturday, June 12. The ceremony was open to the public with a tour of the home following. An oral history project was conducted at the renovated Pioneer Church with David Hansen hearing stories of his mother. Those stories were video-taped and kept in the archives at the Center. Also during the day, the nearby Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge offered a special driving tour.
Julia Butler Hansen was born in 1907. Elected in 1937, she was the first woman to serve on Cathlamet's town council and proved to be a strong Democrat. She was elected to the State Legislature in 1939. In 1955 she was the first woman to be Speaker Pro Tem of the House.
In 1960 she was elected to Congress and eventually chaired a sub-committee of the House Appropriations Committee, and as usual, she was the first woman to do so. She left Congress in 1974, but was called back to public life to serve as a member of the State Transportation Commission. She retired in 1980 to care for her husband, Henry, who died in 1982. Julia died in 1988.
Julia was a strong woman, outspoken and determined. The trustees at the Foundation intend to follow her lead by reclaiming the home's beauty and making it available to groups wanting a site for a gracious gathering. Tours will be offered periodically as well. Giving it even more importance, David Hansen, in his gift of the home, has partnered with the trustees in envisioning the home as a heritage center offering a site for history students and elected officials to gather. A program will also be developed encouraging women to run for public office and to consider careers in government, as Julia would have wanted.
For more information, call Karen Bertroch at the Wahkiakum County Community Foundation at (360) 795-8805.