Ruth Fisher: An Oral History

Ruth Fisher

Ruth Fisher was a fighter. She was righteous and quick witted, pithy and impatient. She detested political posturing and disingenuous gestures. She had no tolerance for people who performed their jobs poorly. Sarcasm and disdain, when it came to those who had inadvertently solicited her commentary, were not in short supply. Ruth Fisher fought against government corruption. She fought for equity among people, for rights for the marginalized, for a voice for the disenfranchised. Abuse of power was, to her, an egregious, heinous act. If she could do something to stop it, she would, and she often did.

For twenty years, Ruth Fisher represented the Twenty-seventh District for the state of Washington. Most notably, serving on the House Transportation Committee as chair, co-chair, or ranking member. She did so at a time when women did not do such things, when the subjects of building bridges and creating alternate means of transportation were not considered issues women normally tackled. Ruth entered politics when political activity for most women of her stature meant hosting fundraisers. Ruth did that, but she did that and much more.

Ruth Fisher Before Ruth Fisher entered the Legislature, she twice served as a delegate at the Democratic National Conventions. At the 1968 convention in Chicago, Ruth joined the protesters in the streets. In Tacoma, she helped to oust corrupt members of the City Council. When she landed in the Legislature, she helped protect voters’ rights and access to voting while chairing the Constitutions, Elections and Ethics Committee. She became one of the most powerful chairs the Transportation Committee had ever seen. She introduced the long-needed High Capacity Transportation bill and was instrumental in finding new means of funding and negotiating the passage of key pieces of transportation legislation. She helped to create the state’s most significant and comprehensive legislation related to growth and land usage: The Growth Management Act.

Ruth Fisher I did not know Ruth Fisher. I came to know her, however, in the way we come to know those who came before us, through the stories others tell. This may be the most time-honored form of leaving a legacy. Ruth’s legacy is legislative history. It’s a testament of determination and tenacity. Ruth wanted to participate in creating an oral history, and, upon her retirement from the Legislature in 2002, made this known. Sadly, she passed away in 2005 before she could be interviewed. Instead, I interviewed twelve people who knew her well, from differing perspectives, relationships, and eras. I am grateful to them for their candor, recall, and trust. The result is a multifaceted telling of the political and personal challenges and triumphs of one of Washington state’s most powerful political figures.

Ruth Fisher is forever a fixture in Washington state landscape, both the political landscape and the land itself. She had a hand in shaping it, literally and figuratively. One doesn’t have to search hard for evidence of her existence. She is with us still.

Fisher: An Oral History - 8.53 MB PDF