by Larissa McCartney
In 2020, I attempted to participate in the Instagram #100Days challenge where artists and creatives pick one theme and medium to practice for 100 days. My goal was to digitally illustrate 100 badass women and femmes of the Pacific Northwest, from all walks of life and different professions, who inspired me for a number of different reasons. I didn’t quite make it to 100, but in the end that didn’t matter! Nominations from friends, co-workers, and people on Instagram helped curate a long list of incredible individuals who contribute to and represent the PNW, influencing this great place we call home. Below are a selection of a few of these phenomenal local people along with my illustrations.
Colleen Echohawk (she/her/hers) is the executive director of Chief Seattle Club, an organization with a mission to provide urban Native people shelter, rest, and nourishment, both physically and spiritually. As the founder of the Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness, Echohawk has been committed to homeless advocacy and righting the course of Indigenous people who experience homelessness living away from reservations in urban places. Her focus is on equitable low-income housing and design that is Indigeous-led. She’s received numerous awards including, most recently, King County’s Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Distinguished Service. Echohawk serves on many local boards, including Seattle Foundation and KUOW. Named one of Seattle Met Magazine’s 50 most influential women, it’s clear to see why — her contribution to the Seattle area and the land’s Native communities is inspiring. Echohawk is currently running for mayor on a people-first platform that envisions equitable renewal, affordable rehousing, and public safety.
Ijeoma Oluo (she/her/hers) is a Seattle-based writer, author, and self-proclaimed “Internet Yeller.” Her debut book, So You Want To Talk About Race, is a New York Times Bestseller. She has also written for The Stranger, The Guardian, Jezebel, Medium, and The Establishment. Many of her articles discuss race, equity, and intersectionality. One of my favorite viral pieces of hers was The Stranger interview she did with Rachel Dolezal which conveyed the utter absurdity of that whole situation. Throughout the article, you can see the incredulity, disdain, and critique dripping from every line, and I love it. 2020 saw the release of Oluo’s second book, Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, which critiques white male supremacy through politics, corporate hierarchy, and daily culture.
Kirsten Harris-Talley (she/her/hers) is an activist, community educator, and Queer Black mom from the Rainier Valley who was recently elected representative for Washington State’s 37th Legislative District (which includes Southeast Seattle)! Harris-Talley has been building movements for change and healing in Washington State for 20 years. As an abolitionist, she is active in the #BlocktheBunker and #NoNewYouthJail movements for police accountability and ending incarceration. She was also a founding board member of Surge Reproductive Justice and a founding circle member of Black and Tan Hall. Harris-Talley recently served as the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington where she led the statewide fight for reproductive healthcare for all. She ran for state representative in the 37th District to bring her advocacy and her neighbor’s solutions to the halls of Olympia.
I came to know of Kristi Brown (she/her/hers), Seattle chef and owner of That Brown Girl Cooks!, back in 2017 when I had the pleasure of meeting her as a guest panelist on Publicis Seattle’s “Women Who Crush” event. When asked questions, I still remember the candor and humor she infused into every answer and how many times that left the crowd cry-laughing. For those of you being introduced to Brown for the first time here and who haven’t been treated to her words of wisdom at a speaking engagement or tried her fantastic food at a catered event (OMG, THE BLAKE-EYED PEA HUMMUS!), you should really check her out. Even more exciting news, her latest success — newly opened Communion Restaurant and Bar in the Central District — has people drooling over her take on “Seattle Soul.” So, give her a follow, see how she is giving back to the community and feeding the people (always, but especially in this time of crisis).
Nikkita Oliver (they/them/their) wears more than a lot of hats: Seattle-based teaching artist, the face of the Seattle People’s Party, attorney, educator, spoken word poet, Black Lives Matter activist, and more. I first learned of Oliver at a poetry slam where I was enthralled by a performance of their poems and the emotional messages their words shared. Later, in 2017 when Oliver ran for mayor and narrowly lost the primary, I was even more moved. Oliver’s campaign inspired a new group of voters who historically didn’t vote to show up and own their right to vote. Oliver advocates for affordable housing for low-income Seattlities, for criminal justice reform, and against community gentrification. They give back to the poor and at-risk youth through middle and high school writing initiatives and workshops as well as through Creative Justice, an arts based alternative to youth incarceration, teaching kids freedom through creative expression. As the city continues to grow and evolve, I have no doubt we will continue seeing Oliver and the grassroots resistance movements they are part of at the forefront of change for good in Seattle.
Appointed in December 2019, Justice Montoya-Lewis (she/her/hers) became the first Native American, Jewish woman to serve on the state Supreme Court. She just won reelection to retain her spot on the bench. Montoya-Lewis grew up in New Mexico and is a member of the Pueblo of Isleta tribe. Her remarkable career has included being a tenured professor at Western Washington University, where she taught courses on cultural identity development and law. In the 15 years prior to her work on the Superior Court, she was Chief Judge for three Washington tribes. Montoya-Lewis has been recognized nationally for her advocacy work on juvenile justice reform, winning her the Children’s Advocacy Center Community Leadership Award in 2018. It’s exciting to see Justice Montoya-Lewis breaking barriers while helping the highest courts in our state recognize and learn from the implicit biases we carry, while simultaneously being such a fierce advocate for children and youth. Mazel tov!
Follow Raquel Montoya-Lewis’s work on her website: https://www.justicemontoyalewis.com/.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article used the term “womxn.” Thanks to feedback from Mattie Mooney of Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, we acknowledge that “womxn” is non-inclusive and often marginalizing, especially for Trans Women. Learn more here, here, and here. We have updated this piece to use the term women.
Larissa McCartney is an award-winning art director, illustrator, and crafter of creative things. Thanks to the strong and somewhat wild women in her life, she learned the importance of self-expression early. And she’s spent over a decade exploring hers through carefully-crafted color palettes, expressive line work, and dynamic textures. Her work is continuously inspired by her passion for women’s reproductive rights, cultural phenomena, her puny one-liners, and those who love her enough to listen to them. Today, she’s an advertising art director by day and an illustrator by night, creating in the name of strong women everywhere.
Featured illustration by Larissa McCartney.
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