Jeannette Hayner.  Photo courtesy of The Washington State Archives

Jeannette Hayner

First Senate Majority Leader

“I was confident I could do it; it never occurred to me that I couldn’t.” - Jeannette Hayner

Even in her later years, Walla Walla Republican Jeanette Hayner maintained an energetic and purposeful walk. She’s a mix of self assurance and traditionalism, a cross between tough and conciliatory. Her charming personality offsets the unusual discipline she brought to her caucus as Senate Majority Leader.

The rights and status of women have changed dramatically in Hayner’s lifetime. She was born in 1919, just a year before American women won the right to vote. In 1942, Hayner and one classmate were the lone female graduates of the University of Oregon Law School. Now 91, Hayner was recently able to witness the country nearly choosing a woman as the Democratic nominee for U.S. President.

Hayner fell in love with H.H. “Dutch” Hayner, a law school classmate and World War II hero. The two settled in Walla, Walla Washington, and raised three children. Hayner began dabbling in politics, serving on the school board and working campaigns. In 1972, she won a seat in the State House. She switched chambers in 1976, where she remained until she retired in 1992, ending 20 years of public service.

The Walla Walla State lawmaker spent most of her legislative career in leadership. The Republicans had bided time in the minority for more than a quarter-century when Hayner took the reins as the powerful Senate Majority Leader in 1981. State Senator Peter von Reichbauer had switched political parties, putting the Republicans in the majority.

Hayner implemented the famous “Rule of 13” – a policy that forced all Republicans in the 25-member caucus to support a bill or issue favored by 13 members.

Jeannette Hayner, 91, died November 26, 2010 in Walla Walla.