Ordway School takes its name from Elizabeth. W. (Lizzie) Ordway, an early Bainbridge Island teacher and Kitsap County Superintendent of Schools. Her personal life paralleled the early history of white settlement and development of Washington State. For example, she initially arrived in Seattle in the company of Asa Mercer and the "Mercer Girls." The Mercer Girls all married early settlers with one exception, Lizzie Ordway. "The population of Washington then numbered ten men to one woman, but Miss Ordway refused to follow the example of her friends, preferring to 'carry education' to young Puget Sounders.” She was perhaps Washington's first career woman. Teaching was her one love and she gave it a measure of devotion which long distinguished her as more than a mere employee of a school board.
Her first home in Seattle was with the Henry Yesler family, but her first school in this state was in Coupeville, where she taught a few months in 1864. Two years later she took charge of the Port Madison School and from that time until her death in 1897 she was identified with the educational interests of Kitsap County. When she went there, Port Madison was a county seat and rivaled Seattle commercially because of the vast lumber operations centered there in the Meigs Mill.
Schools in mill towns always were considered difficult and in recognition of her accomplishments at Port Madison, Miss Ordway was invited to open a two-story Central School at Third and Marion in Seattle. So many children came that younger ones had to be turned away until a second room in the building was ready. Miss Ordway went back to Kitsap County when Port Gamble's school got out of hand. She wrote:
'I was sent for to take charge of the school, but hesitated to do so because its reputation had been that of a school hard to manage. I need not say that I have been agreeably disappointed. The pupils seem to come readily under discipline and I hope to have succeeded in arousing ambition in them to redeem themselves and to feel a love for and an interest in their studies.'
In 1875 she returned to Kitsap County and for the next five years taught another "hard" mill-town school at Port Blakely. In 1881 she ran for county superintendent of schools of Kitsap County on the Republican ticket and was elected and re-elected for the next eight years. She kept meticulous records of her official activities, the first Kitsap County school superintendent to comply with such legal provisions, although the office nominally had functioned since the creation of the county in 1857.
Her reports to the territorial superintendent are equally well done; she was the only Kitsap County superintendent up to her time who took enough professional interest in the office to make any reports. The Ordway records--written in long hand--are still on file in the Kitsap County Courthouse at Port Orchard.
In 1889, Miss Ordway completed her work as county superintendent, but continued to act on the County Education Board which examines and certifies teachers. In 1890 she conducted the first county institute (a sort of normal school, now obsolete) in Kitsap County. It was held in Port Madison, lasted a week and was attended by 20 teachers.
Lizzie Ordway saw Kitsap County schools grow from three districts to 20 in number. She guided the educational destiny of the county through its pioneering stage and saw some of her first pupils grow up to teach in her stead.
In 1891 she moved to Seattle and assisted in the preparation of the state's educational exhibit at the Chicago Fair of 1893, which created agreeable surprise among Eastern educators. This was her last work. She died in Seattle quite suddenly in 1897 and is buried there." (Seattle Times - July 6, 1947)
Miss Ordway dedicated her
life to the education of young people and was a significant figure in the
development of public education in the local area. We are proud to have her name on our
school. Our goal is to provide
educational opportunities to our students today with the enthusiasm and
professional care exhibited by our namesake.
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This statue of "Lizzie" Ordway is located just inside the main entrance of Ordway Elementary School. It weighs more then 500 hundred pounds.
This newspaper article and picture of Lizzie Ordway was published in the Seattle Times.