Erin King, MN, RN passed away unexpectedly in December 2000. Erin was a long-time member and active leader in both the King County and Washington State Nurses Associations. At the time of her death she was serving as the Chairperson of the WSNA Bylaws/Resolutions Committee, and was a member of the KCNA Governmental Affairs Committee. An avid world traveler, Erin and her husband had just completed a wonderful trip to Europe.
Throughout her career Erin served in many leadership roles in the association, including Treasurer of WSNA, member of the Board of Directors of both KCNA and WSNA, member of the WSNA-PAC Board of Trustees, numerous local, district and state committees and as a delegate to many ANA Conventions.
Erin was active in politics and served as a precinct committee officer in the King County Democrats. Erin was frequently honored by her peers and received the KCNA Nurse of the Year Award in 1980, and the WSNA Honorary Membership Award in 1984. Erin retired from active nursing in 1996 because of her health and was working part-time as a telemarketer for The Seattle Times at the time of her death.
Throughout her life, Erin was long standing advocate for human rights, working tirelessly as an activist in the civil rights movement in the 60’s and continuing this role throughout the 70’s and early 80’s with her involvement in the women’s rights movement and the pursuit of the Equal Rights Amendment. She was also a strong supporter of workers rights and collective action, and during the strike at The Seattle Times in the Fall of 2000, Erin was proud to say that she had refused to cross the picket line!
You couldn’t know Erin without respecting and admiring her total commitment to the profession and to mentoring and assisting nurses into becoming involved activists in the Association and the world of politics. Perhaps this is best described in the words of other nursing leaders whose professional lives she helped shape.
Note from Susan Wilburn: “I’m so sorry I can’t be with you tonight to help honor the memory of Erin King who is so deserving of this award. Erin was the first member of WSNA who I met and during our very first conversation, which was my job interview at the Seattle Public Health Service, Erin recruited me to join WSNA. I had just moved to Seattle from the state of Ohio and asked about the professional association. Little did I know that I was asking the right person about how to get involved! Erin was a supervisor at USPHS and I became a staff nurse following the interview. For the next 10 years, Erin supported me as a staff nurse activist in WSNA: nominating me for office, encouraging me to involve other nurses at USPHS and supporting staff nurse and union issues while in her role as a supervisor. From Erin I learned the importance of a strong, integrated association and how to build consensus amidst a diversity of opinion and ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This, I believe, was the most important lesson for my nursing career and the reason that I have worked so hard for the strength and unity of our professional association.”
Barbara Curtis, past president of WSNA and herself a member of the WSNA Hall of Fame, had this to say: “Erin King was one of the early “politically-savy” nurses that understood the significance of creating a nurses political action committee in Washington State — one of the first of two such PAC’s in the country in the early 70’s. Erin was always right there, willing to support both financially and personally. We are all better people from having shared with Erin during her lifetime and we miss her.”
Hilke Faber, a long-long-time friend and co-conspirator of Erin’s had this to say, “Erin King was a woman with determination, tremendous energy and integrity, which she gave generously to all of us, as individuals and to the Association. She was a role model to me and always ready to pick up the slack or take the lead! You could always count on ERIN to be there for you or for all of us. She is sorely missed, however, her legacy will live on forever — A tremendous role model for giving so unselfishly of herself!”
Eunice Cole, Past President of both ANA and WSNA and also a Hall of Fame recipient, who could not be here tonight, writes: “All my thoughts have been about the positive, smiling, always supportive Erin. She attended many ANA as well as WSNA Conventions and I appreciated how willing she was, in her own way, to help others learning “the ropes.” She was a friend and mentor to many nurses. Erin probably understood and believed in the multi-purpose nature of WSNA and ANA better than most of us. She lived by her belief in the organization she loved and was so loyal to thoughout her nursing career. I will join all of you in my thoughts as you gather to salute and have some smiles in her honor on March 11th.”
The Washington State Nurses Foundation has established a scholarship fund in Erin’s honor to support nurses who want to increase their legislative and political skills. Contributions to the WSNF Erin King fund help underwrite tuition and workshop costs for nurses who want to attend courses in legislative, health policy or political action.