More people answer “none” in the Pacific Northwest in regard to their religious affiliation than any other region of the country. But amidst the secular altars of Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft, there exists a vibrant legacy of churches in Seattle. “Inspired: Churches of Seattle,” a luxurious new coffee-table book by Seattleites Rick Grant and Lara Swimmer, showcases the often-overlooked history and architecture of 52 Seattle-area churches of various denominations.

Through Swimmer’s gorgeous photography, “Inspired” offers a

glimpse inside our city’s many places of worship. The buildings’ unassuming façades frequently belie a stunning interior — from the ornate stained-glasswork of University Christian Church in the University District to the modern elegance of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Queen Anne. Grant provides context with accompanying text throughout, including surprising tidbits of trivia.

For much of the early 20th century, for example, Seattle’s First Presbyterian Church had the largest membership of any Presbyterian church in the world, and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first American to be canonized a saint, lived in Seattle from 1903 to 1916.

Rick Grant will discuss and sign “Inspired: Churches of Seattle” at a free event at University Book Store (4326 University Way N.E.) at 7 p.m. on April 10. 

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Another new book, “Seattle Pioneer Midwife” by Susan Fleming,

sheds light on an altogether different but equally rich facet of Seattle history: midwifery and childbirth in the first decades of the 1900s


Fleming, a Washington State University professor of nursing, notes that 95 percent of childbirths in the United States occurred in the home, and it was common for family members to help with birthing. Seattle was also home to women who arrived via the Alaska-Yukon-Klondike gold rush and, needing income, turned to prostitution.

Fleming tells the remarkable story of her great-grandmother Alice Ada Wood Ellis, who built a home in Green Lake in 1900 and opened her doors to pregnant prostitutes and other women in need. Ellis, a single mother of two small children, supported herself and her family through her work as a pioneer midwife and nurse, but she also fulfilled a critical need in the community. Training for midwives at the time was inconsistent, and the services that did exist were reserved for women of high social status.

Fleming employs rich detail, dialogue and even the occasional fictional character in recounting the stories of her great-grandmother and the Seattle women she cared for. Fleming’s account also weaves in aspects of our region’s gritty pioneer history, including train robbers, unclaimed children and pandemic flu, as well as photographs of period medical instruments and devices.

Elaine Fleming will discuss and sign “Seattle Pioneer Midwife” at a free event at University Book Store (4326 University Way N.E.) at 7 p.m. on April 11.

JOE GARVIN is a member of the events staff at University Book Store ( in the University District. To comment on this review, write to