March 04, 2009

IDAHO WOMENâ??A LEGACY FROM YESTERDAY, LEADERSHIP TODAY

By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Lives and activities of many remarkable individuals comprise the rich tapestry that is the history of Idaho. From the time that Idaho was simply part of a vast frontier to the establishment of the State of Idaho and the growth of the natural resource industries of farming, ranching, timber harvest and mining, the stories of Idahoans have woven together to give us pride in our heritage and thanks for our many blessings.

March is Women's History Month, giving us an opportunity to look back to some remarkable Idahoans who, a century ago, were among the first physicians, educators, attorneys and political activists in Idaho.

One such woman was Dr. Minnie F. (Hayden) Howard. Dr. Howard graduated from medical school in 1899, and, in 1902, she and her husband (also a physician) moved to Idaho and set up practice in Pocatello. After the birth of her second son, Dr. Howard decided to focus on other interests she had, including writing and history, and Old Fort Hall in particular. In 1931, she was appointed Bannock County Historian and held that post for approximately 25 years. Dr. Howard was deeply involved in the community, holding many civic posts and serving with many local, state and national volunteer organizations.

Older than Dr. Howard, but alive at the same time, Permeal J. French was an Idaho-born educator who graduated from the College of Notre Dame in San Francisco in 1887. She taught in Hailey for ten years before she was elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In 1908, she became the Dean of Women at the University of Idaho. During her prestigious career as an Idaho educator, French was actively involved with the State Federation of Women's Clubs.

Another contemporary of Howard and French, Pennsylvania attorney Ora B. (Stark) Hawkins came to St. Joe in 1908, when she married her husband, James, also an attorney. In 1910, they moved to Coeur d'Alene. Although historical records do not seem to suggest that Hawkins practiced law in Idaho, they are clear that she was involved in the civic life of her community and served as librarian and state historian in charge of the Idaho Historical Society from 1941 to 1943.

Although Idaho granted women the right to vote in 1896, well before most states, we had women active in the suffragist movement in the early part of the 20th century, notably Margaret S. Roberts from Hailey. Roberts was the daughter of Idaho's first attorney general, and was appointed the librarian of the Idaho Traveling Library in 1905-a position she held throughout her life. Her work with the women's suffrage movement included serving as the Republican National Committeewoman for Idaho beginning in 1916 and for several subsequent terms. She served as vice president of the National Council of Women Voters and as Idaho's chairman of the National League of Women Voters until 1920. In 1943, she was appointed the Idaho State Historical Society head of wartime operations.

Pioneers, educators, civic leaders, elected officials, physicians, businesswomen, writers, suffragettes, activists, artists and guides. The many pioneering Idaho women of yesterday are historical mentors and an inspiration to those making a difference in communities all across the state today. You know these women-they are your doctor, your child's teacher and your elected official. They own the local real estate agency, the bank or the local newspaper. They are your attorney, builder or pharmacist. They are a local artist, social worker, counselor or your pastor. They are your mother, your wife, your daughter and your friend.

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