March is Women’s History Month, and the Montana Historical Society invites the public to celebrate the lives of the amazing women who have called the Treasure State home.
For example, Martha Edgerton Rolf Plassmann, born in 1850, not only was a teacher, musician, mother of seven, but also was a life-long activist and leader in the women’s suffrage movement. She was widowed young, then became the first female editor of a Montana daily newspaper in Great Falls. Plassmann also was a local and state leader in the Montana Socialist Party while living in Missoula, writing a weekly column “Socialist Notes” for the Missoulian.
Dolly Smith Cusker Akers was Montana’s first Native American legislator, as well as the first woman chair of the Tribal Executive Board of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes. She was born in 1901 in Wolf Point and was instrumental in getting the Indian Citizenship Act passed into law in 1924, when she was a mere 23 years old. She married at 16 to man who often became debilitated due to alcoholism, yet she ran as a Democrat for the state legislature in 1932 and received almost 100 percent of the vote in Roosevelt County, where whites outnumbered Indians by nearly ten to one.
Then there’s the persistent Rose Gordon of White Sulphur Springs, born in 1883 to a former slave and black Scottish-born immigrant. With grace and advocacy, she navigated the racist currents that were common to small-town Montana. Gordon aspired to be a doctor, but her studies were interrupted by family responsibilities. Still, from the mid 1940s until her 1968 death, Gordon nursed elderly community members, newborns and mothers, and injured sawmill workers.
These are just three of the women featured in the MHS blog Women’s History Matters, which was created to promote an increased appreciation and understanding of the role of women in Montana. The stories range from women bootleggers in Butte and Glacier to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. They also include early business women like Sarah Bickford of Virginia City and Blackfeet banker Elouise Pepion Cobell.
“As far as I’m concerned, every month is Women’s History Month, but as the spotlight turns to women’s history in March, we’re delighted to highlight the abundance of resources we have to share — stories, of course, but also lesson plans, photographs, reminiscences, letters, information about historic places important to women, and so much more,” said Martha Kohl, Outreach and Interpretation Historian at the Montana Historical Society.
For more information, contact Kohl at email@example.com or 444-4740. These stories and more at Montanawomenshistory.org