Briefly Noted: ‘Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women’s Stories’

Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women’s Stories, edited by Martha Kohl (Montana Historical Society Press: May 2016), 288 pages, over 100 photographs.

MHSscboolmarmsWhen the histories of the west we studied in high school were written, the emphasis was on great men, both saints and devils, and what they did. We’re slowly finding out there was more to the story; this new book edited by Martha Kohl is part of our re-education. (I’m not sure why the cover photograph shown on Amazon has a slightly different subtitle than the book’s listing or the cover as shown on the MHS site.)

From the Publisher:

“Sheriff Garfield had just been elected to a second term in 1920 when he was fatally shot. His wife Ruth, a ranching woman with a young son, set aside her grief to serve out her husband’s term. She was Montana’s first female sheriff and served two years.

“Stories like Ruth Garfield’s fill the pages of Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women’s Stories. The women featured in this book range from late eighteenth-century Indian women warriors to twenty-first century Blackfeet banker Elouise Cobell. They span geography―from the western Montana women who worked for the Forest Service, to Miles City doctor Sadie Lindeberg. And they span ideology―from the members of the Montana Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, who led the fight for laws banning segregation in public accommodations, to the Women of the Ku Klux Klan. With grit and foresight, these women shaped Montana.”

From the Great Falls Tribune:

Telephone operators worked at hotels as well as at exchanges. Photographed here is Helen (last name unknown), an operator at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park in 1925. At the time, park concessionaires often required their Blackfeet employees–including bus drivers and telephone operators—to dress in “traditional” clothing to appeal to eastern tourists. Bain News Service, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
Telephone operators worked at hotels as well as at exchanges. Photographed here is Helen (last name unknown), an operator at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park in 1925. At the time, park concessionaires often required their Blackfeet employees–including bus drivers and telephone operators—to dress in “traditional” clothing to appeal to eastern tourists. Bain News Service, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

“Historian Martha Kohl edited the project, which grew from the MHS Women’s History Matters project marking 100 years of women’s suffrage in the state. Kohl started informally asking people to name 10 women in Montana history.

“Even the best educated seemed to stall at three — Sacajawea, Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin and photographer Evelyn Cameron. But then the stories came of great-grandmothers who homesteaded, widowed mothers who eked out a living in Butte and aunts who served during World War II.

“’In other words, Montanans knew about fascinating women — they just didn’t consider them historical,’ Kohl wrote.”

Martha Kohl (“Montana: Stories of the Land” and “I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings” [see my blog post about that book]) is a historical specialist at the Montana Historical Society.

Many of the essays in the book previously appeared on the MHS webpage Women’s History Matters: 1914 – 2014. The site also contains other references of interest to educators and historians.

According to the San Francisco Book Review, “Each of these stories are short, around three pages or so, and often accompanied by a picture. They tell an interesting story and that is what the contributors bring to life. A story that has been ignored, and if it wasn’t for contributors like these, then these stories would likely be lost forever. Hopefully something like this will bring a closer look to other states and their stories.”

–Malcolm

 

 

Briefly Noted: ‘I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings’

“A young and plucky eastern girl moves to the Wild West to be swept off her feet by a handsome and muscular cowboy: it’s the stereotypical plot of countless romance novels set in Montana.” – Montana Historical Society Press

We’ve all seen wedding stories like this in movies, novels and television shows. Some of those stories might even be real. However, historian Martha Kohl, a fifteen-year specialist at the the Montana Historical Society in Helena, found that the reality of Montana weddings over a 150-year period was every bit as romantic and absorbing as the fiction.

If you live in or near Helena, you can meet the author and enjoy the society’s new exhibit “And the Bride Wore…Montana Weddings, 1900-1960” on January 10th, between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at the MHS headquarters at 225 North Roberts.

IdoFrom the Publisher:

Through engaging stories of romance, insightful analysis, and historic intriguing photographs, I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings provides an intimate and surprising look at an important tradition. I Do journeys through the last 150 years of Montana history, from the 1860s gold rush to the internet age, to reveal the lives of ordinary people, from Finnish homesteaders, Chinese restaurateurs, and Métis fiddlers to struggling miners, Blackfeet students, and Jewish merchants.

About the Exhibit:

MHSlogoThe Montana Historical Society’s newest temporary exhibit, will examine how history has shaped weddings—and particularly wedding fashion—during the first half of the twentieth century. Sixteen delightful and diverse dresses will be on display, including a hand-stitched dress made of white lace and yellow silk ribbon (worn in Butte in 1907), a Crow elk-tooth dress (worn in Lodge Grass in 1945), and a ballerina-style white dress of synthetic satin, lace and tulle (worn in Hardin in 1957). An opening reception will be held January 10, 2013, from 6:30-8:00. The opening will feature a wedding dress fashion show, a 1950s style cake and punch reception, a book signing by Martha Kohl, author of I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings, and Slovenian wedding dance music. Don’t miss the fun! Viewers will be asked to participate in the exhibit by voting for their favorite ensemble and trying their hand at an old-fashioned Singer treadle sewing machine. The dresses will remain on exhibit through November 2013.

The exhibit is listed on line here with contact information and other details.

Malcolm

A long-time member of the Montana Historical Society, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels partially set in Glacier National Park, including “The Sun Singer,” “Sarabande,” and the upcoming new adventure, “The Seeker.” Watch the trailer.

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