On November 3, 1914, Montana joined nine other western states in extending voting rights to non-Native women. One hundred years later, the Montana Historical Society celebrated this centennial by creating interpretative materials to promote a broader understanding of Montana women’s history among the general public, educators, and K-12 and university students.
The Montana Women’s History Matters website, montanawomenshistory.org, is the project’s core. Designed for use by the general public, scholars, and students, its resources include bibliographies, links to digitized primary and secondary sources, historic photographs, historical essays, walking tours, lesson plans, and ideas for community programming. The website frequently featured new content, posting two readable and well-researched essays a week throughout calendar year 2014. Reflecting Montana’s geographic and cultural diversity, the essays (which will be published as an anthology in 2015) used individuals’ stories to explore such themes as community-building, family life, ethnicity, work, religion, motherhood, control over fertility, discrimination, activism, education, and cultural preservation.
To extend the project’s reach, MHS also disseminated posters and bookmarks, created the WHM Facebook page, held essay contests, and provided public programming, including a K-12 educator workshop, presentations at statewide librarian and educator conferences, and a much-lauded centennial celebration in the Capitol Rotunda.
By reflecting Montana’s diversity, Montana Women’s History Matters dispelled stereotypes while writing women back into the state’s history. It helped Montanans imagine a more inclusive history, one that expands beyond iconic figures to recognize homesteaders, librarians, warriors, telephone operators, mothers, nurses, tribal language preservationists, businesswomen, and community volunteers as significant and worthy of study.