MTPR

Bold Women In Montana History

Nov 16, 2017

"... We can never understand how a group might do something that goes against its own best interest, but women were influenced by their husbands and their fathers and then they really did believe — I mean there were strong beliefs — that a woman’s place was in the home, and they don’t need to vote, and they have influence through their husbands or their men who can vote, and that’s enough." -- Beth Judy

Author Beth Judy talks about her book "Bold Women In Montana History" on this episode of "The Write Question."

Bold Women In Montana History

The following highlights are from a conversation with Beth Judy about her book, Bold Women in Montana’s History. To hear the full conversation, click the link above or subscribe to our podcast.

Sarah Aronson: In thinking about the critics that [the women in your book] faced, I’m thinking about Jeannette Rankin. What can you say about her work and the resistance she faced in the suffragette movement?

Beth Judy: She did not get depressed, she did not get defensive, she totally went to the facts and learned them backwards and forward and then used them in her absolutely compelling speeches that she would make. It sounds like she was almost a hypnotist. She had such power when she talked, and people talked about her eyes being so luminous and mesmerizing. She really didn’t take offense that people didn’t agree or that they wouldn’t support suffrage, she just set out to put facts forth before them.  

And it was a surprise to me to read that many women didn’t support suffrage.

Yes. Yeah, we can never understand how a group might do something that goes against its own best interest, but women were influenced by their husbands and their fathers and then they really did believe—I mean there were strong beliefs—that a woman’s place was in the home, and they don’t need to vote, and they have influence through their husbands or their men who can vote, and that’s enough. And Jeannette had this argument back, you know, 'you can be a caring mother and vote. If your child is suffering from typhoid, don’t you want to change what caused the typhoid?  (Which is health conditions.) Don’t you want to have a voice in that?'

You write about individual women and sisters and what other groups or pairings of women did you include and what was your selection process like?

Well, I really did want to not just focus on individuals because it seemed to me that in some women’s history course that I had when I was in school, there was discussion about how much of ‘usual’ history focuses on individuals and how all these decisions that they made that were so great and important but relationships are so important in women’s history and to women.

In thinking about your own life, what do you consider to be your most bold moment?

Laughing. . . Moving to Montana was bold. I didn’t know a soul. I knew one person in Helena who I really didn’t meet for a while, and I knew a person who helped me find housing (he was a friend of a friend). And I drove a 24 foot truck across the country towing my car behind. And it all worked out and I love Montana. It took some time, it always takes me a while after I move, but I sure did find a wonderful home.

Beth Judy
Credit Chris Zahniser

About the Book:

Bold Women in Montana History (Beth Judy, Mountain Press, 2017) consists of eleven biographical chapters about fifteen-plus women (including two sets of sisters and one women's union). Covering the Big Sky state from Absarokee to Browning, Helena to Red Lodge, Bold Women tells of Blackfeet warrior Running Eagle (Pitamakan); African-American homesteader and army cook Annie Morgan; Crow grandmother Pretty Shield; America's first Congresswoman, Jeannette Rankin; the Women's Protective Union of Butte; the Fligelman sisters, writers and much more; Hollywood starlet Myrna Loy; artist and rancher Isabelle Johnson; rodeo queens Alice and Marge Greenough; former state librarian Alma Jacobs; and champion of Native-American landowners across the nation, Elouise Cobell. A fine resource for adults and young adults.   

About the Author:

Beth Judy grew up in Chicago, graduated from Harvard College in 1983, and moved from Atlanta to Missoula in 1992, where she earned an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Montana. Researching and writing her book Bold Women in Montana History (spring 2017, Mountain Press) was a dream come true, since she loves Montana history and women’s history. From 1994 to 2014, Judy was also a producer at Montana Public Radio, where her medicinal-plants program, “The Plant Detective,” was syndicated across the U.S. Freelancing, she has written for Montana Magazine and Prairie Home Companion, among other publications and radio venues.