Friday, February 25, 2005

Polly, May and Louise: Amazing women in Idaho history

Guest opinion by Sen. Mike Crapo

Guest opinion by SEN. MIKE CRAPO
Mike Crapo, of Idaho Falls, is the junior senator for Idaho in the U.S. Senate.

Let's take a walk into Idaho's history—see if you can name these women:

·  She was a missionary who earned the respect and admiration of the Nez Perce Tribe; her unwavering bravery and a knack for wilderness survival seemingly at odds with a graduate of a women's seminary in New York.

·  In an unintended demonstration of women's equality with men, she braved the rigors of the Idaho gold rush and proved that perceptions of a woman's capabilities had more to do with uninformed assumptions than the reality that women could succeed just as men in such an environment.

·  Even the adverse circumstances brought about by being sold into slavery and sent to a foreign land did not prevent her from making a successful life in the wilderness of Idaho.

·  She faced a small, armed fighting force with nothing but a cross and her repeated prayers, causing the warriors to lay down their weapons and refuse to fight her remarkable determination.

·  She was heiress to a local paper called The Idaho Statesman, and at the relatively young age of 45, modernized and led the newspaper into the 20th century.

·  A gutsy union promoter, unabashed and oblivious to the pre-ordained role of women in a remote mining community, she was businesswoman, suffragette and outspoken advocate for women almost a century before Affirmative Action.

She could be your grandmother, your mother, your wife, your sister and your daughter. She is an Idahoan. The women above—Eliza Hart Spaulding, Jo Monaghan, Polly Bemis, Louise Siuwheem, Margaret Cobb Ailshie and May Arkwright Hutton—are just a few of the amazing women in Idaho's history. They represented the larger society from whence they came, with backgrounds as varied as the land in which they lived. Each one, like the women in your own life, had the strength of passion, gracefulness of steady purpose and underneath their feminine exterior, wills of steel rarely daunted or discouraged. Their legacy lives on in Idaho today in our family and friends. We men know all too well that without these amazing people at our sides we would be far less successful; at the same time, we are more humble knowing the sources of our strength.

March is Women's History Month. Take some time to learn a little about Margaret's stadium, Polly's fishing abilities, Louise's faith, "Little Joe's" horse(woman)ship, May's literary skills, and the door Eliza closed in the face of death.

While you are exploring Idaho history, recognize the amazing qualities of the women in your own life. I know I have some very special women in my life without whom I would not be where I am today. To these women we owe no small measure of respect and gratitude. Their faith, perseverance, wit, creativity and resourcefulness bring our world to life.

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