Saturday, September 19, 2020
Idaho Women Made Mark in Voting, Education, Eight Hour Workday
Jane Conard, Wendy Jaquet and Neil Bradshaw turned out to celebrate Idaho’s women suffragettes in mid-March.
Tuesday, August 18, 2020


When Permeal French ran for Idaho’s Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1899, she refrained from campaigning because it was considered risky for a woman to express a public opinion.

Nevertheless, the Idaho City-born and San Francisco-educated woman who’d returned home to help her mother run a boarding house in Bellevue, won.

That made her the first woman elected to state office in Idaho. And she went on to change education in the Gem State, according to former Idaho state legislator Wendy Jaquet.

“Once elected, she went to the statehouse to roll up her sleeves and work but found that that there was no office set aside for her,” Jaquet said. “So, she fixed that. She got the legislature to give her authority over all the school districts in the state, enabling her to standardize education in the Gem State. Then she drafted the 1901 education code, which required teacher exams. And she got the first women’s dorm built at the University of Idaho and went on to be the Dean of Women.”

She was such a disciplinarian that it was believed she had a spy reporting to her in every group, Jaquet added.

Jaquet, Sun Valley Council Member Jane Conard and Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw extolled the passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in a celebration organized by Sun Valley City Clerk Nancy Flannigan on the newly designated Idaho Women’s Day on March 13.

They did so a day before the Wood River Valley’s first two cases of coronavirus were announced and, so, the turnout was small with many residents already hunkering down. But that didn’t daunt the enthusiasm of the trio and a few others as they rang bells and celebrated Idaho’s place in history as the fourth state in the country to grant women the right to vote.

It seemed only fitting to recount their findings today—the 100th anniversary of the day that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, ending almost a century of protest.

Jaquet noted that while the nation had Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul and Sojourner Truth, Idaho had Emma Edwards, Emma Drake and Kate O’Hare fighting for women’s rights.

And some were quite colorful characters.

  • Rep. Emma Drake, a Republican from New Plymouth served from 1919 to 1920. She wrote sex manuals before the term was invented and, as a medical doctor, she had some strong opinions about alcohol.

    She was quoted in a news article as saying, “Mothers, do you dream what you may be doing when you use brandy and wine in your cookery, or beer to improve the Welsh rarebit? Well, in case you don’t know it, you are giving your little ones an insatiable taste for alcohol and in no time they will be running about with evil companions and getting into crime and they will be hanged and you will be standing there at the gallows saying, ‘Alas,’ for the day you put sherry in the soup.”

    Drake also told wives not to sleep with a smoking husband as his exhalations might give his wife tobacco poisoning. She believed that a pregnant woman should think only uplifting thoughts or she could mark her baby adversely. The reason so many Italian babies looked like Jesus, she said, was because their mothers spent so much time adoring the Madonna.

  • Abigail Scott Duniway, who came out West on the Oregon Trail lived in Custer and Challis in the late 1800s, spent 40 years working on women’s rights despite a busy life as a schoolteacher, milliner, business woman and newspaper editor. Not to mention she had to care for six children and an invalid husband, as well.

    She had just six months of formal schooling but succeeded in getting the Idaho legislature to grant women the right to vote early on as she was horrified at the lack of equality and rights for women.

  • Emma Edwards Green, who designed Idaho’s state seal, remains the only woman ever to have designed a state seal.

    The daughter of a Missouri governor, she was an art teacher who had come to Boise for a vacation that turned into a lifelong stay when she heard about the competition to design the seal. Inspired by her father who told her that “women are going to do great things,” she put women on equal footing with men in her seal, acknowledging the role women were playing and would play in the development of Idaho.

    Of course, not everyone championed women and their efforts, noted Jaquet.

  • W.H. Slyke a 31-year-old Republican who immigrated from New York to Silver City, argued that “Woman rules us through her love, and her chiefest (sic) power over us is through her graceful impulsiveness of heart and fancy—well enough around the fireside but dangerous guides in the halls of legislation.”
  • When Frances Willard, a national leader of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, was scheduled to speak in Lewiston, city fathers declared a quarantine so there could be no public meeting or space for her to speak. The local chapter of the WCTU circumvented that by holding an ice cream social in someone’s home and ended up signing up a bunch of new members.
  • When Kate O’Hare, an outspoken socialist was to speak in Twin Falls, she was abducted by men in three cars and taken over the border to Nevada so “Red Kate” couldn’t stir up trouble.

In 1896 Idaho became the fourth state to give women the right to vote. It would be another 14 years before another state did so. The first three women elected to the Idaho legislature represented different parties.

Hattie Noble, a Democrat was a businesswoman from the mining town of Idaho City who introduced and passed the first anti-gambling bill.

Mary Wright, a populist from Kootenai County, was a school teacher on the Rathdrum Prairie from 1893 to 1899.

And Clara Permilla Campbell was a Republican from Ada County whose husband headed a school on the Nez Perce reservation. She sponsored legislation that created the University of Idaho.

The trio cemented women’s rights to vote and expanded powers for nonprofits.

Sen. Emma Edwards, the first woman to sit in the Senate, taking her seat in 1890, campaigned for an eight-hour work day and urged an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for direct popular vote of U.S. Senators.

Conard noted that the 19th Amendment could be credited to the first wave of the women’s movement. The second wave came in the 1970s, she said, as women pressed for the Equal Rights Amendment, which has yet to be ratified.

Still more is to be done, she said, in a country where the disparity in wages continues and women make up only 38 percent of managerial jobs. Idaho is 43rd in the wage gap and 50th in the ratio of female executives to male executives.

Additionally, she said, the maternal death rate among women in the United States is the worst of industrialized countries—50th. And since 1991 the rate of deaths has doubled.

“Use this celebration to fulfill the dreams of the women who fought and won the 19th Amendment,” she said.


The City of Parma, Idaho, elected the first woman mayor in the United States—Laura Starcher.

Gracie Pfost, meanwhile was Idaho’s first and only woman to serve in Congress and she did that for five terms. She gained the nickname “Hell’s Belle” because of her fight against the private construction of a dam in Hells Canyon.


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