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Fantastic Trip to Idaho Historical Museum

My friend and I visited the Trailblazing Women of Idaho Exhibition at the Idaho State Museum. What a great legacy to have this type of museum here in Boise.

A visit like this can help us to understand the greatness that has gone on before us. The diversity that makes us great. The mistakes that have been made in the past, and reflect on how we can be a part of continuing our progress as a City and State.

We had a fantastic time and learned a lot about outstanding women who were instrumental in helping develop Idaho into the state it is today. I believe that because women have such strong, nurturing and positive traits that we have become a reckoning force in history and society. We could not be held down. Here are some great examples.

Let’s start with Sacagawea.

SACAGAWEA 1788 - 1812

Sacagawea was born in 1799 in Lemhi, near modern day Salmon, Idaho. She was a Shoshone Indian. As a child she was abducted by a Hidatsa Indian tribe and taken to South Dakota. When she was 16, she joined the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-06) as a bilingual interpreter and the only women traveling with them for the thousands of miles from St Louis, Missouri to the Pacific Ocean. When they reached the Idaho area she got really excited. Beginning to recognize the landmarks, she knew she was traveling into the land of her people.


I was an educator in Blackfoot, Idaho and I remember how excited we all were when RANY’L HEDOW TETON was chosen by the artist Glenna Goodacre to be the model for the Sacagawea US gold dollar coin. Rany’l was a member of the Shonshone-Bannock Indian Tribe. The reservation sits adjacent to Blackfoot. Following is a quote from the plaque at the museum.

The image doesn't represent me. It represents all native American

women. All women have the dignity of the golden dollars image.!

ELVINA MOULTON (1834 - 1917)

Elvina Moulton was liberated as a slave in Kentucky. In 1867, she joined an Oregon wagon train and walked from Missouri to Boise, Idaho. She decided she could walk no further so she settled in the area. In Boise she was a member the First Presbyterian Church and a well respected member of the community. Working hard and managing her money well she was able to purchase several homes in downtown Boise. Known as ‘Aunt Viney’, Elvina was loved by the neighborhood children. According to the Idaho State historical Society she chose to be buried in the city cemetery instead of her church cemetery to minimize racist sentiment about her burial place. Check out how KTVB talks about her.

(1847 - 1938)

Mary Hallock Foot was already a well-known illustrator when she married Arthur Foot an engineer. He was drawn to the West, and especially the Boise area. She stated that she was a reluctant pioneer but paid him the highest complement by following him to the unforgiving high desert landscape. During her 12 years in Boise she fell in love with it and produced many illustrations, and books. In this Wild West area dominated by men, her illustrations and stories were written about women’s complex struggles with the land and isolation showing them as key players in the building of the American West.

POLLY BEMIS 1853 - 1933

There is quite a story behind Polly she was born in China, sold by her family, and then smuggled into America. She arrived in America in 1872, and was purchased by an elderly Chinese man. He brought her to the small mining town, Warren, Idaho. She began her life in slavery, but this petite, powerful woman found her freedom in the wilderness of Idaho. She became well liked and respected and married a prospector Charles Bemis. They built a new home along the Salmon River. It was know as Polly’s Place were all travelers were welcome, filled with laughter and friendship. Her life started out in adversity which forged her character to include compassion, humor and strength. Her feet were bound in the Chinese tradition but apparently didn’t stop her in her endeavors.

KITTIE WILKINS (1857 - 1936)

Kittie Wilkins lived on her family's ranch in Bruneau Valley where she developed a shrewd business sense in a time when women were not recognized as leaders in the area of business. An expert horse trainer, very shrewd in her dealings, she became known as the Horse Queen of Idaho. She built her Diamond Ranch into the leading horse breeding company in the whole country. In 1900, Kittie made the biggest horse sale in history, when she sold over 8000 horses to the military for use in South Africa

ESPRE ALLEGRA 1906 - 1991

Espre immigrated from the Basque Country and settled in Boise area. In 1955 she became the hostess of a Basque - language radio show. The show catered to the many Basque sheepherders and local Basque residents in the area. She also reached other Basque speaking people throughout the West. Espre shared news from the homeland which created a sense of unity toward the Basque people. What a wonderful gift for people settling in a new land.

Let’s not forget the more modern women of the Boise area who used their many talents in helping Boise, become the prosperous forward reaching city that it has become. Just to mention a few:

BARBARA MORGAN, a teacher in MCall, Idaho representing America’s teachers who traveled with Crista Mc Auliffe on the ill-fated “Challenger “ that exploded in mid flight.

LINDA COPPLE TROUT who earned her law degree in 1977. At that time there were only 81 women that had been admitted to the Idaho State Bar. Linda made history in 1992 when she was the first women appointed to The Idaho Supreme Court. She was later elected by the other supreme justices as Chief Justice. She served from 1997 to 2007.

REI KIHARA OSAKI, whose family was incarcerated in a Japanese camps 1942. She was exempt because of her status as a student. Despite widespread discrimination, Rei became the first Japanese American women admitted to the Idaho State Bar in 1943.

IDA RUDOLPH LEGGETT grew up in segregated Alabama. She moved to Coeur D’Alene and was the first African American women to pass the Idaho Bar becoming the first African American woman judge in Idaho in 1992. Public life was not easy for Ida. Because of receiving death-threats, she resined as a judge in 1998.

I had to be selective as to the number of women I chose, just know for every one I chose there are many many more that have influence our lives in our community and our world

As we read aloud and build background knowledge it is important that our children learn and value the trailblazing effort of the people who have gone before us.

Remember your children acquire background knowledge from being read to, attending museums and life experiences. And you as a parent can build on this background knowledge by discussing the value of each of one of your children and about the legacy they might leave in the family- community - world. What type of legacy has your ancestors left to your family?

Jylene Morgan is a retired educator. She is passionate about the importance of reading aloud to children from top quality children’s books. Writing about her life experiences she captivates her audience by telling the tales of her family’s adventures. The first several books are written about funny exchanges that occur when human and wild animal’s lives come together.

To read more about me, my passion for reading aloud to children and my books go to Make sure you join our mailing list so you receive Jylene's "Most Treasured Books List". So you can also be the first to know when Jylene's next book, BUMMER and the Nanny Goat, is available.


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