Presented here is a database of influential women who are affiliated in some way with Idaho. By default, the entries are presented chronologically by the order in which they were submitted. Would you like to submit a new woman to the database? Please navigate to the submit page.

Want to make a correction or addition? Click here


all politicians doctors pioneers artists educators philanthropists

Mary Brooks (Elizabeth Thomas Peavey)
11/01/1907 - 02/11/2002
Colby, KS - Twin Falls, ID

The daughter of a U.S. senator from Idaho, Mary Brooks served as an Idaho state senator from 1963 to 1969. She served as the Director of the U.S. Mint from 1969 to 1977, and when she was appointed by President Nixon she became the third woman in history named to the post. Her son, John Peavey, served over twenty years in the Idaho senate. Mary is a University of Idaho alumna and recieved her bachelor's degree in economics in 1929.

Resources: In Memoriam: Former Mint Director Mary Brooks, February 25, 2002
Keywords: politicians
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Dr. Mary Elizabeth Donaldson (Mary Craker)
01/12/1851 - 1941
Reedsburg, WI - Napa, CA

Mary became the only woman MD graduate from Wooster University in Cleaveland in 1892. In 1898 she and her husband founded the Idaho Sanitarium Institute, in which she gave free medical care. She and her husband founded the Donaldson Home for the Aging, and she helped found Idaho Magazine, published Reform Appeal and was an effective campaigner for prohibition.

Resources: "Boise's Dr. Mary E. Donaldson, Pioneer in Medicine and Elder Care"
Keywords: doctors, medical practitioners, prohibition
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Mary Allen Wright
12/03/1868 - 03/31/1948
Polk, Missouri - Bonners Ferry, ID

Mary Ellen was nominated to be State School Superintendent of Public Instruction, and was the first woman to hold statewide elected office in Idaho when she was elected to the Idaho State Legislature in 1898. Mary also chaired the Populist Party, who nominated her for Speaker of the House. In 1901, the legislature elected her Clerk of the House. She was also a manager of Wright's Loan and Investment Company and a prominent teacher in North Idaho.

Resources: Women Wielding Power: Pioneer Female State Legislators, The National Women's History Museum
Keywords: politicians, educators
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Edith Miller Klein
08/04/1915 - 12/31/1998
Wallace, ID - Boise, ID

A pioneer as an attorney and woman judge in Boise in the 1940's, she served twenty years in the state senate and legislature, holding many civic, government, and community posts. In a day when women were expected to wear white gloves and hats in public, she wore judge's robes and brought women's professional business suits to Idaho. Stories conflict about a proposal of marriage made to her on the floor of the state legislature. As an attorney, Edith represented many statewide cases.

Resources: The First 50 Women in Idaho Law
Keywords: politicians
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Carol Ryrie Brink (Caroline Sybil Ryrie)
12/28/1895 - 08/15/1981
Moscow, ID - La Jolla, CA

A Newberry Medal winning author, Carol Ryrie Brink was born in Moscow, Idaho and attended the University of Idaho from 1914-1917. After graduating from the University of California Berkeley, Brink moved to St. Paul to join her new husband. Her first novel, Anything Can Happen, was published in 1934. Her novel Caddie Woodlawn received the Newberry Medal in 1936 and a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958.

Resources: Carol Ryrie Brink Biography - IMDB
Keywords: authors
Contributed by: Annie Gaines

Jennie Hughes Smith (Jennie Eva Hughes)
06/20/1877 - 08/19/1939
Washington, D.C. - Spokane, WA

Jennie, Class of 1899, was the first African-American to graduate from the University of Idaho. Born in Washington, D.C., her family settled in Moscow, Idaho in the early 1890s. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science, Jennie married George Smith and later had four children. Sadly, her son Berthol, who was the second African-American to enroll at the University of Idaho, died in 1919 while still a student.

Resources: Not of Noble Birth: the Triumph of Jennie Hughes Smith
Keywords: pioneers, idaho alumni
Contributed by: Annie Gaines

Louise Shadduck
10/14/1915 - 05/04/2008
Coeur d'Alene, ID - Coeur d'Alene, ID

At the age of 29, Louise was the first woman to serve as a governor's assistant. Louise ran for Congress in the 1950s and spoke for Dwight Eisenhower at the Republican National Convention in 1956. She became the first woman to serve at state cabinet level after being appointed by Rober Smylie for Secretary of Commerce and Development, a position she held for 10 years. Additionally, she is the author of five books on history.

Resources: Lioness of Idaho: Louise Shadduck and the Power of Polite, Mike Bullard.
Keywords: politicians
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Dorice Taylor
06/11/1901 - 12/23/1987
Dubois, PA - Sun Valley, ID

Some say the Union Pacific Railroad made Sun Valley an international destination, but a lot of old timers there say it was really their employee, Dorice, whose vision, energy and promotional work made everything happen. Dorice was a 1971 recipient of the ski writers' "Golden Quill" award. Additionally she published Sun Valley in her 80s and was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1984.

Resources: U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame
Keywords: promoter, author
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Velma V. Morrison
08/01/1920 - 06/20/2013
Tipton, CA - Rancho Mirage, CA

Known nationally as a patron of the arts and philanthropist, Velma grew up during the Great Depression, was a "Rosie Riveter" welding ships during World War II, and opened her own restaurant. Velma and her husband founded the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts at Boise State University.

Resources: The Bluebird Will Sing Tomorrow: Memoirs of Velma V. Morrison, Kitty Delorey Fleishchnab.
Keywords: philanthropist
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Dr. Minnie Frances Howard
08/12/1872 - 1965
Memphis, MO - ?

Legendary across the state in the early 1900s, Minnie was a graduate of Kansas University with post graduate studies in New York, Vienna, and Chicago. She began her 20 year medical practice in 1903 in Pocatello, ID. As an advocate for Fort Hall she wrote several articles for Idaho newspapers, and her philanthropy in arts and history resulted in the Carnegie Library in Pocatello.

Resources: ISU Special Collections, MC001.
Dr. Minnie Frances Hayden Howard - NLM
Keywords: doctor, philanthropist
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Lee Morse (Lena Corinne Taylor)
11/30/1897 - 12/16/1954
Portland, OR - Rochester, NY

A jazz and blues singer and songwriter popular in the 1920s and early 1930s, Lee spent her early years in Kooskia, Idaho before becoming a successful vaudeville singer on the west coast. In addition to being a popular vocalist at the time, Lee was also an actress in a number of musical film shorts in the 1930s and starred in a broadway play.

Resources: Lee Morse Collection - UI International Jazz Collections
Lee Morse - IMDB
Keywords: musician, artist
Contributed by: Annie Gaines

Nellie Stockbridge
1868 - 05/22/1965
Illinois - ?

In 1898 Nellie Stockbridge left her home in Illinois to work with Thomas Barnard at his Wallace, Idaho photo studio. In 1907 she purchased a quarter share of the business and eventually assumed full ownership. Nellie photographed the people and places of the Coeur d'Alene mining district, creating a visual record of historical significance to Idaho and beyond.

Resources: Mining Town: the photographic record of T.N. Barnard and Nellie Stockbridge from the Coeur d'Alenes, Patricia Hart & Ivar Nelson.
Barnard Stockbridge Photograph Collection
Keywords: artist
Contributed by: Annie Gaines

Permeal Jane French
05/08/1867 - 1954
Idaho City, ID - Seattle, WA

Permeal Jane French was the first woman elected to state office in Idaho when she became the Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1899. Additionally, she was the first Dean of Women at the University of Idaho (1908-1936) and was considered one of the best known and loved educators in Idaho at the time. Permeal was an advocate for women's education and held degrees from the University of Idaho and George Washington University.

Resources: Dowager of discipline: the life of Dean of Women Permeal French, Dick D'Easum.
Keywords: educator, politician
Contributed by: Annie Gaines

Belle Sweet
01/05/1879 - 1964
Garden Prairie, IL - Portland, OR

Belle Sweet became the University of Idaho's first professionally trained librarian when she began her position in 1905. At her retirement in 1948, she had compiled the state's largest library for 43 years. During her time at Idaho, Belle offered classes in library science and advocated for the creation of a Special Collections department and a better library space.

Resources: A brief history of the University of Idaho Library
Keywords: librarian, educator
Contributed by: Annie Gaines

Marilynne Robinson
11/26/1943 -
Sandpoint, ID -

Marilynne Summers Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and essayist born and raised in Sandpoint, Idaho. Her novel Gilead won the 2005 Pulitzer. Robinson graduated magna cum laude from Pembroke College in 1966 with a B.A. and completed her Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington in 1977.

Resources: History & Literature of the Pacific Northwest: Marilynne Robinson, 1943. Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest, University of Washington.
Keywords: author, artist
Contributed by: Beth Canzoneri

Benedicte Wrensted
02/10/1859 - 01/19/1949
Hjorring, Denmark - Los Angeles, CA

Benedicte Marie Wrensted was a Danish-American photographer who emigrated to Pocatello, Idaho and began a photography studio. Wrensted's photographs of local Native American tribes, including the Shoshone and Bannock Native Americans, are considered to be of great anthropological importance. Many of her photographs are preserved at the Smithsonian Institute and the National Archives.

Resources: Benedicte Wrensted: An Idaho Photographer in Focus
Keywords: photographer, artist
Contributed by: Ruth Funabiki

Mary Kirkwood
1905 - 06/17/1995
Oregon - Moscow, ID

Born in Oregon and raised in Montana, Mary Kirkwood displayed a natural talent for the arts and went on to study art at the University of Montana, the University of Oregon, and the Royal Art School in Sweden. Mary began her 40 year teaching career at the University of Idaho in 1930.

Resources: "Moscow artist's legacy lives on in work, students." Moscow-Pullman Daily News: June 29, 1995. | Guide to the Mary Kirkwood Christmas Card Collection
Keywords: artist
Contributed by: Annie Gaines

Margaret Ritchie
1895 - 01/07/1986
Bay City, MI - Moscow, ID

Margaret Ritchie served as the Head of the Home Economics department at the University of Idaho from 1938 until 1959, and continued to teach until forced to retire in 1965. An active in university, community, and professional affairs during her 47 years in Moscow and served on the board of Church Women United and was active in Meals on Wheels and the Moscow Chamber of Commerce. The University of Idaho School of Family and Consumer Sciences in named in her honor.

Resources: Guide to the Margaret Ritchie Papers
Keywords: educator
Contributed by: Annie Gaines

Gracie Bowers Pfost
03/12/1906 - 08/11/1965
Harrison, AK - Baltimore, MD

Gracie Pfost was the first woman to represent the state of Idaho in the United States Congress. She served five terms as a Democrat in the House of Representatives from 1953 to 1963. After Gracie moved to Idaho with her family, she became a milk analyst at a dairy in Nampa before attending business college in Boise. Both Gracie and her husband are burried in Meridian, Idaho.

Resources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: Gracie Pfost
Keywords: politician
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Verda Rebecca White Barnes
02/23/1907 - 06/06/1980
Willard, UT - Washington, D.C.

Verda Barnes was the Chief Administrative Assistant for U.S. Senator Frank Church for all 4 terms of his office. Her ties to the LDS Church allowed Senator Church to be accepted in Southern Idaho where membership in the Church is high. Verda was one of the first woman to have this kind of position for a Senator. She is said to have been one of the most powerful women on Capitol Hill during that time.

Resources: Reeves, Troy. "Verda White Barnes: Undeserved Anonymity." Idaho Yesterdays 47 (2006) 48-67.
Keywords: politician
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Abigail Scott Duniway
10/22/1834 - 10/11/1915
Groveland, IL - Portland, OR

Abigail Scott Duniway was a leader in Idaho's suffrage movement. She gave over 140 public lectures in Idaho from 1876 to 1895, and made a historic 6,000 word lecture to Idaho's statehood planning convention in 1880. In 1887 she began working full-time in Idaho towards equality. Idaho voted in 1896 to give women the vote because of Abigail's efforts.

Resources: "Abigail Scott Duniway: Mother of Woman Suffrage in the Pacific Northwest," By Grit and by Grace: Eleven Women Who Shaped the West, edited by Glenda Riley and Richard W. Etulain
Keywords: politician
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Emma Yearian (Russell)
1865 - 12/25/1951
Leavenworth, KS - Dalmon, ID

Named the Sheep Queen of Idaho, Emma Yearian was elected to the Idaho Legislature in 1930. After she moved to the west at 21, Emma made a name for herself in the sheep business, starting with 1,200 ewes in Lemhi Valley. Her business prospered through the first World War, and she survived the great depression with her "head bloody but unbowed," she said.

Resources: Albright, Syd. "Amazing Emma Yearian," Coeur d'Alene Press, 2/8/2015
Keywords: pioneer, politician
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Sarah Palin (Heath)
02/11/1964 -
Sandpoint, ID -

Born in Idaho, Sarah Palin has made a name for herself in the world of politics. Although she moved to Alaska as a child, Palin returned to Idaho to study at North Idaho College and the University of Idaho, where she graduated in 1987. | Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, 1996-2002; Governor of Alaska, 2006-2009 (first woman and youngest person to be elected Governor of Alaska); Republican Party nominee for Vice President in the 2008 Presidential election.

Resources: Palin, Sarah. Going Rogue: An American Life, 2009. Lorenzo, Benet. Trailblazer: An Intimate Biography of Sarah Palin, 2009.
Keywords: politician
Contributed by: Annie Gaines

Betty Penson-Ward (Butler)
05/15/1914 - 09/05/2002
Boise, ID - ?

Betty Penson-Ward literally wrote the book on women in Idaho, (Idaho Women in History, 1991). Betty worked for the Idaho Statesman for 37 years and often supported the women's movement with her featured column. She was also the first woman president of the Idaho Press Club, the first woman inducted into the Boise High School's Hall of Fame, and received many accolades for her writing including being honoured in 1971 by the National Federation of Press Women.

Resources: LocalWiki - Boise - Betty Penson | Idahos Hall of Fame | Betty Penson Papers - Boise State University Special Collections and Archives
Keywords: author
Contributed by: Mary Ann Reese

Julia Jean "Lana" Turner
02/08/1921 - 09/29/1995
Wallace, ID - Los Angeles, CA

Born to young parents during hard times in Wallace, Idaho, Julia Turner was discovered by a talent agent in a Los Angeles drug store at the age of 16. She was immediately cast in her first film, They Won't Forget (1937). During World War II Turner became a popular pin-up girl and even had a B-17 Flying Fortress named after her. Lana starred opposite Clark Gable in four films, and was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in the 1957 film Peyton Place.

Resources: Lana Turner - Wikipedia | Lana: The Lady, the Legend, the Truth, by Lana Turner, 1982.
Keywords: actress, artist
Contributed by: Shonda Reynolds

Marjorie Reynolds (Goodspeed)
08/12/1917 - 02/01/1997
Buhl, ID - Manhattan Beach, CA

An actress with humble beginnings in Buhl, Idaho, Marjorie Goodspeed appeared in more than 50 films in her lifetime and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her acting career began as a child in silent films, but Marjorie is perhaps best known for her role in Holiday Inn (1942) singing "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby. She also starred with Abbott and Costello in The Time of Their Lives (1946) and in three episodes of Leave it to Beaver (1960-1963).

Resources: Marjorie Reynolds - Wikipedia | Marjorie Reynolds - IMDB
Keywords: actress, artist
Contributed by: Shonda Reynolds

Margaret Cobb Ailshie
03/27/1883 - 08/26/1959
Chicago, IL - Boise, ID

Margaret Ailshie was the first female publisher for the Idaho Statesman from 1928-1959, following in the footsteps of her father, who purchased the Statesman in the late 1880s. Under her leadership, the newspaper began publishing an evening paper and expanded its circulation significantly. In addition to her time at the Statesman, Margaret travelled abroad to serve as a member of the Red Cross during World War I and supported many Boise projects including the Julia Davis Park pioneer village and the cosntruction of Bronco Stadium.

Resources: Margaret Cobb Ailshie - Wikipedia
Keywords: philanthropist, publisher
Contributed by: Shonda Reynolds

Helen Chenoweth-Hage (Palmer)
01/27/1938 - 10/02/2006
Topeka, KS - Tonopah, NV

Helen P. Chenoweth-Hage was the first and only republican woman to represent the state of Idaho in the United States Congress. Before getting involved in politics, Helen managed the Northside Medical Clinic where she initiated a physician recruitment practice for rural communities. Chenoweth was a controversial and polarizing figure in Idaho politics and was considered to be the most conservative woman to serve Congress between 1937 and 2004.

Resources: Outside magazine: "Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs. Chenoweth?", Daniel Coyle. | Helen Chenoweth-Hage - Wikipedia
Keywords: politician
Contributed by: Mike Bullard

Christine Holbert
11/9/1952 -
New York City, NY -

A resident of rural north Idaho, Christine Holbert is the founding director of Lost Horse Press, an independent press that publishes poetry and contemporary literature. Christine earned her publishing degree from Eastern Washington University in 1998 and founded the Press in the same year. In addition to running the Press, Holbert is dedicated to contributing to the community.

Resources: History of the Press - Lost Horse Press
Keywords: author
Contributed by: Christine Holbert

Molly B'Damn (Maggie Hall)
12/26/1853 - 1/17/1888
Dublin, Ireland - Murray, ID

Originally from Dublin, Molly moved to the west to seek her fortune among the mining camps. She worked in Murray, Idaho under the name Molly B'Damn or Molly Burdan as a prostitute. She was also a humanitarian, who cared for the townspeople during teh smallpox epidemic of 1886. Her legendary compassion led the citizens of Murray, Idaho to name an annual celebration in her honor.

Resources: Wikipedia - Maggie Hall
Keywords: pioneer
Contributed by: Annie Gaines