Database : Educators

Presented here is a database of influencial 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.

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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

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

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

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