Montana Historical Society

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Montana: Stories of the Land

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Chapter 15 - Progressive Montana, 1900-1924

Learning From Historical Documents

Letter from Jeannette Rankin to Anna Shaw, quoted in the Montana Good Government State Central Committee records, 1895-1919. Small Collection 567. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives. Excerpted in Not In Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana (Helena, 1976): 235.

Context for Jeannette Rankin's Letter:

When, after a long struggle, Montana women won the right to vote in 1914, part of their victory could be attributed to the Progressive crusade to make political institutions more representative. However, credit was also due to the dedicated campaigners who visited every part of the state. One of the lead organizers of the suffrage campaign was Jeannette Rankin, who formed a sophisticated organization that marshaled a host of committed volunteers. During the campaign, Rankin reported on the progress to Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Women's Suffrage Association. Although suffragists (and their opponents) declared that women would reform and/or vastly change politics, women as members of the electorate actually altered the character of Montana politics very little.

About Primary Sources:

Letters, diary entries, census records, newspapers, and photographs are all examples of "primary sources," material created at a particular moment in the past that has survived into the present. Primary sources can provide clues to the past. They are our windows into an earlier time. The Montana Historical Society contains thousands of primary sources. In the 1970s, archivists collected just a few snippets into a book, which they called Not in Precious Metals Alone: A Manuscript History of Montana. That book is now on the web in its entirety. The above sample from that book relates directly to this chapter.

Dr. huie Pock
Dr. Huie Pock's office interior, Butte, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives PAc 87-13
Homesteaders arrive in the Flathead
Homesteaders arriving in the Flathead Valley, ca. 1912, photo by Herman Schnitzmeyer, Polson, MT, Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 950-561