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Women in the Archives Research Guide


Montanan and Western history is a primary focus of Archives and Special Collections at MSU. As a result, there is a large amount of information centering around Western experiences. Women played important roles in Western life through farming, ranching, agriculture, and daily life. Homemaking women in the Pacific Northwest were often part of ranches. Many women served as integral parts of ranches, up to managing and running their own ranching ventures. In the collections below, you can learn more about these roles and how ranching changed over time.

Mary Payne Cowan Diaries, 1890-6

The Mary Payne Cowan diaries detail the Cowan family's trip to Malta, Montana in early 1893 and their move to Woody Island Creek later that year. Between 1893 and 1903, the Cowans helped manage a sheep ranch, and Mary's diaries illustrate her experiences on the ranch. Diary subjects include ranch chores, sheep, illnesses, weather conditions, entertainments, and family relations on the ranch.

Strode Family Papers

The Strode Papers contain many materials on the Stirrup ranch and ranch living in Montana at the turn of the 20th century. These materials, including ledgers, newspaper articles, bills, and histories, were collected or created by Eva I. Strode Melvin. 

Winifred Considine Diaries, 1918-63

The Winifred Considine Diaries concerns Winifred's life on the Considine ranch that she shared with her husband, Martin. Winifred recorded her thoughts on her chickens and cattle, garden plants, and weather observations as well as wider observations about her neighbors and national news events. Of particular interest is the care paid to horticulture and gardening. Winifred details the landscaping of her home, her activities planting and harvesting, and her work with native plants.

Helen Brooke Herford Papers, 1886-1957

The Herford collection includes family letters, ranch operation documents, and photographs concerning the Swinging H Ranch and the Herford family. Helen Herford and her cousin Helen Underwood Wellington owned and operated the Swinging H Ranch, and this collection gives important insight into the ranch alongside documents Helen wrote to promote the ranch.