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Women in the Archives Research Guide


Women have always played an important role in education. Women's place was considered to be in the home through the early 1800s, and women were not seen as being suitable to manage a class of unruly students. However, a labor crisis in education and cheaper salaries for women led to many schoolteacher jobs being filled by women in the late 1800s and early 1900s, particularly on the Western frontier. Women at MSU also paved the road for women entering higher education positions. 

May G. Flanagan Papers

Flanagan spent her life as an educator in Montana and Utah. She taught in Fort Benton, Salt Lake City, and Highwood. She also served as the principal for Highwood High School and the Whittier School, the Highwood superintendent of grade schools, and the Choteau County superintendent of schools. This collection includes materials surrounding her work in education as well as essays on her childhood and adult life.

Mildred J. Leigh Papers, 1840-1997

Among other materials, the Mildred J. Leigh papers trace Leigh's career at Montana State University. They also include a variety of correspondences between Leigh and Extension Service Agent Harriet Cushman and Leigh and Montana State College librarian Lois Payson.

Mary Payne Cowan Diaries

The Cowan diaries cover a variety of subjects, including Mary's initial experiences teaching school in Malta, Montana. After a few years, she moved to a sheep ranch with her family, but these 1893 entries show important experiences in early teaching in Montana.

Sarah Raymond Herndon Papers, 1866-1912

In March 1866, Sarah Raymond began teaching school as perhaps the "first public school teacher in an organized school district in the Montana Territory." Her 1866 diary records her experiences as a teacher. The collection includes a photocopy of this diary with notes by Sarah Raymond Herndon.

Laura Brown Zook Reminiscence

The Zook reminiscence contains details of Laura's life. In 1896, she was elected county superintendent of schools and held the position off and on over the next several years. In 1906, she established the Miles City public library and served as a librarian and administrator until she retired in 1943.

Dorothy Floerchinger Papers, 1883-1991

Alongside Dorothy's interest in history, she was an elementary school teacher. The historical documents created by Dorothy in the collection are accompanied by personal materials about Dorothy, which highlight her career in the Pondera County school system.

Lucy Young Ford Letter, August 8, 1877

Lucy Young Ford served as a schoolteacher in the Blackfeet Indian Agency. This letter was written to her husband John and reports on her teaching activities. It contains information on the students in Lucy's school, adult Blackfeet, and the burial practices of Blackfeet Native Americans.