Balancing Act: Idaho’s Campaign for Women’s Suffrage

While Idaho was an early adopter of women’s suffrage, passing a constitutional amendment in 1896, historians of the state have tended to give the topic only perfunctory attention. According to the most recent historical study of Idaho, “If they mention women at all, these hefty books make only passing reference to white women pioneers, wives, and/or suffragists.” Indeed, the brevity of the state’s campaign and its lack of vocal opposition imply an easy path toward victory. Yet, the intersection of the state’s most important early industry—mining—and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) immigrants, the influence of both temperance-minded reformers and anti-temperance agitators, and the combined efforts of both national and local activists, made for a complex story. The suffrage amendment was in fact on the ballot in one of the state’s most heated elections, and it led to an unusual Supreme Court case, making the Idaho story worthy of further examination.

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