Womanhood on Trial: Examining Domestic Violence in Butte, Montana

Shortly before eleven on February 8, 1946, as Hazel Kauf stepped off the Aero Club’s dance floor, she was confronted by her ex-husband, Howard Kauf, who had entered the club a few minutes earlier. Grabbing Hazel by the arm, Howard “spun her around . . .  and in the spin just . . . blasted … Continue reading Womanhood on Trial: Examining Domestic Violence in Butte, Montana

Red-Light Women of Wide-Open Butte

“The girls range in age from jail bait to battle ax,” wrote Monroe Fry of Butte prostitutes in 1953. “[They] sit and tap on the windows. They are ready for business around the clock.” Fry named Butte one of the three “most wide-open towns” in the United States. The other two—Galveston, Texas, and Phenix City, … Continue reading Red-Light Women of Wide-Open Butte

Me, Me, Me, Me: Butte’s Bohemian, Mary MacLane

Temperance advocate Carrie Nation once pronounced Mary MacLane “the example of a woman who has been unwomanly in everything that she is noted for.” MacLane was no doubt delighted with the description. Writer, bohemian, and actress, Mary MacLane (1881-1929) was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and grew up in Butte, Montana. Best known for her two … Continue reading Me, Me, Me, Me: Butte’s Bohemian, Mary MacLane

“The Men Would Never Have Survived”: Women, Union Activism, and Community Survival in Butte

Although excluded from most jobs in the mines and smelters of Butte and Anaconda (with the short-lived exception of female smelter workers in World War II), women played integral roles in the survival of these company towns. The success of each community depended on the wages of laborers who toiled for the Anaconda Copper Mining … Continue reading “The Men Would Never Have Survived”: Women, Union Activism, and Community Survival in Butte

“Women . . . on the Level with Their White Sisters”: Rose Hum Lee and Butte’s Chinese Women in the Early Twentieth Century

Born in Butte in 1904, Rose Hum Lee earned a B.S. in social work from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute of Technology and completed a doctorate in sociology at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation—The Growth and Decline of Rocky Mountain Chinatowns—was published in 1978. Because her work was largely based on the experiences of her own … Continue reading “Women . . . on the Level with Their White Sisters”: Rose Hum Lee and Butte’s Chinese Women in the Early Twentieth Century

Fighting for Female Athletes: Title IX in Montana

“Some say basketball is a metaphor for life,” mused NBA Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson during an interview about Montana’s Class C girls’ basketball tradition, “but it’s bigger than that. It’s  . . .  joy.” For the first half of the twentieth century, Montana’s young female basketball players knew that joy—sprinting full court in … Continue reading Fighting for Female Athletes: Title IX in Montana

“Things to be done which money and men will never provide”: The Activism of Montana’s AAUW

The American Association of University Women has always aspired to the promotion of women as fully contributing, educated members of society. Until the 1960s, this organization of female college graduates remained largely apolitical. At the division (state) level, Montana’s AAUW had created the highly successful AAUW Education Foundation to provide college fellowships for women, while … Continue reading “Things to be done which money and men will never provide”: The Activism of Montana’s AAUW

“Must a woman . . . give it all up when she marries?”: The Debate over Employing Married Women as Teachers

In the fall of 1913, Jennie Bell Maynard, a teacher in Plains, married banker Bradley Ernsberger. The couple kept their wedding a secret until Bradley found a job in Lewistown and they moved: “No inkling of the marriage leaked out. . . . Mrs. Ernsberger continued to use her maiden name and teach school.” A … Continue reading “Must a woman . . . give it all up when she marries?”: The Debate over Employing Married Women as Teachers

Martha Edgerton Rolfe Plassmann: A Montana Renaissance Woman

Martha Edgerton came to Bannack as a teenager in 1863. As a teacher, musician, wife, mother of seven, clubwoman, and leader in the women’s suffrage movement, she successfully balanced traditional gender roles with an active public life. Widowed young, she entered the workforce, becoming the first woman editor of a Montana daily newspaper, a local … Continue reading Martha Edgerton Rolfe Plassmann: A Montana Renaissance Woman

There’s No Place like Home: The Role of the Montana State Orphanage

At first no one noticed the children as they sat quietly in the Butte-Silver Bow County Courthouse. The six Freedman children, ages eight to fifteen, had filed in with their mother early that morning in 1938. Recently divorced from her husband and earning little in her job as a research editor, Alice Freedman was overwhelmed. … Continue reading There’s No Place like Home: The Role of the Montana State Orphanage