Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage in Montana

Submitted to the I-O by Kristi Calvery

The year 2014 marks a celebration for Women’s Suffrage in Montana. It was a battle fought with passion for women like Ella Knowles, Adda Hamilton, and Jeanette Rankin.  

Against the odds, Hamilton was elected the first County Superintendent in Gallatin County in 1884, even before women had the right to vote in school elections. This was just the beginning.  

Further rights were gladly forged when Knowles lobbied the legislature to be able to practice law in 1888. Knowles later became the first women delegate to a national convention. 

In 1889, women received the right to vote in school elections. However, tenacious women like Rankin didn’t stop there. In 1911, she addressed the Montana State legislature saying, “We are asking for the same principle for which men gladly gave their lives in the revolutionary war. Taxation without representation is tyranny.” 

Her logic was since women represented half the population, they should be given half the representation. She also argued that because Montana was surrounded by other states which had already granted women the right to vote, it made sense to be next. 

In November 20, 1914, Women in Montana were given this significant right and used it advantageously; our state voted for Rankin to be the first woman member of Congress. When Rankin was elected in 1916 she said, “I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.” 

Her dedication and passion are admired, as she paved the way for Montana women today.


Visit the Pondera Transportation and Historical Museum to Learn More! Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.