Idaho Women's SuffrageIt’s commonly known that women were finally given the right to vote in August of 1920, with the ratification of the 19th amendment.   But, it may be a little less known that, in an effort to attract both men and women westward, territories in the West were some of the first to support women’s suffrage.     Idaho has allowed women to vote since 1896, almost a quarter of a century before it was allowed on the federal level.

There were eight women who proved most instrumental in bringing women’s voting rights to Idaho.  

  • Elizabeth Badley of Caldwell:  Elizabeth was the wife of a blacksmith who ran for the Idaho Assembly in 1888.  Both she and her husband were involved in politics and were active in the temperance movement.  When the Idaho State Legislature agreed to the resolution to vote on women's suffrage, she became the Vice President of the suffrage convention.

  • Emma Drake of New Plymouth: Emma was a medical doctor and a minister's wife.  Her medical training and religious beliefs drew her to the temperance movement.  She was also a medical school professor and author.  She held office in the Women's Christian Temperance Union and was supportive of suffrage and women's rights.

  • Kate E. Feltham of Boise:  Kate was married to the City Attorney for Caldwell and taught English at the College of Idaho.  She became very active in getting women the right to vote and became the Vice President of the state suffrage association.

  • Helen "Nellie" Young of Osburn: Helen was the first female allowed to practice law in the State of Idaho and was an avid supporter of women's rights.  Her family came to Idaho during a mining boom, and she married a miner.  She applied to the Idaho Supreme Court to practice law in the state.  Her application was accepted by Chief Justice John Morgan, Justice Isaac Sullivan, and Justice Joseph Huston.  These were the same three members who would pass women's suffrage the next year.  She also acted as Vice President of the state suffrage association.  

  • Margaret Oakes:  Margaret was a member of the National Woman's Party.  She traveled to Washington DC in 1918 to participate in a demonstration in Lafayette Square.  She stepped forward to speak out and was immediately arrested.  While in jail, she and twenty-five other women went on a hunger strike.  After ten days in jail, she was bailed out by her son.

  • Frances Houston, Christine Sullivan & Maria Morgan of Boise:  These women were active members of the state suffrage association and worked diligently to advance the opportunities for women in the State of Idaho.  

From the time women first organized to collectively fight for suffrage at the national level in 1848 to the actual ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, many women and men worked tirelessly to organize, petition, and picket for women’s right to vote.  We are grateful for their dedication to the cause and for the way their efforts have helped shape our state and our country for the better!