Monday, March 10, 2014

Montana and Women's History: An Amazing Resource

Since it is women's history month and I am a women's historian I figured I should post something, but what to choose? Last Friday's post at the AHA Blog of this amazingly awesome picture inspired me to talk about suffrage:




http://blog.historians.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Awakening.jpg
Our student's often come into the classroom knowing that most women did not have the right to vote in this country until the twentieth century. What they do not understand is that many states passed women's suffrage bills before the 19th Amendment. And, as the image above indicates, these states were in the Wild West.

Having been raised in Montana, I am most definitely proud that I hail from a state that brought enlightenment to the East (one thing I love about the above image is its reversal of Manifest Destiny!). This year marks the centennial of Montana women's suffrage.

Rather than continuing to tell you all about the incredible state of Montana, I'll point you instead to one of the best online resource bases I've encountered on any topic. It's a model for how to use technology in an effective, user-friendly, and simple way. To celebrate the centennial, several history-oriented Montana institutions have collaborated on the website www.montanawomenshistory.org. While suffrage is certainly a part of the story, the site seeks to be inclusive and all-encompassing, providing information about all kinds of women throughout the state's history.

I strongly encourage you to go and visit. The site is jam-packed with useful tools for educators from middle school to college. It includes links to articles on women's history from Montana: The Magazine of Western History, oral history recordings and information about conducting oral history projects, mini-biographies of Montana women, suggested lesson plans, research bibliographies, links to online exhibits at the University of Montana, and even—wait for it—a list of projects that need further research.

Even if you don't think you'll ever need material on women's suffrage in Montana, there is so much on this site that can be adapted for other needs. The information on how to do oral history is valuable for any project. The best part of this site is that it has a clean design that is very usable, resources appear cross-listed in multiple places across the site for ease of access. This is digital history done right!

So go forth, enjoy the website. I am going to finish drinking my coffee from this "Votes for Women" coffee cup as I recall all the amazing women, past and present, who inspire me.

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