Every March across the United States, we celebrate Women’s History Month, a time to commemorate and encourage “the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.” As you can imagine, Montana has been home to incredible women over the years and we thought it was time to introduce you to a few women – both past and present – who are brave, strong, kind, smart and generous.
Pi’tamaka (Running Eagle)
Born to a warrior father and a traditional mother in the late 1700s, Brown Weasel Woman was a member of the Piikáni (Piegan Blackfeet) Tribe. Her story is compelling and inspiring, as it defied the traditional female role. From a young age, Pi’tamaka was more interested in hunting which led to her father teaching her how to hunt and fight. As she grew up, Pi’tamaka would travel with the men to hunt bison and became a seasoned hunter and warrior. The story goes that horses were stolen from her tribe by the Crow and a party from her tribe – including Pi’tamaka – set out to bring the horses back. While they were able to retrieve the horses, the Crow tried to steal them back and during this altercation, Pi’tamaka killed the Crow warriors. From then on, she continued to prove herself and became well-known among her people. As a result of her bravery and accomplishments, the chief of her tribe gave her the name Pi’tamaka (Running Eagle).
Her legacy lives on in several places in Glacier National Park. Pitamakan Lake, Pitamakan Pass and Running Eagle Falls are all named for her.
Alicia “Lettie” Conrad
While Charles E. Conrad is known as the founder of modern-day Kalispell, his wife – affectionately known as Lettie – played an integral role in northwest Montana. She married Charles in 1881 in Fort Benton, Montana, and lived a traditional life which at the time meant women raised children and focused on their homes. The Conrads were married for just over 20 years before Charles passed away in 1902. After his passing, Lettie took the reins on managing the estate and played an important part in Kalispell’s history. Her endeavors included: managing the Conrad Buffalo Herd, (this included learning the best ways to manage wild animals in captivity), serving as the regional director of the Red Cross in World War I and taking the lead on nursing efforts and recruiting volunteers during the Spanish Flu pandemic. In addition, she hosted an annual Christmas party for Kalispell’s underprivileged children. Today, Lettie’s legacy lives on at the Conrad Mansion Museum, where visitors can have a first-hand look at the Conrad family’s history.
Emma A. Ingalls
To put it simply, Emma Ingalls was always a woman ahead of her time. Looking at her life from a bird’s-eye view is impressive. Emma co-founded the Interlake (which is now the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell) with her husband in 1889. She served two terms in the Montana State Legislature starting in 1917 (when, along with Margaret Hathaway, she was one of the first two women elected to the legislature). She was a pioneer homesteader, managed her family’s ranch and the first person to irrigate in Montana’s Flathead Valley. And last but not least, she introduced the bill to ratify the 19th Amendment (women’s suffrage) in Montana in 1920. A true force, she covered a variety of topics for her newspaper, including women’s rights, crime and politics.
Today, Kalispell and northwest Montana are home to incredible women who are making moves, telling stories, working hard, raising families and contributing to make this place the best it can be.
A few present-day women you should get to know:
- Angela Zuba; Water’s Edge Winery; a restaurateur and vintner, Angela serves up made-to-order comfort foods alongside a variety of wines and loves calling Kalispell home. What she loves most about this place: “The people. We have found such good people in Kalispell, not like anywhere else in the world.”
- Jane Karas; President of Flathead Community College; community advocate and supporter
- Mariah Gladstone; Indigikitchen; an online cooking show that is aimed at giving viewers the tools they need to source and prepare food within their own communities
- Courtenay Spunger; Big Sky Public Relations; company owner, Kalispell advocate and Montana legislator
- Jordan Van Elmeren; Sacred Waters Brewing Company; community minded, lover of Montana’s outdoors
- Sammi Johnson; Sam Brown Company; small business owner, mountain mama