25 December 2014

Why Have Women Been Overlooked?

Some 99 years ago, brilliant Martha Edgerton Rolfe Plassmann wrote a letter to the Missoulian. Here is Mattie's eloquent comment on women's equality:

Why Have Women Been Overlooked?

Editor of The Missoulian:
   There is an element of humor for the discerning in the fact that those who officiated at the birth of the Geographical society were apparently ignorant touching the presence of women in our state. None of the commendatory letters read o this occasion bore their signature, and they were ignored when it came to the distribution of offices and the naming of committees. And yet it is likely that there are as many women as men within our borders who are well qualified to fill these positions.
   Wherein is Helen Clarke, who was born in Fort Benton when that town was a trading post of the American Fur company, and who is a woman of marked ability and education, less prepared than Duncan MacDonald to give the Indian name of mountain or stream.
   Taking into consideration the personnel of the gathering it may be that political acumen is the main requisite. Then why should Jeanette Rankin be overlooked—the woman who conducted such a brilliant suffrage campaign and led her host to victory last fall?
   If scientific attainments are desirable to obtain recognition surely a botanist like Mrs. Clinton H. Moore is eligible.
   There are many professional women in Montana, and of these Dr. Maria Dean is best known. Yet Dr. Dean has neither part nor lot in the Geographical society, necessarily.
   Executive ability is always a valuable asset in any organization. There are few men who possess this qualification in a greater degree than Mrs. Tylar Thompson. Did Mrs. Thompson receive a special invitation to be present at the meeting held November 29? If so, her regrets were not made public.
   Mrs. Nat Collins is one of the few, if not the only woman who has held office in the Pioneer society. Was Mrs. Collins consulted when the Geographical society was in process of formation? No letter was read from her stating that she “heartily accorded with the plan.”
   The pioneers were extolled at the meeting on Friday, but the pioneers it seems were all of the superior sex. What Montana would have been without its pioneer women can be gathered from the journals of the early fur traders. From the coming to these then western wilds of the wives, sisters and daughters of the pioneers dates the struggle towards a decent standard of living, and the advent of law and order in the community. The women of the west have contributed their full share towards the upbuilding of the states where they reside. In many of these states they have the ballot. Are they always to be a negligible quantity when offices or honors are to be bestowed? Wait a few years and observe, my friends. This is an age of progress, and the day is fast approaching when men will not have the hardihood to risk the criticisms that would follow their modest assertion, “The State—We Are It.”
Martha Edgerton Plassmann.

[The Daily Missoulian 6 November, 1915]

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