Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Maggie Hathaway

Acclaimed for translating ethics into action, Maggie Hathaway blazed a long and noteworthy trail as one of the first two women elected to the Montana Legislature in 1917. Hathaway campaigned vigorously for woman suffrage before the 1914 election, traveling just as many thousands of miles as Jeannette Rankin. She did the same for Prohibition in 1916, speaking in every neighborhood in Ravalli County. During her two legislative terms, Hathaway’s fellow male legislators affectionately called her “Mrs. Has-Her-Way.” Hathaway drafted the Montana’s Mother’s Pension Bill, allowing women compensation when their spouses failed to support their children. She fought to create the Child Welfare Division and made the impassioned speech that won the eight-hour workday for women. In 1918, with nearly 10 percent of Montana’s men serving in World War I, Hathaway spoke on behalf of grain farmers, offering women’s services to harvest their crops. She employed women only on her “manless” ranch so more men could join the armed services.

Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives
She gathered apples as well as ballots, hitched up her own plow, and turned furrows as straight as any man. A male legislator said of the diminutive redhead, “She is the biggest man in the House.” Hathaway served three terms in the legislature and, like her colleague Emma Ingalls, earned the respect of, and courtesy from, her male colleagues.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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