Election year, inspiring women and the 19th Amendment

Source of photo: “Oh! Idaho,” The Idaho State Magazine, 1990. Mary Allen Wright, Haittie Nobel and Clara Parmelia Campbell.

Election years tend to be packed with candidates, platforms, and plenty of colorful stories that can be educational and entertaining, and at the same time overwhelming and confusing. This election year, Idaho has promoted a number of women who provided inspiration and leadership and a reason to commemorate the centennial year of the 19th Amendment.

Pre-Covid-19, the Historical Society and Museum featured one such inspirational leader from Boundary County … Amy Trice. Amy has been selected to be featured for the Idaho State Historical Society Archaeology and Preservation Month poster entitled, “A Woman’s Place.”

Boundary County Historical Society and Museum partnered with the ISHS to provide the photo and information regarding Amy. We are proud that Amy Trice of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho was chosen for this distinction.

Now, let’s step back in time and consider these facts about other Idaho women, and the 19th Amendment. Did you know that…

  • Idaho is the only state to have its official state seal designed by a woman… Emma Edwards Green in 1891?
  • Idaho first allowed women to vote in 1896?
  • Idaho became the fourth state in the nation to give women the right to vote, and the first state to do so by constitutional amendment?
  • Idahoans elected Permeal French as the first woman Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1898?
  • Mary Wright, Harriet Noble, and Clara Campbell were elected to the Idaho House of Representatives in 1898?
  • August 8, 2020 marked the centennial passage of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote throughout the United States of America?

Perhaps you did not know that Mary Allen Wright was an influential political figure in the late 19th Century, and she lived for a period of time in Bonners Ferry! Here is her story …

Mary Allen was born in Polk, Missouri, in 1868, the daughter of minister and farmer, Reverend J.C. Allen. After marrying George W. Wright, they moved west to Rockford, Washington, then to Rathdrum, Idaho, in 1890. During this time, Mary was a wife and a teacher.

She became active in the populist movement and women’s suffrage.

In 1898, Mary was nominated for State Superintendent of Public Instruction by the Populist Party. She declined that nomination. Permeal French was elected.
Instead, Mary ran for and was elected to the Idaho State Legislature. Representative Wright served as chair of the Populist Caucus in the fifth session of the Idaho House of Representatives.

She was the first woman to lead a party in a state legislature!

Following her term, she was elected Clerk of the House for its sixth session in 1901, and she convened the seventh session in 1903.

Mary was elected delegate to the national convention in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She continued to work professionally in politics until the Populist Party ceased nominating candidates and eventually ceased to exist.

She served as Secretary of the Idaho Pan American Exposition Committee in the late spring of 1901, and she worked for Congressman Thomas L. Glenn until she sued him in court for unpaid wages.

Mary and George divorced in 1904, and she returned to teaching in northern Idaho. She came to Bonners Ferry in 1912 as a teacher. During this time, Mary studied law and in 1946, she opened and managed Wright’s Loan and Investment Company, located in a building facing Kootenai Street. In 1949, Wright’s Loan and Investment closed.

Mary Allen Wright died March 31, 1948, in Bonners Ferry and is buried at Rathdrum. She was a social reform activist, one of Idaho’s notable women of influence, one who is little known in Bonners Ferry’s history.