A Narrative History of the Montana Heritage Project

A History of Women in Broadwater County

Darlene Beck

Broadwater High School


Broadwater High School in Townsend offered a new elective in response to the popularity of the Heritage Project. Students in this local studies class chose “Women in History” as their focus. They read books and short stories about pioneering women, mostly focusing on the homestead era but also touching on issues women face today, such as single-parenting and working outside the home.

Students explored local newspaper and museum archives to see what events influenced women’s lives. They compiled lists of women in the community and used their background readings to formulate questions they wanted to ask them. They made approximately seventy-five personal invitations to the women of the Townsend area to attend an afternoon tea at the school to kick-off their project. Many of the women initially disagreed with students about the importance of their lives. However, students warmed them up with their questions and the women shared many aspects of their lives as nurses, teachers, homemakers, mothers, post mistresses, musicians, bus drivers, senators, veterans, waitresses, mayors, business women, ranch hands, gardeners, and more. Students spent six weeks interviewing, photographing, and writing about the remarkable women of the Townsend area.

They published a book of vignettes called The Women of Broadwater County, which covered such topics as the devastation of local families by construction of the Canyon Ferry Dam; sugar beet farming in the 1930s; the advent of cars, radio, television, and computers; and the impact of World War II on their lives. The audio recordings of the interviews were donated to the Broadwater County Library’s archives, and copies of the book were sold to the community.

To print a final report for the year-end binder, click here.
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