Bold Women: Frieda & Belle Fligelman — rebels, suffragists and Helena fixtures
Not many Montana girls resembled Frieda and Belle Fligelman. Born 1890 and 1891 in Helena, the sisters lived in a big house with servants and learned to fall on their elbows to keep their gloves white. Herman, their dad, a Jewish immigrant from Romania, arrived peddling dry goods, then opened a successful store.
The family became prominent in Helena's vibrant Jewish community. Some of the first houses of worship were synagogues, and the girls future held finishing school and marriage. But they rebelled. Herman had taught them a love of learning, and Frieda yearned for college. She begged, she pleaded, 'till her parents relented. Then off she shot into academia and world travel, becoming an African language expert and helping create the field sociolinguistics.
Young Belle worked for women's suffrage and became a journalist. Her writing helped get Jeanette Rankin into Congress. Then Rankin hired her as her speechwriter. In D.C. Belle fell in love and married. After trying life as writers, and failing, the couple returned to Helena to run the store. Belle combined family, writing, and politics for the rest of her life.
Frieda ended up coming home, too. Frieda Fligelman and Belle Fligelman Winestein became beloved, colorful fixtures of Helena life, shaping Montana culture and politics 'till their deaths.
Celebrating Women's History Month, Bold Women of Montana is brought to you by Mountain Press, publisher of Bold Women in Montana History, and is produced by Beth Judy, Jake Birch and Michael Marsolek. Theme Music by Naomi Moon Siegel.