Bold women: Women’s influence on Montana's Constitution
In the 1950s and '60s, membership in groups like the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women spiked in Montana. Both groups promote, still today, non-partisan involvement by women in policy making and governance.
So, more Montana women began educating themselves on meaty issues like judicial reform, mining, local government and equal rights. Another issue was, should Montana revise its Constitution, a document hastily prepared in 1889 by mining interests just to get statehood. The League of Women Voters decided yes and adopted constitutional reform as a project.
They lobbied, hard, first the Legislature, then the citizens of the state for a constitutional convention, or “Con-Con.” The Con-Con took place in 1972. One hundred elected delegates gathered to create a new Constitution for Montana. Nineteen were women. Many of them belonged to the League of Women Voters or the AAUW, bringing their deep knowledge of issues to the convention. The women delegates were teachers, nurses, librarians, a former mayor, a former MT first lady, city councilwomen, a rancher, and the youngest, a graduate student. Over 54 days of passionate discussion, Con-Con delegates hammered out a new Constitution that all 100 gladly signed. But it wasn’t over yet.
Delegates and other groups crisscrossed the state to promote ratification. Women led the charge. The work and dedication paid off; voters approved the new Constitution. But it’s no overstatement: without Montana women, our current amazing, highly democratic Constitution might not exist.
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.