Bold Women: Anna Boe Dahl, champion for rural electrification
At age 25, Anna Boe, daughter of Norwegian immigrants, traded Wisconsin for the grasslands of northeast Montana, near Plentywood.
After teaching school for two years, she married Andrew Dahl in 1919. The couple acquired a 640-acre ranch, where they raised five kids.
Experiencing success AND drought and poverty, the Dahls and other Sheridan County farmers learned that cooperation could be key to survival.
So, in the late 1930s, when Franklin Roosevelt’s administration created loans to bring electricity to rural areas, Sheridan County farmers were prepared to try. Proving loan-worthiness was daunting, but Anna, especially, took it on, reaching out to neighbors, explaining and persuading.
By sticking together, she said, they could all get electricity. Soon, Sheridan County had an electric co-op, headquartered in Anna’s house.
But after years of neglecting rural areas, suddenly, private utility companies wanted in, sneakily attempting to lure members away from the co-op.
Anna fought back. Sheridan County finally got electricity in 1948. Anna was elected co-op president in 1956, the second female co-op president in the nation, but as a woman in this field, she racked up even more firsts.
Her family was proud of Anna. Her husband always supported her. She’d known firsthand the backbreaking, never-ending work of farm women, pre-electrification.
She remembered, “All the work within and without the home was done by muscle power—if you had it—and by grit if you didn’t….” Electricity lessened women’s burdens. In northeast Montana, that was thanks in large part to Anna Dahl.