The artifacts in this project are part of collections selected by Sarah Phillips, the curatorial registrar at the Idaho State Historical Museum, but the essays on each genre of craft, as well as the vast majority of photos on the site, were created by students in the course Women in America: The Western Experience at Boise State University during spring 2012.

Students worked in small groups on each genre of craft:


  • Monica Church
  • Dan Foote
  • Julie Kirk
  • Kyle Sam
  • Tekinah Sanders


  • Vanessa Alvarez
  • Tori Macklin
  • Sterling Swafford
  • Debra Torres
  • Rebecca Watson


  • Jon Agnew
  • Courtney Gallant
  • Tori Lee
  • Alisa Thompson


  • Leslie Madsen-Brooks (instructor)
  • Kelly Morgan


  • Alex Degiulio
  • Susie Depew
  • Lee Gray


  • Kristin Barrier
  • Jacke’lle Knickrehm
  • Cory Montgomery
  • Rebecca Morgan
  • Layne Wynn

Plein Air Painting

  • Matt Lucich
  • Darin McIntyre
  • Tre Nichols
  • Brady Potter
  • Gaby Thomason


  • Irene Anderson
  • Martina Ashman
  • Joyanna Galan
  • Melissa Jensen
  • Alicia Weaver


  • Philip Browning
  • Briana Cornwall
  • Sarah McIsaac
  • Rachel VanNote
  • Jolee Thomsen


Welcome to Crafting Idaho, an online exhibition prepared by students in History 346: Women in the American West, during spring 2012 at Boise State.

Because women’s contributions to society and culture have long been undervalued, they do not appear in traditional historical records as frequently as men.  It was only relatively recently that U.S. libraries and archives opted to collect and preserve within their manuscript collections the letters, journals, and other documents from noted women.  Even in these collections, however, everyday women—those who did not lead movements of political or social change, found companies, or make significant inventions or discoveries–are underrepresented.  To learn about such women, we often must turn to the quotidian objects—utilitarian or ornamental, beautiful or otherwise—they used or created.

Lacework, ca. 1900, possibly by donor Ethel G. Johnson. Idaho State Historical Society

This exhibition begins with the premise that handcrafts, regardless of cultural background, reveal the habits, beliefs, and values of the people who created and used them.  Please click around the exhibit, using the category tabs at the top of this page, to explore some of the objects Idaho women have created and what they can tell us about women’s lives.  In some cases, the objects are relatively mute on the details of their creators’ experiences; they raise more questions than they provide answers. Even in such cases, they are useful to historians, amateur or professional, because they highlight how much we don’t yet know and suggest some paths of inquiry that might lead us to better understanding of, and empathy for, the women who came before us.

About this exhibit

Beaded shoes, Idaho State Historical Society

Crafting Idaho: Idaho Women’s Amateur Arts and Crafts is an exploration of Idaho women’s experiences with various artistic media from the nineteenth century through the present.  The exhibit features the arts and crafts of a diverse group of women—from indigenous Americans to white settlers to modern-day refugees from Africa—whose lives have intersected with the geographical region now known as Idaho.

You will find on this site several genre of art and craft, from the expected—beadwork and lacework—to the unexpected—hairwork and taxidermy.  The essay on each type of art or craft explores the context of the craft during various eras in the United States, and photos of the artifacts illustrate how women interpreted these genres in Idaho.  The objects on virtual display here represent centuries of women’s efforts.

The exhibit was created by students in the spring 2012 course Women in America: The Western Experience, taught by Dr. Leslie Madsen-Brooks at Boise State University. Without them, and the assistance of the Idaho State Historical Society, this project would not have possible.

Thanks so much for exploring our online exhibition.  Should you have questions or comments, feel free to e-mail Dr. Madsen-Brooks at lesliemadsen-brooks -at-


Burundi style baskets made by Venantia Mukangeruka in 2010.
Plastic woven over wicker. Idaho State Historical Society, 2010.19.17, .20, .32.

This project was made possible by the dedicated students of Women in America: The Western Experience at Boise State University during spring 2012.  As the course instructor, I challenged them with a project unlike any most of them had attempted before. Not only did I require them to undertake small group work throughout the course, I asked them to work together as a class of 40 students on the same project. I required them to work with artifacts, and many of them had never considered material culture as historical evidence prior to this project. They had to undertake research in primary and secondary sources, and many found such sources to be scarce, but they persisted. Finally, I asked them to learn the WordPress platform as they edited and posted their essays.

Much of the collaboration among students inside and outside of class was eased by the generous loan of 40 iPads from the Mobile Learning Scholars Program at Boise State University. Students used their iPads extensively in researching this project, sharing documents, and editing their work. View a list of student curators.

This project also depended on the tremendous assistance of Sarah Phillips, the curatorial registrar at the Idaho State Historical Museum. When I was looking for a theme for this online exhibition, it was Sarah who suggested art and craft, and it was again Sarah who located and identified the objects you see on this site from among the approximately quarter-million objects in the museum’s collection.  Sarah laid out objects to be photographed and placed elaborate Victorian gowns on dress forms so the students could better study them.  Finally, she coordinated all photographic and online publishing permissions from the Idaho State Historical Society.

Accordingly, we also owe a debt of gratitude to the historical society for its willingness to open its collections to us and to allow my students to use the images on this site free of charge.

Finally, a few groups used Creative Commons-licensed photos from  Many thanks to the photographers who made their images available under Creative Commons.

Many thanks to everyone involved in the project.  It was a pleasure working with all of you.

Leslie Madsen-Brooks
Boise, Idaho
May 2012 

Sample Post – Leslie M-B

Do not freak out at the current ugliness of this site.  This is indeed the Backcountry theme, but it’s not yet configured to do all the fancy stuff in the demo.  We’ll get there eventually, but first we need some posts and images to work with.

Today’s Assignment

Today we’re each going to create a sample post.  You can decide whether you’re going to try out the WordPress iPad app or use the web browser interface.  Note that if you open another tab while in the browser interface, you may lose your unsaved work, so be sure to save your draft before navigating away from the page.

We’ll be testing the limits of the iPad. You are likely going to make mistakes today or discover other frustrations. That’s OK–it’s why we’re practicing with sample posts rather than using (and losing) the final text and images.

Creating Your Sample Post

Your post should include the following:

  • Five paragraphs of text (use Hipster Ipsum if you just want some filler text)
  • An image
  • Appropriate image attribution
  • A link
  • Some formatted text (e.g. bold, italicized, headers). If you use headers, use “Heading 3” in the “Format” menu in the second row of tools above the text box, or use the html tag <h3> if you’re using the iPad WordPress app.
  • A block quote.

About Images

In WordPress, images can have captions.  You add captions when uploading photos.  If you want to change your caption, click on the photo (in the desktop version of the editor), then select the little landscape icon.  You’ll find a box where you can enter a caption.

A superb example of Victorian hairwork

You can also resize your photos by clicking on the photo and then using one of the little white squares at the corners to resize the image.  The maximum image width without a caption is 570; with a caption is 550, so be sure to resize all your images to that size while editing your post.

Most of the images in your project will be photos you have taken.  If the objects are from the Idaho State Historical Society (museum or storage), you need to follow the ISHS rules for attribution.  If you use photos from elsewhere, you need to be sure (a) you have permission to use the images and (b) you provide proper attribution.  In either case, place your photo attributions at the very bottom of your post. In this post, I have used a Creative Commons-licensed photo from, and modeled the attribution at the bottom of this post. I will show you in class how to find Creative Commons-licensed photos.


Victorian hairwork detail image from Nadja Robot, and used under a Creative Commons license.