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.