Welcome to March 2021, dear readers – a.k.a. Women’s History Month!  Interestingly enough, this month-long tribute actually began in 1978 as Women’s History Week. More than a decade following this establishment of that week-long period of recognition, President Carter bowed to active petitioning from the NWHA (The National Women’s History Alliance). He promptly designated March of every year from then on to be federally recognized as Women’s History Month.  With that said, you now have the very short and sweet on why and by whom March became a time for commemorating the gals who helped mold this great nation.  However, long before those ladies – more than a century beforehand, actually – there were already Rosie The Riveters in the form of Montana’s Pioneer Women.

As part of a family of homesteading pioneers, one’s ultimate goal in life was always to do what was necessary to survive.  Pioneering the settlement of wild Montana countryside was far from simple.  There was really not a whole lot of definition that went into what qualified as “men’s work” versus what was “women’s work”. Wives and daughters often worked in the fields so that the crops they needed to survive could be planted and harvested on time prior to the harsh winter months.  In addition to these strenuous labors, women had to care for their homestead’s household chores, as well as for their children if they had any. Even more impressive were the single women who didn’t have any family at all.  These young, brave ladies often worked through winter season to stow away savings for purchasing their own homestead parcel.  And once purchased, they’d build their own shelter, farm the land, and take care of every single other piece of work involved in being an independent pioneer woman.

One such extremely independent woman was Dr. Caroline McGill who bought 320 Guest Ranch in 1936.  McGill absolutely loved the outdoors.  She believed time spent outside led to positive benefits for one’s mental and physical health.  During McGill’s time as ranch owner, the Doctor maintained a role as harbinger of continued positive changes and growth.  A decade before Gallatin Canyon even had electricity, McGill found a way to bring electricity to the ranch regardless of its location within south Gallatin Canyon.  And how she was able to do this is a source of awe-inspiration to us even to this day; “Dr. McGill trucked in a Cadillac engine to generate power, bringing the ranch electricity 10 years before power lines showed up in the Gallatin Canyon.”

In the end, and especially given the spirit of events during these challenging times, our goal is as Dr. McGill’s goal was.  If you’re going to bring change, or do something which shifts modern ideologies, do it so that change or shift pushes things in a direction which will bring happiness to the world, or, at the very least, to a community.  And to all the women who have succeeded in that throughout American history, here’s looking at you, and here’s looking at the women who continue to live out that legacy today.  If you’re interested in learning more about the Montana homesteading era, hop on over to our Blog page to read “In A Nutshell: A History Of Homesteading In Montana”.  And, to learn more about Dr. Caroline McGill’s highly relevant past with relation to 320 Guest Ranch, click on over to our History page, or read our blog, “From Then To Now: A Brief History Of Us”. Happy reading, and happy Women’s History Month folks!

Written by Lauren Peyton