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The Silver and Gold Book was on display at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago and given to the president of the University of Idaho by the Pleiades Society, a women's organization closely tied to the University. It was one of two items recovered from the 1906 Administration Building fire.

Shaping the Lay of the Land: Women’s History Month


History tends to focus on the big events, but often it is the history of the everyday that has the greatest impact on society. March is is Women’s History Month, which highlights the contributions women have made to shape families, communities and the world around us.

“When we look at history, we don’t often take the time to discuss women’s history … in terms of faith, education, arts, hospitals and building communities,” says Katherine Aiken, dean of the College of Letters Arts and Social Sciences. “Everyday life has as much educational impact on our society’s development as what’s happening in Washington D.C.”

And from the start, women have made an impact on the campus of the University of Idaho. The first graduating class from the University of Idaho in 1896 consisted of four graduates, two were women: Stella Allen and Florence Corbett. And the faculty was also spilt in half gender-wise, with Annette Bowman and Nellie G. Brown amongst the first faculty.

It also is not surprising the first African American student at the University was a woman, Jennie Eva Hughes, who graduated in 1899. As a student at the University of Idaho, she joined as many clubs and organizations as she could, accumulated an admirable academic record and won the prestigious Watkins Medal for Oratory in 1898. In a speech to her classmates at graduation, Hughes urged her classmates to “occupy positions of usefulness.” While not much is known about her later life, she did marry and sent one of her sons to Moscow to attend the University. Her legacy as an early pioneer, when less than one percent of Americans earned a bachelor’s degree, stands as a leadership model: she seized her opportunity for education and showed her determination and distinction in the history of the University.

Permeal French, the first dean of women (1908 – 36), carved out a strong niche in the history in the University. During her inaugural year at the University, she instigated the first Campus Day in which students and faculty members did landscaping and cleaned the campus. She also was the prime motivator behind the Associated Women Students, the Inter-Sorority Council, the Women’s Athletic Association and other organizations. She was known to chastise the University president, regents and state legislators about giving female students and their coursework equal treatment. While she had a disciplinary bent, she is also remembered for extravaganzas she organized. She received honorary master’s and doctoral degrees from the University.
Walking across campus, Brink Hall stands as a reminder of the pioneer spirit of Idaho and the strong women who shaped her community. A native of Moscow and Idaho alumna , Carol Ryrie Brink ’17 received the 1936 Newbery Medal for her book “Caddie Woodlawn.” The character was inspired by her grandmother. She wrote more than 30 youth and adult books. Brink Hall was named for her in the early 1980s, and she was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree from the University in 1965.

Carol Renfrew may have been married to the man who was on the team that helped develop Teflon, but she was a woman who was a community-builder in her own right. An alumna of the University, Carol was a strong supporter of the arts and humanities, in addition to working with the University’s first computer in the 1960s. Renfrew served her alma mater as a member of the University of Idaho Foundation and an honorary co-chair of the Campaign for Idaho. She was recipient of the Jim Lyle Volunteerism Award (1993), the University of Idaho Foundation Volunteer of the Year Award (1996), Idaho Treasure Award (1997) and the Distinguished Idahoan Award (2006). She also received a doctor of humane letters degree in 2006. She also served her community in organizations including the First Presbyterian Church, the Latah Care Center Board of Directors, the Moscow-Latah County Library Board, the Latah County Historical Society, the Democratic Party, and the Gritman Hospital Board.

In the 1950s, Jean’ne Shreeve was a trailblazer earning her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in chemistry – specializing in fluoridic chemistry research. She came to the University in 1961 on a one-semester appointment. As a full-time position came up, Malcolm Renfrew – Carol’s husband -- made Shreeve one of his first hires and Shreeve has seen her role expand in the department to include serving as the department of chemistry head for 14 years and vice president for research and graduate studies for 12 years. She is the current Jean’ne M. Shreeve Professor of Chemistry. She has helped shape women’s roles on campus and in the chemistry department.

Louise Shadduck earned her honorary law degree in 1969 from the University of Idaho. During the early 1960s she was Idaho's Secretary of Commerce and Development, the first woman in that position in any state in the country. Shadduck felt strongly that she owed a debt to other women to do the very best job she could, which she did throughout her governmental career. Among the many-faceted parts of her career, she served as aide to Gov. C.A. Robins, Sen. Henry Dworshak and Congressman Orval Hansen and working as executive director of the Idaho Forest Industry Council. In 2000, Shadduck was given the Outstanding Achievement in the Humanities awarded by the Idaho Humanities Council and was also honored as Woman of the Millennium by the National Federation of Press Women. In 2004, she received the "Esto Perpetua" award from the Idaho State Historical Society for preserving Idaho's heritage.

Of course, this is only a sampling of the many women who shaped the University and Idaho communities; we recognize there are many others. Our comment section is open for those who wish to submit further information.