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Episode 26: Idaho: Rebecca Brown Mitchell and the Fire in Her Bones

podcast Aug 31, 2021

In this episode, Sharon tells listeners about an incredible woman that is often left out of  the history books: Rebecca Brown Mitchell of Idaho. Rebecca was known to have a “fire in her bones” that fueled her deep passion for education and justice. Rebecca’s story begins on the dirt-floor of an abandoned saloon in Idaho Falls. There, she taught the town’s children how to read and write, and she hosted weekly Sunday School. Flashing forward a few years, Rebecca established the town’s first school and church, became deeply involved in the Idaho State legislature and led a women’s rights movement within the state. Here is the story of how Rebecca Brown did it all and eventually gained Idaho women the right to vote nearly twenty years earlier than the rest of American women were granted the same right. 

Link to Full Episode:

This Episode Will Teach You:

  • Why Rebecca Brown felt like she was in the iron cage of the law 
  • Rebecca’s journey to establishing the first school and church in Idaho Falls 
  • How Rebecca Brown changed Idaho legislation forever 
  • How Rebecca Brown lead a women’s rights movement in Idaho and across the country
  • How Idaho became one of the first states to grant women the right to vote 
  • Rebecca Brown’s lasting impact on her community, Idaho and the U.S

3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • After the death of her husband, Rebecca Brown was forced to buy back all of her belongings from the state of Illinois. Infuriated by her limitations and the sex prejudice she experienced, Rebecca set out West with her daughter. Eventually settling in Eagle Rock, Idaho (now Idaho Falls, Idaho), Rebecca and her daughter lived in an abandoned saloon with a dirt floor where Rebecca taught local children. Rebecca quickly ran out of money and was on the verge of destitution, when the father of one of her students abruptly decided to pay his son’s school tuition earlier than it was due. Rebecca took this as a sign that she was living out her purpose. 
  • After saving up money, Rebecca was able to establish the first school and church in town. Essentially responsible for the entire community’s education, Rebecca and her admirable leadership skills caught the attention of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Rebecca joined the women’s suffrage organization and worked her way up in the ranks. She was named president of the WCTU Idaho chapter, and she worked closely with the Idaho legislature to raise the age of consent for women from 10 years-old to 18 years-old. As well, she began to advocate for women’s suffrage. 
  • Rebecca relentlessly worked to add an amendment to the Idaho state constitution that granted women the right to vote. Her passion was contagious, and many people rallied around her, standing by the polls and encouraging people to vote for the amendment. Despite the many cruel remarks Rebecca received from closed-minded voters, the amendment received a majority vote. Idaho was one of the first states to grant women the right to vote, and Rebecca Brown is largely credited for this accomplishment.

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