Paper pub. date
October 2015
ISBN 9780870718168 (paperback)
ISBN 9780870718175 (ebook)
6 x 9, 352 pages. B&W Photographs and Illustrations. Sources. Notes. Index.

Shaping the Public Good

Women Making History in the Pacific Northwest

Sue Armitage

Carved into a rock overlooking the Columbia River stands the arresting image of Tsagaglalal, or “She Who Watches,” an ancient female chief. As the Wishram people recount, when men replaced women in positions of power, Tsagaglalal was turned to stone by Coyote so that she could forever guide her community and guard its development.

Using the story of She Who Watches as her guide, historian Sue Armitage shows that even though women were barred from positions of public authority until recently, they have always worked quietly and informally to assure the stability and security of their families and communities. Women’s community-building and cooperative skills have been decisive in developing the societies of the Pacific Northwest—Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana, and British Columbia. Like She Who Watches, women have never been mere observers, but watchful guardians and active shapers of the public good.

Drawing on her three decades of research and teaching and based on hundreds of secondary sources, Armitage’s account explores the varied ways in which, beginning in the earliest times and continuing to the present, women of all races and ethnicities have made the history of our region. An accessible introduction for general readers and scholars alike, Shaping the Public Good restores a missing piece of Pacific Northwest history by demonstrating the part that women—“the famous, the forgotten, and all the women in between”—have always played in establishing their families and building communities.

About the author

Sue Armitage is Emerita Professor of History and Women’s Studies at Washington State University in Pullman, where she taught and wrote about women in the U.S. West for thirty years. She is coeditor of three collections of work by and about western women, most recently, Writing the Range: Race, Class, and Gender in the Women’s West. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Read more about this author

"Armitage has made a long-lasting and significant contribution to our knowledge, but more importantly she has provided an outline for future work and modeled an approach to women's history that provides a roadmap for that work."

- Katherine G. Aiken, Oregon Historical Quarterly


"In her introduction, Armitage states that the book's major task is "to show how and why women have made - and are still making - the history of the Greater Northwest." She has accomplished that in graceful and inviting prose, in thoughtful analysis, and in compelling stories. Shaping the Public Good also reminds us that Armitage, too, has made history over the course of a career that has refocused the lens through which we now see western history."

- Mary Murphy, Montana: The Magazine of Western History

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