Memoir highlights pioneer women

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In her memoir, “Montana Women, From the Ground Up: Passionate Voices in Agriculture and Land Conservation,” writer Kristin Ellis creates portraits of pioneering women who share their experiences of growing up and raising families on farms and ranches in Montana’s vast landscape.

Ranching and farming women often experience tough times when money is scarce and the work of caring for the livestock or crop overrides holiday get-togethers, yet they found joy in the lifestyles they chose.

“One Christmas, when there was no money for presents, Valora, the oldest of five children, used her earnings from McDonald’s to buy ingredients for cookies so the family had something to give to their relatives,” recalled Valerie Wadman, who owns the Bar VW Ranch near Cut Bank. “Learning how to handle tough times in a good way really can make one stronger in the long run.”

“Our life shouldn’t be romanticized,” said Glenna Stucky, who ranches near Avon. “There are some days that are just darned hard, but never to the point that I would want to change our lifestyle.”

With their forward-thinking, nurturing abilities and “gumption” to make soup out of stones and “hay out of thistles,” these women persevered and thrived in Montana agriculture, through blizzards and droughts, while creating a better landscape for the next generation.

“I think the woman pretty much sets the tone for the family life,” said Doris Bishop of the A.U. Bishop Ranch near Brady. “On a farm, where you can create your own environment, you really have that privilege of doing that. It makes it so important that you give a strong positive feeling.”

A woman’s role on a farm/ranch is everchanging, from cow nurse and parts manager to crew chef and bookkeeper, while tending to the house and children. Ellis weaves anecdotes with discussions of differing views of agriculture and conservation, as well as advice for moving forward in today’s agricultural world.

“Montana Women, From the Ground Up,” a 144-page book with narrative and beautiful black and white photography, can be purchased online for $21.99 at www.amazon.com, at the Glacier County Conservation District and book stores across Montana.

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