Effects of Farming

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"Rosie Roesler's Homestead, August 31, 1913." Photograph was taken by Evelyn Cameron, a well known Montana photographer and ranch wife.  Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society Research Center via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

Homesteaders played a very important role in the development of Montana as a state. They helped build communities, towns, and schools and created cooperatives to provide services to communities in many areas. Homesteaders also supported women's suffrage, helping Montana become the tenth state to grant women the right to vote in 1914. Many women filed claims on homestead lands with some couples even getting divorced so the husband and wife could each claim their own land.

Homesteaders shaped Montana politics by helping elect Jeannette Rankin in 1916 as the first congresswoman in the nation and successfully campaigning for prohibition. Homesteaders worked hard to reduce railroad and mining company control of state politics. They helped split the large, sparsely populated counties into smaller ones so local government was more accessible to the people. Smaller counties required more county senators, which gave agricultural communities a stronger voice in state government.

The homesteaders’ contributions, however, were not all positive. They played a large role in displacing Native American people from their reservation lands. When farms did not produce enough food, homesteaders dramatically depleted wildlife numbers through overhunting. Farms also destroyed valuable wildlife habitat further stressing herd numbers.