Effects of Farming

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"Women Travelers," 1925. On the back of the photo is written "Lizzie ready to start home from Montana." Lizzie was probably traveling by wagon into the town of Hobson to board the train back to Missouri. Courtesy of the Hobson Community Library 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.