Idaho was the fifth state to grant women the vote in 1896 – and just two years later, three women were elected to its House. All three were from different parties, and one, Mary Allen Wright, was nominated for Speaker of the House.
Clara Little Campbell (1846-1931)
Clara Permilia Little was born to W.J. and Amelia Little on February 12, 1846 in Somers, Connecticut. On May 8, 1867 she married William Campbell, with whom she had three children. In Connecticut, she worked as a teacher in the public school system. In 1878, the family moved to Idaho, where William became the head of the Nez Perce Reservation School and Clara served as the school’s “Matron.” After several subsequent moves, the family settled in Boise in 1893.
A Republican, she was active in her church and also served as the Idaho secretary of the Women’s Relief Corps Auxiliary, an organization that assisted the Civil War’s disabled veterans and its widows and orphans. In the 1898 nomination process, she turned down the chance to run for Secretary of Ada County, instead focusing on the seat of the County Treasurer, a nomination she lost. Republicans did nominate her to represent Boise in the Idaho House, however, which she won by 64 votes. She only served one term, but continued to be active in the Women’s Relief Corps, serving as both a state president and national chaplain. She died on December 16, 1931.
Harriet “Hattie” F. Noble (1848-1930)
Harriet F. Noble was born in December of 1848 to Maria and Joseph Luckett in Columbus City, Iowa. Her father was a gold prospector and saloon keeper, and she moved frequently as a child. For a time she lived with Bishop Thomas F. Scott in Portland to attend St. Helen’s Hall, a prestigious school. In 1865, she moved back with her family to Idaho City, where she taught public school.
In 1875, when she was 27, she married William B. Noble, who was twenty-five years her senior. In that same year she was elected Engrossment Clerk of the Legislature, a clerical position that nonetheless was based on personal popularity with legislators. After her husband became paralyzed in 1889, she took over the successful family business.During this time, Hattie Noble also became active in the Democratic Party and won a seat in the Idaho House in 1898, the same year her husband died. She only served one term, but continued to be active in educational issues until her death on August 21, 1930.
Mary Allen Wright (1868-1948)
Mary Allen was born on December 3, 1868 to Mary Best and Rev. J.C. Allen in Polk, Missouri. She was educated at local public schools and at Maryville’s State Normal School, as teacher-training colleges were called. In 1887, she married George G. Wright and they eventually settled in Rathdrum, Idaho. In Idaho, she was a teacher and was active in the suffrage populist movements.
North Dakota had elected the first woman to statewide office in 1892, State School Superintendent of Public Instruction, and other western states soon followed that precedent. Populists nominated Wright for this office in 1898, but she declined. Later that year, however, they nominated her for the Idaho House of Representatives; she accepted and won. Wright chaired the Populist Party Caucus and was nominated for Speaker of the House. She left her seat in 1901 to serve as Clerk of the House, a position to which she was elected by her peers.
In 1904, she divorced her husband for desertion and went back to teaching. She also studied law and managed Wright’s Loan and Investment Company. She died on March 31, 1948.
Linda Copple Trout (1952-)
Linda Copple Trout became a pioneer for women when she became the first female in Idaho to serve as a Supreme Court Judge. Her road to the bench began at the University of Idaho where she received her Bachelors of Arts degree in 1973. During her time there she took an active interest in law and soon went on to The University of Idaho College of Law, where she received her Jurist Doctorate Degree in 1977. Later, in 1979, she received an honorary Doctor of Law from Albertson College of Idaho.
After her graduation, Trout worked for the law firm Blake, Feeny, and Clark for six years. In 1983, her career changed when she was appointed as a Magistrate Judge. In addition to this position, Trout took on the position of Acting Trail Administrator for five Idaho Counties, a position she would hold from 1987 to 1991. Again having her professional positions overlap, Trout was elected as a District Judge in 1991 and would regularly hear cases in Nez Pearce and Clearwater Counties.
In 1992 Trout marked a major milestone for women in Idaho when she was appointed the first woman justice on the Idaho Supreme Court by Governor Cecil Andrus. On February 1, 1997, Trout was elected by the Idaho Supreme Court as Chief Justice, a position she would hold until September 1, 2004. In the 2002 and 2004 elections for Supreme Court Justice, Trout won reelection by a large margin. During the 2004 election, Trout endured a dirty campaign that began to ruin politics for her. She surprised many people by stepping down from her position in 2007. As a result of her experiences she recommended changing the way judges were elected in Idaho in a way that would protect the people’s right to a free and fair election while allowing judges to remain impartial in their rulings during their campaigns.
When asked about her judicial accomplishment, Trout responded by saying, “It was an honor to be on the Supreme Court – that’s how I looked at it. Not that being the first female justice wasn’t a part of it –yes, I was blazing new ground – but I was just honored to be on the court.” She added that she felt some additional “scrutiny” because of her gender but reflects “…I guess that I felt in my own mind that I would analyze the law like anybody else and work hard from that standpoint [then] there probably wouldn’t be much difference.” She hoped that her hard work has laid to rest any doubts about whether or not women can serve successfully on the high court.
Despite her retirement from the Supreme Court, Trout continues to serve as a judge in Idaho. She has agreed to serve as a senior judge as well as a court-appointed mediator and volunteer spokeswoman for the court. She is also applying for a seat on the federal magistrate bench.
Along with her judicial work, Trout is also a member of the Idaho State Bar Association, and the American Inns of Court. Her humanitarian work includes serving on the Board of Directors of the Lewiston City Library, the Northwest Children’s home, and Lewiston YWCA. From 2001-2007 she served on the Judicial Conference Committee on Federal and State Jurisdiction after being appointed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
Donna M. Jones (1939-)
Donna M. Jones is a native of Payette, Idaho. She began her political career when she was appointed to the Idaho House of Representatives for District 13 in 1987. Jones served twelve years in the Idaho House and subsequently became the Chair of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. In November of 2006, Jones was elected as Idaho’s State Controller and she was sworn into this position on January 1, 2007.
Prior to her political career, Jones had 30 years of business experience, including owning her own auto parts store and real estate brokerage firm, as well as being the Executive Director of the Idaho Real Estate Commission. In addition, Jones has served on a number of boards such as the Idaho Hispanic Commission, the Idaho Housing and Finance Association Advisory Board, the Idaho Permanent Building Fund Advisory Council, the Multi-State Tax Commission, the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials and the American Legislative Exchange Council. For all of her hard work and dedication to these noble efforts, Jones was recognized as the Idaho March of Dimes Outstanding Woman of the Year. In addition, Jones was honored by the American Legislative Exchange Council as an Outstanding ALEC Leader.In 2000, Jones’ husband passed away after being married for 43 years. The couple has two daughters and one son. As of 2008, Donna M. Jones continues to serve as Idaho’s State Controller.