Coalition for Western Women’s History

The Coalition for Western Women’s History has, from its inception, attempted to move the field of Western history in the directions of expanded time frames and multicultural inclusiveness. We have worked for this steadily, with slower achievement than most of us would like. CWWH currently sponsors the annual western women's history breakfast at the annual Western History Association Conference (WHA), a workshop at the WHA, the Jensen-Miller prize for the best article in western women's history (named for Joan Jensen and Darlis Miller whose formative article, “The Gentle Tamers Revisitied” stimulated the development of the field), and the Irene Ledesma Prize which provides funding for graduate student research in western women's history. (This prize honors Irene Ledesma, whose untimely death deprived us of an important voice in Chicana history.) The organization also provides materials to aid in the study of Western women's history and builds networks of scholars focusing on women’s many pasts in the region.

CCWH was founded in conjunction with the first Women’s West conference in Sun Valley Idaho in 1983, sponsored by the Center for the American West in Sun Valley, Idaho. A group of women’s historians met at the “Inventing the West” Conference in 1982, also sponsored by the Center for the American West, which, with Lillian Schlissel's coordination, included a day on western women. At the 1982 conference, the founders of the CWWH planned to hold the 1983 conference and established a Steering Committee and the first network of folks working in the field.

In 1983 the CWWH decided to form an organization, named it, drafted by-laws, and applied for non-profit (501(C)3) status. Since then, the CWWH has sponsored three other conferences, in Park City, Utah, in 1984; “The Women's West: Race, Class, and Culture” in San Francisco, California, in 1987; and “Suspect Terrain: Surveying the Women's West,” in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1990. The book The Women’s West, edited by founding CWWH members Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson, was published from some of the presentations of the first CWWH conference. CWWH members have also compiled and published two bibliographies of work on western women.