Breaking the Mold

For Those That Love the Land

Jane Ratzlaff and Debra Reeves


Montana has always had a history of being blessed with gutsy, independent women going about their lives with little or no fanfare. Women who dug down deep and helped make Montana what it is today. Women deeply committed to a better way of life for themselves, their families and others. What is it that sets them apart and makes them so special and yet most of them remain unsung heroines? Perhaps it is that they didn’t realize (or care) that they were changing things to make a better society for the rest of us.

Ella Knowles Haskell

Ella Knowles Haskell

Did Ella Knowles Haskell, Montana’s first known female lawyer, know that she was paving the way for later generations? Among her many accomplishments are having a bill introduced (and passed) in the 1888/1889 legislature to admit women to practice law. In 1892, she was nominated by the People’s Party and ran for Attorney General. Her opponent won the election but appointed her assistant attorney general after he was elected.*

Emma S. Ingalls

Emma S. Ingalls

Emma S. Ingalls lived most of her life in Kalispell. At the young age of 29, she had made her ranks through the newspaper business and was publisher of the county newspaper, the Interlake Daily.  According to accounts from the day, she was a forceful voice for civic reform. Ingalls is also credited with bringing irrigation to the Flathead Valley and reportedly the first person to grow fruit trees for commercial use. In addition, she was politically motivated and served in the Montana House from 1917-1921. Ingalls also served in the early 1920s as the district deputy of the Montana Bureau of Child and Animal Protection.**

What Haskell and Ingalls knew is that the secret to success was relying on their inner independence and strength. No doubt there were plenty of people telling them they would never accomplish what they were attempting to do. No doubt they got discouraged at times. No doubt that through their inner strength, they were able to replace what society was telling them with the voice of their dreams. By listening to their inner voice, they were able to accomplish things others could not even imagine doing.

In today’s society, there are many outer voices telling all of us what is “proper.” We have to look a certain way, eat a certain way, wear a certain brand of clothing, etc., in order to be popular, hip and “a mover and a shaker.”  At a certain point in our lives, some of us stop paying attention to those outside voices and start paying attention to the quiet voice inside. But what about the rest of the women and young girls who so badly want to fit in and spend all of their time trying to fit the mold being presented? How do we help them break the mold and find their own design? Can you imagine a world where everyone was listening to their divine inner voice and living from their divine strength, independent from outside pablum?

One way to start connecting to our inner selves is by spending time in nature. According to research done by Viren Swami, professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, people who spend time outdoors seem happier. In his words, “Spending time in nature also seems to promote better self-esteem and feelings of connection to nature. When we feel part of a larger ecosystem requiring protection, we may be more likely to take steps to protect our bodies from harmful effects.” Although he cautions that this research should be interpreted carefully, he said if further research confirms the findings, people who have negative body image issues could be treated with therapies like hiking or camping.

Next time you’re feeling like the world is a bit overwhelming and you’ll never fit the mold, find another female that might need a new outlook on life, grab your hiking boots and hit the trail! Not only will you exercise your strength and independence “muscles” it will do wonders for your self-image and confidence! 

*Montana Women Lawyers

**Women Wielding Power: Pioneer Female State Legislators