Shaping the Public Good
Women Making History in the Pacific Northwest
Carved into a rock overlooking the Columbia River stands the arresting image of Tsagaglalal, or “She Who Watches,” an ancient female chief. As the Wishram people recount, when men replaced women in positions of power, Tsagaglalal was turned to stone by Coyote so that she could forever guide her community and guard its development.
Using the story of She Who Watches as her guide, historian Sue Armitage shows that even though women were barred from positions of public authority until recently, they have always worked quietly and informally to assure the stability and security of their families and communities. Women’s community-building and cooperative skills have been decisive in developing the societies of the Pacific Northwest—Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana, and British Columbia. Like She Who Watches, women have never been mere observers, but watchful guardians and active shapers of the public good.
Drawing on her three decades of research and teaching and based on hundreds of secondary sources, Armitage’s account explores the varied ways in which, beginning in the earliest times and continuing to the present, women of all races and ethnicities have made the history of our region. An accessible introduction for general readers and scholars alike, Shaping the Public Good restores a missing piece of Pacific Northwest history by demonstrating the part that women—“the famous, the forgotten, and all the women in between”—have always played in establishing their families and building communities.
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